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Newport's pro-breastfeeding scheme 'should be Wales-wide'

BeauImage copyright Alexandra Jenkins

A scheme to make it easier for women to breastfeed in public places in Newport should be rolled out across Wales, midwives have said.

Cafe and restaurant staff will receive training and window signs will make it clear premises support it.

It hopes it will encourage more mothers to breastfeed beyond a baby's first few weeks in a bid to cut the risk of them developing obesity in later life.

Some mothers said they had been asked to stop feeding their babies in public.

The Newport Breastfeeding Welcome Premises Scheme aims to make shops, cafes and other public places more welcoming.

A register of supportive premises will be drawn up and staff will receive "awareness sessions" on the reasons women choose to breastfeed.

Newport council said 2016 figures from Aneurin Bevan University Health Board showed that although a high percentage of babies born in Newport were breastfed at birth, that number fell considerably after six to eight weeks.

The Welsh Government's own scheme – the National Breastfeeding Welcome Scheme – ended in 2015, with individual councils left to decide whether to implement their own.

Image copyright Newport council
Image caption The Breastfeeding Welcome logo will be displayed in public places in Newport

Helen Rogers, director of the Royal College of Midwives in Wales, said while similar schemes already existed in some areas, there was little joined-up thinking and a nationwide initiative should be put in place.

"We need women to be able to breastfeed in public without having a sense that people will complain," she said.

"We know that a number of women still find it difficult and there is a view that women's breasts are a sexual object and it's fine to treat them like that, but it's not fine to breastfeed your baby in public.

"It's not seen as something that's mainstream and it should be."

Businesses have a responsibility, under the Equality Act 2010 to ensure that a woman breastfeeding while receiving a service they provide is not treated unfairly, including by other customers.

But some mothers say they still face problems.

What do mums think?

Image copyright Alice Sockett
Image caption Alice Sockett said she feels "profoundly uncomfortable" breastfeeding in public and worries people will criticise her

Mother-of-two Alice Sockett said: "Whilst I know that I have a protected right to breastfeed wherever my children are allowed to be, I still fear being confronted and having to defend that right.

"I would be delighted to see signage welcoming breastfeeding in cafes and restaurants, as I would feel protected."

But she said she was worried it could inadvertently make other places, without signs, be perceived to be less supportive.

Image copyright Sara Powell-Davies
Image caption Sara Powell-Davies said such a scheme would help new mums who might feel nervous

Sara Powell-Davies, who has a 16-month-old daughter Tirion, welcomed the plan.

"Knowing you were doing it somewhere that proactively welcomed you would make me more likely to go there knowing you wouldn't get any negative comments," she said.

"Although have to say, I have never had anybody say anything negative about feeding in public – only ever had smiles."

Image copyright Alexandra Jenkins
Image caption Alexandra Jenkins was once asked to stop feeding her son Beau by a fellow customer in a cafe

Alexandra Jenkins, who has a one-year-old son Beau, said she "loved" the idea, after she had a bad experience in a cafe.

She said: "An elderly lady was eating lunch and asked me to stop feeding as she was eating her lunch with her husband.

"I politely told her that was my son and if she didn't like it, she could take her food home. I was absolutely furious to say the least. It totally knocked my confidence."

Image copyright Nia Morgan
Image caption Nia Page said the scheme would have helped her when she was a new mum

Nia Page, who has an 11-month-old son Jack, said: "In the early days of motherhood this scheme could have helped me decide where I met friends for a coffee.

"On occasion I would find my self giving my baby a top-up feed in the car before going to a public place."

Image copyright Sara Connor

Sara Connor said: "It can be daunting first time around, and it's good to feel supported.

"Even if it is just a sticker, it's more – it's reassurance that you're ok and safe and accepted as you are."

Image copyright Nicola Bainbridge
Image caption Nicola Bainbridge said the panic of having a hungry, crying baby in public was "indescribable"

Nicola Bainbridge, who has a four-month-old daughter Beatrice, said: "Knowing that staff recognise the importance of breastfeeding and support feeding in public will help customers to see it as it should be, normal.

"Breastfeeding is normal and natural, anything to support society in recognising this should be promoted."

A Public Health Wales spokesman said: "Negative feedback when breastfeeding in public can deter many mums. The introduction of the Breastfeeding Welcome scheme in Newport is a very helpful contribution to overcoming this."

The Welsh Government said a breastfeeding review had been completed and recommendations to improve uptake and provide support were being considered by Health Secretary Vaughan Gething.

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