Almost eight in 10 women felt uncomfortable or refused to breastfeed their child outside of the home, new research has revealed.
As part of World Breastfeeding Week Slater and Gordon, a law firm that specialises in maternity discrimination, is encouraging employers to support mothers by highlighting the issues they face.
While there are laws in place to protect mums who want to breastfeed in public, there is currently no statutory obligation for employers to accommodate women who wish to continue breastfeeding their child when they return to work.
The research, which polled more than 800 women who had returned to work in the past five years, revealed that 63 per cent of mums felt uncomfortable breastfeeding in public while 14 per cent only fed their child in their own home.
The survey showed that more than half of women reduced the amount they breastfed their child when they re-entered the workplace. One in eight stopped all together while 22 per cent only breastfed when they weren’t at work. Seventeen per cent of respondents reduced the number of times they expressed milk or fed their child during the day.
Paula Chan, employment lawyer at Slater and Gordon, said: “Women who choose to breastfeed their children are totally within their rights to do so in a public place. The law is less clear, however, in relation to women who wish to return to work whilst breastfeeding.
“Employers can’t prevent breastfeeding mothers returning to work but there is no legal requirement to provide facilities to enable mothers to express milk.
“World Breastfeeding Week is a great opportunity to raise these legal inadequacies and to encourage greater protection for breastfeeding employees.”
Of the mums who reduced the amount they breastfed when returning to work, four in ten said there wasn’t anywhere for them to feed their child or express milk. Thirty Seven per cent said they would have felt too uncomfortable expressing milk or feeding their child in the workplace while a quarter said it wasn’t practical for them.
One in five said there wasn’t anywhere to store milk and one in seven said their employer wasn’t supportive.
Paula Chan, from Slater and Gordon, said: “We support greater protection for women who wish to continue breastfeeding on return to work. It’s not hard for employers to make provisions for women who are breastfeeding. They can set aside a private room, allow the child to come to the office at lunchtime, where possible, provide a fridge for storing the milk and allow women to be more flexible with their work hours.
“For most women just starting the conversation before they return to work is a step forward and a way of helping women feel like there is a choice in whether they continue to breastfeed or not.”
In relation to breastfeeding in public places the Equality Act 2010 states that service providers mustn’t discriminate against women for breastfeeding. For example, it is illegal for a café owner to refuse to serve a woman because she is breastfeeding.
Although mums are protected by law 40 cent of women polled did not know they were able to breastfeed in places such as airplanes, trains, churches and restaurants.
One in five said they had been told to stop breastfeeding in public.
The law states that it is maternity discrimination to treat a woman unfavourably because she is breastfeeding in public. This includes in locations such as hospitals, universities, on public transport, shops, cafes and restaurants.
Five places you might not know you can breastfeed
- At a council meeting
- In cathedrals and other churches
- At the zoo
- In the Houses of Parliament
- On the tube