Breastfeeding in public in the UK - more on the 6 months limit on protecting mothers

I wrote yesterday about an apparent backtracking on the UK government´s promise that it would protect the right of women to breastfeed infants up to one year of age in public. Media reports are now saying the Single Equality Bill going through Parliament this year will provide protection for feeding infants up to 6 months. This may potentially undermine Scotland´s protection of feeding in public of children to two years and disregards the calls of health advocates to have no specified age limit. See:

It is unclear what has prompted these stories as the government´s response to the consultation on the draft bill has still to be published. However, I see that on 11 June there was a government response to a petition someone had started on the Prime Minister own website. The petition called for a bill similar to that in Scotland, which protects mothers whether breastfeeding, or feeding with other milk, a child up to two years of age.

You can see the petition and the government´s response to it at:

I reproduce the government´s answer here, which sets out its overall strategy. Once again it shows the government´s failure to highlight the need to protect breastfeeding from the
aggressive marketing of the formula industry. While support and promotion of breastfeeding is welcome, the government is unable to compete with the massive resources the baby food industry spends on its promotion and should, instead, regulate this in line with World Health Assembly marketing requirements, which the companies should be abiding by in any case.

In addition, once again the government strategy neglects the need of mothers and carers who use formula for accurate and independent information on the differeneces between formulas on the market and how to use them as safely as possible. Companies do not provide objective information and do not even warn parents that powdered formula is not sterile and the simple steps that can be followed to reduce the risks of possible contamination with harmful bacteria.

My blog yesterday tell you action you can take to try to change the Single Equality Bill which is passing through Parliament. See:

---Quote - government response

The Government is committed to protecting infant health in the UK. It recognises the importance of breastfeeding as the best form of nutrition for infants, and the role it can play in reducing health inequalities. The Department of Health recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, with continued breastfeeding alongside the introduction of complementary feeding thereafter. Breastfeeding is a key indicator in the recently announced Child Health and Well-being Public Service Agreement.

The Government has in place a range of ongoing initiatives to support and promote breastfeeding. Its main focus is to increase cultural acceptance, increase awareness of the health benefits, and provide suitable resources and advice on successful breastfeeding to mothers and health professionals.

In addition, the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, as amended by the Sex Discrimination (Amendment of Legislation) Regulations 2008, prohibits discrimination on grounds of pregnancy or maternity in the fields of goods, facilities or services, and premises. For example, if a mother who was breastfeeding her baby in a cafe was asked to leave, she could bring a claim of direct sex discrimination against the proprietor, providing her baby is not older than 6 months.

The Government will continue to work towards developing an environment where breastfeeding is the accepted norm. Clearly, women need to be supported in their choice of breastfeeding. This year the National Breastfeeding Awareness Week was held from 11 to 17 May, and the NHS has launched a Breastfeeding Friendly Places Initiative to encourage shops, cafes and other retailers to welcome breastfeeding on their premises. This will provide a clear positive message to mothers that breastfeeding is welcome in public places and a good opportunity for the retailers to support mothers in giving their baby the best start in life. This will help to create a shift in people's attitudes to breastfeeding and have a positive impact on infant health.

---quote ends

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