The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit gave a presentation to Council this evening asking for public support of their “Breastfeeding Friendly Places” campaign. It seems that there is still some reluctance to accept the practice of breastfeeding in public and the presenters reported at least one local incident where a mother and baby were asked to leave the business as a result (the business was not named).
The presentation followed a submission that read “On behalf of the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit’s Board of Health and staff, I am encouraging the support of your municipal government to participate in creating breastfeeding friendly places. Community support is a key factor that can influence a family’s decision about whether or not to breastfeed and about how long to breastfeed.
Municipalities have the ability to develop policies and environments supportive of breastfeeding, as well as to provide leadership to local businesses and organizations to do the same, by:
- Creating breastfeeding friendly policy for all municipal spaces (indoor and outdoor)
- Creating breastfeeding friendly workplace policy for municipal employees
- Ensuring municipal employees are informed of breastfeeding parent’s rights and how to create breastfeeding friendly places
- Posting signage at entrances to your buildings identifying municipal spaces as breastfeeding friendly
Breastfeeding in public is a human right legally protected by the Ontario Human Rights Code. Services provided to breastfeeding families must be provided free from discrimination. The Ontario Human Rights Code requires employers to ensure the work environment is free from discrimination related to breastfeeding and requires employers to accommodate employee needs for breastfeeding or expressing breastmilk.
Health Canada and the World Health Organization recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and sustained breastfeeding for up to two years and beyond. SMDHU promotes the importance of breastfeeding for the nutrition, immunologic protection, growth and development of infants and children. It is also recognized that breastfeeding has positive impacts on the health of the breastfeeding parent, family economics and the environment.
In Simcoe Muskoka 91% of families initiate exclusive breastfeeding at birth but only 26.6% of families breastfeed exclusively to six months. Research suggests breastfeeding families can feel reluctant to breastfeed in public places because of embarrassment, fear of disapproval and/or lack of comfortable facilities. We know that in Simcoe Muskoka 74% of adults are supportive of breastfeeding in public, meaning that 1 out of 4 people are not supportive of breastfeeding in public.
Working together as a community can lead to increased support and encouragement for breastfeeding families.
The health unit asked Midland Council to adopt a resolution like neighbouring municipalities have done to show support and to display signage and make all Midland owned/controlled property breastfeeding friendly. The resolution to move forward passed unanimously.
You can learn more at http://www.simcoemuskokahealth.org/Topics/Breastfeeding.aspx