Breastfeeding in public is a human right.
That is the message Oxford County Public Health wants to spread to restaurants and public facilities across the county during World Breastfeeding Week.
“A woman can breastfeed her baby absolutely anywhere. No one can ask her to move, cover up or be more discreet,” said Janice Magill, an Oxford County Public Health nurse and lactation consultant.
Public health inspectors will be going around to various establishments across the county during World Breastfeeding Week, which runs Oct. 1 to Oct. 7, to drop off letters and stickers.
Businesses are encouraged to display the stickers, which read: “ You are welcome to breastfeed here.”
Magill said public health decided to restart an awareness campaign after reading a news story earlier this year where a woman was told to cover up at a restaurant while breastfeeding.
“I was shocked that it was in southwestern Ontario that this incident occurred,” Magill said.
“What we want essentially is for public places, restaurants and facilities in Oxford County to be aware of the human rights code so women feel comfortable breastfeeding in (public),” Magill said.
Magill said that often women don’t know their rights or feel uncomfortable breastfeeding in certain places.
“I think it is cultural,” Magill said.
“I think that we have sexualized breasts to such an extent that women feel uncomfortable and people feel uncomfortable when women breastfeed around them.”
Last year, public health ran a Pinterest contest where women were asked to create a board, with photos, about where they breastfed their babies.
This year, to raise awareness, they decided to restart a sign campaign staff ran several years ago.
“The stickers have long-since disappeared,” Magill said.
“We thought maybe it is time to remind people again.”
Magill said that the more women who breastfeed in public, the more comfortable it becomes for nursing mothers and other members of the public.
“I know women who will pump a bottle if they are going out. They will not breastfeed in public,” she said.
Magill said that this topic is one public health tries to educate women on during pre-natal health classes.
“One of the biggest benefits of breastfeeding is that you can absolutely do it anywhere, anytime. It is always the right temperature. There is no refrigeration required. It is extremely convenient,” Magill said.
“I want women to be able to take advantage of this huge benefit of breastfeeding and not feel uncomfortable. As much as we can do to education people about it, I think it can only be of benefit to women and their babies.”
For more information about breastfeeding or classes offered by public health, call the health unit at 519-539-9800 ext. 3473.