Doctors in Wales Call for Breast Feed Law
Welsh doctors are calling on the Welsh Assembly Government to introduce new laws to encourage breastfeeding.
The Welsh branch of The British Medical Association (BMA Cymru) says breastfeeding in places like restaurants, cafes and shops should be more widely and positively encouraged.
It says that breastfeeding is the best option for mothers and new laws would help change public attitudes.
The assembly government said it gave full support to breastfeeding mothers, and was reviewing the legislation.
BMA Cymru said that despite the many health advantages to breastfeeding, in England and Wales over 28% of mothers still do not breastfeed.
The greatest obstacle appears to be the fear of embarrassment or of offending others. This causes many mothers to either never begin breastfeeding or to stop breastfeeding prematurely.
Breastfeeding protects against many childhood illnesses including gastro-intestinal and respiratory infections.
It is also said that women who have breastfed have lower risks of pre-menopausal breast cancer, ovarian cancer and hip fractures later in life.
Back in May 2006, the assembly government launched the 'Breastfeeding Welcome Scheme', which asks businesses to make four promises aimed at making breastfeeding easier for mothers. Those companies accepted on the scheme can display a window sticker showing they provide a welcome environment for mothers who want to breastfeed.
However, BMA Cymru said laws are required to make it more acceptable for women to breastfeed in restaurants, cafes, shops and other public areas where children are allowed.
A recent survey carried out by the National Childbirth Trust found that almost 80% of mothers would like to see a law that protects their right to breastfeed.
The Welsh secretary of the BMA, Richard Lewis, said: "The assembly is looking for new legislation which it could support when it receives new powers in 2007."
"Legislation on breastfeeding would help to effect a change in public attitudes, as it would send out a strong message that it is acceptable for women to breastfeed and that it should be positively encouraged."
Dr Lewis added that mothers who choose not to breastfeed should also be "supported in their choice".
The BMA's initiative is supported by the Royal College of Nursing in Wales.
Its director, Tina Donnelly, said: "The fear of being offensive or embarrassed has caused mothers to either never begin breastfeeding or to prematurely wean their infants."
The chairman of the BMA's Welsh Council, Dr Tony Calland added: "We are calling for the assembly to create an environment where women of all ethnic, social and cultural backgrounds are comfortable with discreetly feeding their babies anywhere and at any time."
A spokesperson for the assembly government said: "We give our full support to breastfeeding mothers as breast milk is best for babies."
"We welcome the BMA's comments and the legislation is under review."
23 Aug 2006