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Early years

31st Mar 2019

Your right to breastfeed in public is protected by law and here’s how

Melissa Carton

Breastfeeding numbers are rising in Ireland.

While the rates of breastfeeding in Ireland are still lower than in other parts of Europe, the number of mothers choosing to breastfeed their children is steadily growing.

That being said many Irish women still feel uncomfortable feeding their child in public, with some experiencing discrimination.

During the summer a mother in Ireland was left in tears during a GAA game when a steward shamed her for trying to feed her child in the stands.

Breastfeeding publically in Ireland is protected by law and no person or premises can deny you the right to feed your child.

The Equal Status Act (2000) protects breastfeeding mothers from being harassed in public places.

The act aims to protect all Irish people from discrimination and harassment (including sexual harassment) while they are availing of services in premises like shops and restaurants.

Protection for mothers breastfeeding in public is provided under two of the nine discriminatory grounds covered by this Act.

The Act helps mums to breastfeed comfortably in public places and protects them from being discriminated against or harassed because they are feeding their child.

Breastfeeding phone technology distraction feeding baby

When I had my son six years ago I was terrified of the notion of not only breastfeeding in public, but even in front of other family members while in my own home.

By the time I had my daughter last year, that fear was well and truly quashed.

We were asked by our priest to attend a pre-baptism meeting and during this, my baby started crying for food. I took her out and fed her. I did pull her blanket around us both but even so, my husband remarked afterwards that I was pretty ballsy to feed her in front of the priest. I simply responded that when the baby is hungry she’s hungry and I’m not going to let her get distressed just in case feeding her makes someone else blush.

The priest was actually incredibly understanding and went on chatting to us unphased.

Mothers should never have to worry about doing one of the most natural things in the world, and while there are still some instances of shaming in Ireland, I think breastfeeding in public is gradually becoming more normalised.

Section 19 of the act also protects against discrimination occurring in a public house.

Harassment is unwanted conduct related to any of the discriminatory grounds covered by the Equal Status Act which has the purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity and creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the person, in this case, a breastfeeding mother.

It’s important to know your rights when it comes to breastfeeding in public and how to deal with any sort of harassment, should it come your way.

Breastfeeding is incredibly important and not only helps to support your baby’s immune system but also helps create a strong bond as mother and child.