Breastfeeding (Scotland) Bill
UNISON Scotland's response to Elaine Smith MSP's
Consultation on the proposals for the Breastfeeding Scotland Bill.
UNISON Scotland welcomes the proposals for a
Bill to validate a woman's right to breastfeed her child in public
places where children are allowed.
- Breastfeeding is an entirely natural practice, mothers should
be able to breastfeed their young children in public places.
- Breastfeeding mothers and babies should be treated with dignity
- UNISON Scotland recognises the health benefits for both mothers
and children who breastfeed. Therefore mothers and babies should
be encouraged and supported to breastfeed where possible.
- UNISON Scotland believes that we need clarity in the law to
firmly establish the right to breastfeed. The most effective
and efficient way to do this is through a change to the criminal
law, rather than changing civil law.
UNISON Scotland is Scotland's largest trade union
representing over 145,000 members working in the public sector.
UNISON members are employed in the health service and in local
government, many of whom are involved in supporting and assisting
mothers in breastfeeding and nursing their babies. Two thirds
of our members are women.
UNISON Scotland is pleased to respond to Elaine
Smith MSP's proposals for a Breastfeeding (Scotland) Bill. We
have been represented on the steering group for the Bill, and
supported the launch of the consultation. UNISON Scotland very
much welcomes the proposals as set out in the Breastfeeding (Scotland)
Bill. We believe that it is right that we should promote a culture
that is supportive of breastfeeding, and encourages women to breastfeed
their babies for as long as is possible and/or appropriate.
This paper constitutes UNISON Scotland's submission
to the proposed Breastfeeding (Scotland) Bill.
UNISON Scotland believes that it is every child's
right to be breastfed by his or her mother.
We do think that it is acceptable to breastfeed
in public. Breastfeeding is an entirely natural practice, and
we believe that breastfeeding mothers and their children should
be treated with dignity and respect.
UNISON Scotland does think it is acceptable to
bottle feed children in public.
Children should have a right to be breastfed
whenever and wherever required. Young children need to be fed
when they are hungry, this can mean mothers need to feed their
young children frequently. It is necessary for mothers to be able
to breastfeed their children on demand. Therefore, we believe
that mothers should be allowed to breastfeed their babies in public
places where children are permitted to be.
UNISON Scotland believes that ignorance and fear
are the main reasons why certain people believe breastfeeding
in public is a problem. There is an ignorance of what breastfeeding
a baby involves, with individuals feeling it is exhibitionist
activity and being frightened at their own potential reaction
to a breastfeeding mother and child. Others have difficulty with
the supposed conflict of breasts as sexual objects and a natural
means of providing nourishment for a baby.
The Bill to give mothers a legal right to breastfeed
their babies in public places is an excellent step to send out
a clear message that breastfeeding is an acceptable activity that
should be encouraged.
We welcome the current work being done led by
the National Breastfeeding Advisor in promoting breastfeeding
to mothers in Scotland. This work should continue and be fully
supported and resourced by the Scottish Executive.
A public campaign led by the Executive Health
Department could also help to promote breastfeeding in Scotland,
and help to change a culture which can at times be hostile and
discriminatory to breastfeeding mothers.
Barriers that deter mothers from breastfeeding
at birth include:
- Lack of support from partner / family / friends.
- Difficulties in finding places suitable and welcoming to breastfeed
- Lack of support - or indeed objections - from the general
public whilst out.
- The social / cultural perception, often presented in the media,
of bottle feeding as normal and associated with "ordinary
families", whilst breastfeeding is represented as problematic,
At six weeks old a baby is probably ready to
be taken out into public places with its mother. It is when the
mother is carrying out such activities - shopping, attending clinics,
taking older children to school or nursery, socialising in cafes,
parks or children's play areas, travelling on buses and trains
etc. - that she needs to be able to feel safe and comfortable
to breastfeed her baby. This is clearly not always the case, and
results in many mothers' decision to stop breastfeeding their
child at six weeks.
Culturally, there is the belief that it is acceptable
to breastfeed a new born baby, but as the baby grows into a toddler
some people find this less acceptable.
UNISON Scotland feels very strongly that society
has a duty to support and encourage breastfeeding mothers. Breastfeeding
has proven health benefits for both mothers and babies - benefits
which last into later life. Mothers who breastfeed have less risk
of pre-menopausal breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
UNISON Scotland strongly believes that society
also has a duty to children to support and encourage breastfeeding.
As stated above there are numerous health benefits for children
who are breastfed - both when they are babies and as they grow
up into adults. Breastfed babies have less risk of stomach upsets,
ear infections, chest infections, childhood diabetes, asthma,
eczema and allergies. Children who have been breastfed have a
significantly reduced incidence of obesity, lower blood pressure
and cholesterol levels.
Breastfeeding and the Workplace
UNISON Scotland negotiates and campaigns for
improved workplace rights for mothers and families. This includes
flexible working, extended maternity leave, parental leave rights,
child care facilities and time off for emergencies. For some considerable
time we have supported working mothers who breastfeed, negotiating
for suitable areas for them to express and store breast milk,
and additional maternity leave to enable mothers to continue to
breastfeed their babies for longer. UNISON is clear that mothers
and babies also need support to breastfeed in society at large.
Civil or Criminal Law
UNISON Scotland accepts that a change in criminal
law is more effective to validate the act of breastfeeding in
public than a change to civil law. Civil law places the burden
of proof on the mother to prove her right to breastfeed, resulting
in financial costs and possible psychological trauma for the mother
and child. A change to the criminal law means that the onus lies
with public bodies, businesses or public transport to ensure that
breastfeeding mothers are not discriminated against. The change
to criminal law allows for a system of fines to be imposed on
bodies flouting the law, which would be more direct, and act as
a deterrent to discriminating against breastfeeding mothers and
For Further Information Please Contact:
Matt Smith, Scottish Secretary
14, West Campbell Street,
Glasgow G2 6RX
Tel 0141-332 0006 Fax 0141 342 2835