A conference that was organised by the Scottish government to ‘remove barriers’ to mothers breastfeeding has told delegates it would be inappropriate for them to breastfeed their children in the conference venue.
The women were invited to the Holyrood-backed conference titled “Shitfing the Curve – Sharing the Challenge Breastfeeding Summit”, which was “open to everyone who works with children and families” with the target of removing “some of the barriers” about breastfeeding, the Telegraph reports.
The subject was frequently in the news last month when top London hotel Claridge’s asked a breastfeeding mother, Lou Burns, to cover herself with a napkin as she was feeding her child in a public area. The 35 year old criticised the hotel for their “Victorian” policies and the news sparked off a chain of events including a mass gathering of lactating women and their infants outside the hotel and a hail of attacks at UKIP leader Nigel Farage who told listeners on LBC radio that there was an argument for women to be discrete, particularly when surrounded by the older generation.
Despite the clear aims of the conference next month, to be held at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh, mothers were told by officials that it would not be “appropriate” for them to breastfeed their children there, leaving them angry and confused at the mixed messages.
One delegate due to attend was Elise Stirling who runs consultancy firm Bond, Baby! said she was “dumbfounded” when she was told by organisers that the event was designed for “professionals” not “breastfeeding mothers”.
The 31 year old businesswoman from Falkirk said it “obviously…had not occurred to them that you can be both.”
The situation had been flagged when including her dietary requirements in the booking form to stipulate that she was not consuming dairy products while she was breastfeeding. It was then officials told her she would be unable to breastfeed her child while at the conference.
“It never even occurred to me that I would have to ask permission to breastfeed,” she said.
“After talking to people I started getting a wee bit angry as I knew it was illegal to ban mothers from breastfeeding.”
Ms Stirling was told that extra “facilities” would be provided for breastfeeding mothers after she complained at what she perceived to be discriminatory behaviour but said: “The irony of it being a breastfeeding conference is unbelievable.”
“Clearly it made sense to backtrack” she added.
Labour Member of the Scottish Parliament Elaine Smith called the decision “astonishing” and pointed out the decision to provide alternative facilities rather defeated the point of the conference in the first place.
“However I think [the conference organisers] saying that they will provide special facilities for breastfeeding mothers begs a bigger problem. Women should be able to breastfeed wherever they are, they should be able to sit in the auditorium.
“If breastfeeding is seen as something that has to be hidden away in a different room, instead of celebrated, I don’t think we will break down the barriers.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The event was initially organised for health professionals and service providers.
“But we are sorry that mums were initially told they wouldn’t be able to attend this event with their babies, and following a number of enquiries from mothers we have now arranged baby changing facilities so they will be welcome to breast feed in the sessions or, if preferred, in the quiet areas provided.”