Monday, 20 June 2011

Breastfeeding Flashmob Leeds - challenging low breastfeeding rates in the UK

Friday  24th June, central Leeds.

Breastfeeding mothers will all nurse their infants together in a flashmob, organised by a breastfeeding mother from Sherburn In Elmet.

The mothers want to celebrate National Breastfeeding Awareness Week and call for a more breastfeeding-friendly UK.  The flashmobbers also want to highlight our country’s shockingly low breastfeeding rates.

Many women feel inhibited about breastfeeding in public despite the equality act passed in 2010 that protects women, allowing them to breastfeed their baby anywhere regardless of the baby’s age. The sight of a nursing woman is rare in the UK, contributing to the feeling of unease felt by some people when seeing a woman breastfeed in public.

Of the 1,200 women who took part in an online poll run by Mother and Baby magazine and supported by the National Childbirth Trust, 60 per cent felt that the UK frowned on breastfeeding mothers and 65 per cent intended to not breastfeed in public for fear of being stared at.  Two thirds maintained that feeding their baby in public had been a stressful experience, and more than half of these had been asked to move out of a restaurant, cafe or coffee shop when they were feeding.

Mother of three and winner of 2003 Celebrity Mum of the Year Award, Melinda Messenger, says: “The law says mums have the right to breastfeed anywhere but they can be put off by uncomfortable looks and embarrassed stares so we need to challenge British reserve and celebrate the act of breastfeeding in public.”

Overall, only 45 per cent of UK babies are exclusively breastfed at one week, 21 per cent at six weeks, 7 per cent at four months and only 3 per cent at five months of age (source: Office for National Statistics). This shows there is something seriously wrong with the breastfeeding culture in the UK. The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the NHS both recommend exclusive breastfeeding until six months of age. WHO also recommends breastfeeding alongside other foods for at least two years.

The flashmob is an independent group of nursing mothers who hope to achieve the following through this mass nurse-in event:

• Encourage mothers to feel confident when they breastfeed in public.

• Help those who do not feel comfortable around nursing mothers to feel more at ease.

• Call for a more open- and healthy-minded attitude to breastfeeding for future generations.

• Remind people of the breast’s primary purpose, a natural part of our existence.

• Get breasts in the media for the right reason.

 The originator and main organiser of the flashmob, Sharon Spink, says “I was shocked and angered that Government funding had been cut for Breastfeeding Awareness Week and felt compelled to do something to make more people aware of the benefits of breastfeeding. The UK has the second lowest breastfeeding rates out of 36 European countries and I find this appalling. If we can encourage even just one more mum to breastfeed then it will be worth it. Unfortunately, society has a very prudish attitude to breastfeeding and yet it should be seen as normal. We are holding this event to show Leeds that we are normal and that breasts are first and foremost designed to feed our children.”

Sharon recruited the breastfeeding mothers through Facebook and by posting on various parenting and pro-breastfeeding websites.

Some of the mums in the flashmob have been made to feel acutely embarrassed by ill-judged comments from staff in hospitals, famous high street stores and coffee shops.

Media enquires to:
Sharon Spink – Flashmob Main Organiser

Additional Information:
WHO Breastfeeding Facts and Statistics

The Office for National Statistics performs its Infant Feeding Survey every five years. The figures from the 2005 survey were published in March 2008.

Mother and Baby survey, carried out in conjunction with NCT.

NCT Document summary: Key Baby Feeding Statistics from the 2005 UK Infant Feeding survey.

National Breastfeeding Week Info for 2011: