In an effort to break the stigma of breastfeeing in public, businesses across B.C. will now have the option of displaying a blue and white decal indicating they are a safe space for mothers to nourish children.
The move comes as a part of World Breastfeeding Week, something that public health nurse Mary-Jean Smith said is vital to a strong community.
Breastfeeding is a human right, Smith said, and families should feel comfortable feeding their babies wherever they go in the community.
“The more supportive places there are that people feel comfortable feeding in, then it helps the whole health of our population,” she added.
Mothers gathered at Victoria’s Bumble and Hive Play Centre to share their experiences of breastfeeding in public, and celebrate the centre’s decision to be the first in Victoria to sport the decal in its window.
“I think it’s fantastic, there’s this real lack of spaces for moms,” said Sarah Nishimura, who was nursing her seven-month old daughter, Maeve. “I think we’ve all been the mom that’s nursing their babies sitting on a pile of dog food in Costco and kind of trying to cover up because you get looks.”
Sheila Ford, who was nursing her five-month old daughter Kennedy, said no business has ever kicked her out, but patrons have asked her to cover up or given her dirty looks while she was nursing.
“Neither one of my kids was able to nurse with a cover, they need too much help to get latched, and it’s the eye contact, they like the eye contact,” Ford said. “I don’t eat under a blanket, I don’t expect them to either.”
For Tamara Amoroso Gonsalvez, having a safe space is more about changing the dialogue surrounding women’s bodies.
“We live in a society that is kind of crazy; boobs in ads are okay, but putting your boob out to feed a baby, some people get uncomfortable,” Amoroso Gosalvez said.
“I know some women, especially postpartum we don’t feel good about our bodies, so breast feeding in public can be a challenge…if we don’t have a friendly environment it can be very traumatic,” she added.
For Bumble and Hive business owner Teresa Tarnow, offering a safe space for mothers was a no-brainer.
It’s very important for communities to create spaces and welcome mothers who breastfeed, pump and formula feed in public, she said. “It just creates a welcoming community and a sense of acceptance and a it makes mothers feel safe and respected.”
The decal is presented by a cluster of local and provincial health services, including the BC Baby-Friendly Network, Perinatal Services BC and Island Health.
They can be picked up at any local public health unit while supplies last. For more information, you can visit bcbabyfriendly.ca