Thursday, 8 July 2010

Public support for public breastfeeding

From the Herald this morning:
More than half of New Zealanders are okay with mothers breastfeeding in public, but a minority still prefer babies be fed in the restroom.

Results from the Breastmates breastfeeding survey, released yesterday, show 61 per cent feel comfortable with women breastfeeding in public.

However 19 per cent of those surveyed are not so keen.

Out of those who were not comfortable, 25 per cent agreed that when mothers were at a restaurant, they should be encouraged to breastfeed in the restroom - rather than at the table.

The remaining 23 per cent of that group believed that children aged 12 months and more should be breastfed in public.
Click through for the rest of the article.

I feel like those figures are a bit confusing, in the way the Herald has stated them, but putting that to one side, so you may want to check out the actual media statement from Breastmates instead, which states:
Most New Zealanders feel comfortable with women breastfeeding in public and six in ten (61%) disagreed with the statement ‘I feel uncomfortable when women breastfeed in public’.

However, a level of discomfort still exists for some, with just under two in ten (19%) agreeing that they ‘feel uncomfortable when women breastfeed in public’.

When asked about specific situations, this level of discomfort becomes somewhat more apparent, specifically:
  • 25% agree that ‘at restaurants women should be encouraged to breastfeed in the restroom rather than at the table’, and;
  • 23% agree that ‘infants over the age of 12 months should never be breastfed in public.
So looks like there is a missing "never" in that Herald story?

The gender split was pretty strong, with women feeling much more comfortable about breastfeeding happening in public than men. Personally I don't understand why people who are uncomfortable can't look at something else for a while.

What isn't reported on in the Herald story, but is in the Breastmates release, is some polling around attitudes to breast-feeding versus bottle-feeding. It's not clear to me from reading it whether they are equating bottle with formula, or bottle with anything other than direct from breast (where would bottle feeding with expressed milk sit?):
...there isn’t a strong preference for breast or bottle-feeding in relation to the healthiness and happiness of babies:
  • Similar levels agreed (33%) as disagreed (31%) that ‘babies who are bottle-fed tend to be just as health and happy as those who are breastfed’.
Surprisingly, men are more likely than women to consider breastfeeding the healthiest option for the baby, 43% of the women surveyed agreed that bottle fed babies tend to be as healthy and happy as those who are breastfed, whereas only 21% of males agreed with this. Of note, males express some lack of knowledge in this area and are twice as likely to say that they do not know if ‘babies who are bottle fed tend to be just as happy as those who are breastfed’.
It's kind of a false dichotomy anyway, as there are plenty of babies who are mix-fed (i.e. both bottle and breast, both formula and breastmilk) at various stages. Black and white survey options don't recognise that reality.


Hugh said...

Worth noting - just because somebody feels uncomfortable with women breastfeeding in public, doesn't mean they don't support their right to do so.

As you say, if one does feel uncomfortable, the appropriate response is probably just to look away or leave. There's no reason to assume that the people who answered 'uncomfortable' wouldn't do just tht.

Julie said...

Good point Hugh. As with the query about bottle versus breast, it would be helpful to know how the questions were framed to get a handle on what the answers mean.

Azlemed said...

I breastfeed in public, I would be offended if I was asked to feed bubs in the toilets,I wouldnt tell a bottle feeding mother to go feed her baby in the toilets.... my eldest was breast and bottle fed, its only the more children I have had the stauncher I have gotten about feeding, but I also support that its a mothers choice to choose what is best for her and bubs.

I find it frustrating that breasts are still seen mainly as sexual objects yet feeding babies isnt sexual at all....

anyway its good that its getting media attention about feeding babies...