Blog: Baby comes too

Catherine Sleep | 28 July 2006

Here in Britain we are a long way from meeting the breastfeeding targets set out by the World Health Organisation. While the WHO recommends that mothers breastfeed until the age of two, only 22% of British mothers are still doing so at six months. Compare this with the 80% of Norwegian mothers still going strong at six months and you have to wonder where the problem lies.

Of course there are all sorts of reasons. Some mums simply cannot or do not want to breastfeed, and that’s entirely their decision. But why should this group be so much larger here than in Norway? As someone who’s been through the whole thing recently, I believe that the reasons why many mothers give up at an early stage are practical and cultural. Breastfeeding mums need to feel that the people around them approve, or at least do not disapprove, of what they are doing.

This means being able to quietly breastfeed in public places without fear of recrimination or embarrassment. By public, I do not mean perching on a pedestal in the ladies’ loo, which is unpleasant at best and deeply unhygienic at worst. The foodservice sector can really lead the way here, and that’s why the Baby Friendly Campaign launched yesterday by Mother & Baby magazine is so worthwhile.

The campaign recognises and rewards eateries that welcome babies and parents as customers. One of the criteria is that the restaurant allows breastfeeding mums to feed their babies within the main dining area, which to me is key. Other nice touches include: a willingness to warm baby food; the provision of a good number of clean highchairs in working order (well qualified – you see any number of cafés with one highchair that’s grubby with broken straps, i.e. useless); and clean baby changing facilities for both mums and (hurrah!) dads.

The campaign is good news. It’s not about making restaurants into places no self-respecting diner without a baby would want to be; it’s about finding places where mums can discreetly meet the needs of their babies while enjoying a meal or drink themselves. I’d like to see this become a commercial imperative, but that takes time.

Perhaps typically, the restaurants that have signed up so far are at the, shall we say, value end of the foodservice world, for example Harvester, Moto, Ikea and any number of supermarket cafés. I don’t see The Ivy or Nobu among those names but it’s surely just a matter of time… anyone got Gordon Ramsay’s phone number?

Baby Friendly Britain


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