Monday, 31 May 2010

Fairness, Freedom... and Equality: Breastfeeding Picnic 2010

As the new coalition Government settles down at Westminster, and gets to work bringing in the joint agenda of Freedom, Fairness and Responsibility... we'd like to ask David Cameron and Nick Clegg to consider the babies in England & Wales, and Northern Ireland..  They don't have much to be responsible about, in their young lives... but they would very much like some freedom and fairness of their own.  Simply, they'd like equality with the babies in Scotland: they'd like to be protected from harassment when they feed.

They are protected in Scotland.  Scotland has a Breastfeeding Bill, which protects the right of any child who is in a public space where that child has a right to be, to feed uninterrupted on milk: breast or from a bottle.  Any mother, father, care-giver, can feed a hungry child milk in Scotland, anywhere the child has a right to be.  If someone tries to stop the feed - the police can be called, and the person trying to stop the milk feed, can be charged and fined.

In England and Wales, and Northern Ireland, no such protection exists.

If this fair, David?  Is that freedom, Nick?  Is that encouraging and supporting individual and social responsibility?  That you can be thrown out of a public park, in England, for feeding your hungry baby, but not in Scotland?  That a baby can get hungry without fear, in Scotland, but not anywhere else in the United Kingdom?  That if a breastfeeding baby is asked to leave a cafe in Belfast, in Cardiff, in London... the mother must stop the feed and she must leave.  But if she's asked in Edinburgh, she can call the police and they will come and deal with the moron trying to stop her feeding a hungry, crying baby?

In the current financial crisis, the coalition has stated its first priority is to reduce the deficit and restore economic growth.  Protecting mothers who are breastfeeding, will directly support these aims.  Lack of breastfeeding costs the NHS millions of pounds every year: 5 times more formula fed babies are hospitalised every year, for severe stomach infections, than breastfed ones.  Babies who are formula fed, get sicker more often.  They have higher rates of many minor, and some quite serious, illnesses.  Formula fed babies have higher rates of heart disease, diabetes and apnoea as adults.  On average, a formula fed baby has 5 IQ points less than it would have had, if it had been fed normally: at the breast.  Formula feeding costs society, and parents, a great deal of money.  Money spent on formula, is money handed over to multi-national conglomerates, such as Nestle and Danone, who are clearly exploiting the poorest mothers and babies on the planet, and breaching Code around the world, endlessly.

Formula feeding is a risk to the health of the baby, and the mother.

Yet it is welcome anywhere.  Whilst breastfeeding, which supplies the basic building blocks of human life to human babies.... is rejected and taboo.  This is not freedom.  It is not fair.  It is not responsible.

It will not build a strong and fair society: this inequality.  The issue is not even the harm that formula feeding will do financially, although that's important to signal, in the current climate.  The issue is not breastfeeding, versus formula: it never has been.  All mothers may choose not to breastfeed their baby: that is their right.  It is their breasts: they choose who has access to them.  It's not even about the mother: it's about the baby.  All hungry babies have a right... to be fed.  There and then.  Formula or bottle.  Mother or father.  It doesn't matter.

What does matter.. is that a baby is hungry.  Hungry babies get fed: end of.  Well, in Scotland, anyway.

And it's not just the newborn, for whom hunger is a sharp knife piercing their flesh.  Breastfeeding is a total comfort system, for the young of all mammals.  As well as food and drink, it is safety, warmth and comfort.  It is a salve for aches, pains and fears.  A child may have fallen and knocked themselves: they may be in pain.  They may want soothing and comfort.  They may want cuddled and to suckle themselves out of their distress.  Every mother wishes to comfort and console an injured child... but the mother of the breastfeeding child, unless she is in Scotland, can often feel too intimidated to comfort the child.  They do not wish to be attacked, belittled or ejected from the premises, for offering their breast to their crying child: they wish to feel safe from abuse.

Protecting hungry babies... is about fairness, it's about freedom, and it's about responsibility.  Our responsibility, to the most vulnerable amongst us.  Our responsibility, to the mothers who are breastfeeding, and who feel pressured to stop, pressured to hide, pressured to feed their babies in toilet stalls.  No one should be fed in a toilet stall, least of all a newborn.  No mother should feel that she might be attacked, or interfered with, when giving food and comfort to her child.  What's a right to be protected in Scotland, is a right to be protected in England & Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Fairness, Freedom... and Equality
...for all UK babies...
Breastfeeding Picnic 2010
Monday July 19th, 2010
Noon until 3pm

Bring your baby, your children, a picnic, and Invite Your MP.

Hopefully, it's time for change....

A word about inviting MPs.....

An MP represents their constituents.  This is regardless of their party politics, or any other role they have in Government.  Your MP is duty, and honour, bound, to represent your views in Parliament.  Invitation to events like the Breastfeeding Picnic, need to come from a constituent, in order for the MP to take it seriously. Not a letter to David Cameron, or to Nick Clegg.  But to your MP.  This is particularly important if David Cameron of Nick Clegg is your MP.  If they are, please invite them NOW to the Westminster event: they will not respond to an invite from anyone not in their constituency.

Parliament works on the merits of the individual MPs in the parties.  Even if you have an MP you don't like, or who is not the MP you would have chosen... please invite them.  Especially if they are a new MP, joining the House for the first time this session.  The timing of the picnic is for the last few days of the Summer sitting.  There will be a lot of 'new' MPs who will be anxious to meet their constituents, and to hear their views.  Write to them, invite them, speak up for the rights of babies in the UK.

If they are not going to be in Westminster that day, see if they can attend a local picnic.  That's the whole point of local picnics, to make the point that this is about the whole of the UK.

We know from previous picnics, that many of you hesitate to write your own letters.  So we offer the following outline, for you to consider.  But please remember that your words, will hold more weight, than an obvious 'stock' letter.  Use the letter by all means, if you really can't face the thought of writing one yourself... but your own words, in your own style, allows your MP to respond to you.  Give it a try!  :-)

In order to find your MP, hit this link, put in your postcode, and the UK Parliament search engine will do the rest.  If you then hit on your MP's name, contact details will come up, including a hit link on their eddress.


Dear .....

As a constituent, I'd like to invite you to the Annual Breastfeeding Picnic, in Westminster on Monday July 19th, 2010.  This year's event is being run under the banner - Fairness, Freedom and... Equality - as mothers once more ask that the babies of England & Wales, and Northern Ireland, have the same legal protection to have a milk feed as they do in Scotland.  The previous Government have ignored the inequality faced by hungry babies in England & Wales, and Northern Ireland, for too long. The nonsense that is clause 17 of the Equalities Bill, only proves to show how little the previous Government listened to mothers on this issue.  Mothers are hoping that the coalition will see the financial sense in affording hungry babies throughout the UK, the same rights as in Scotland.  The picnic is being held in Victoria Tower Gardens, adjacent to the Palace of Westminster, from noon until 3pm.  Please come and meet mothers and babies and children, and see how needed a Breastfeeding Bill is.  If a member of the public approaches a breastfeeding baby and mother in the park whilst you are there, and demands they stop what they are doing... there is no legal protection in place to protect the baby's right to food.  Why should the baby be protected in Scotland, and not right outside the Houses of Parliament?

Looking forward to your early reply....