Feed with Confidence 2020
How has coronavirus affected new mums’ decision to breastfeed in public?
As part of our ongoing commitment to increase breastfeeding rates in the UK, and for World Breastfeeding Week (1st to 7th August), we conducted research to investigate whether new mums’ decision around breastfeeding in public were affected at all by the recent coronavirus pandemic. The study looked specifically at their attitudes towards breastfeeding in public spaces and whether this changed at all post-lockdown.
Coronavirus and breastfeeding in public
The results are clear; coronavirus has greatly affected new mothers by making them less likely to breastfeed in public. While before the lockdown and the pandemic, 55% of mums felt safe and comfortable breastfeeding in a public space- that is certainly no longer the case. In fact, our research revealed that in just a few months of lockdown that number has dropped to 44%.
What’s more, 1 in 2 mums admitted that coronavirus somehow affected their decision to breastfeed outside the house in general. This is perhaps unsurprising given the increasing difficulties linked to being outside, the strict safety measures, and the impact that coronavirus has had on all aspects of people’s daily lives.
So, how are new mothers tackling the need to feed their baby while outside? 74% of our respondents admitted that they are worried about feeding their baby in public, and say that the current climate and situation will make them more cautious about it. So, not everyone is up for it. In fact, 43% of respondents agreed they will try and avoid breastfeeding if they can, or will use additional measures to be safe, with 14% of new mums intending to avoid breastfeeding in public completely.
Interestingly, 19% mentioned that they will only breastfeed their baby in public if the venue allows it. It’s worth noting that, legally, the UK allows breastfeeding everywhere in public- so this 19% of women who are afraid to do without having explicit permission should feel at ease knowing that the law is on their side.
Breastfeeding in public in the UK
In a recent survey that we conducted in 2020*, a staggering 60% of new mums admitted they would feel uncomfortable and embarrassed feeding their baby in public spaces. This highlights how the majority of mums feel about this issue, and the extent to which stigma and taboos are still present today in the UK. With results such as this one, it is not surprising that the UK is one of the countries with the lowest breastfeeding rates in the whole world.
So, do mothers want things to change? Well, not necessarily. 30%** of respondents from our recent study claimed they would love to be confident enough to share a photo of an intimate breastfeeding moment on their social media. Breastfeeding is also somehow seen as less shareable and more socially unacceptable than other pregnancy-related moments.
In fact, 22% of new mums would share a picture of the baby’s birth, and 50% have no issues with sharing a photo of a prenatal scan- but only 10% would ever consider sharing a breastfeeding moment. 56% also admitted that never seeing any of their friends share a breastfeeding picture on social media, put them off as well. For this reason, they would like social media platforms to show more feeding mums so that, in time, these intimate, natural and sweet moment can be seen in a more positive light. Our research shows that this is highly possible too, as 69% of mothers who came across a breastfeeding picture on social media had a positive reaction to it, and 45% expressed the desire to see more similar content. It may even help them muster the courage to post about their own experiences.
Tips for confidently breastfeeding in public
These stats are worrying when considered against the UK’s low rate of breastfeeding women and the social judgement they may have to deal with. As part of our Feed With Confidence campaign, we want to take a stance against all types of discrimination that breastfeeding mums may be exposed to. For this reason, here are a few tips to help you breastfeed with confidence in a public place, without worrying about repercussions:
1. Plan your outfit
Make sure you choose what you will be wearing beforehand to be prepared for all occasions. Ideal choices are tops with either buttons or zippers and a comfortable, loose fabric that can be stretched easily. Make sure you feel good and safe in what you are wearing and it will greatly help you feel the same way about breastfeeding in public.
2. Team up with another breastfeeding mum
Some things are better with a little support! Team up with a breastfeeding mum to make sure you have a support system and someone to share this beautiful journey with. This can help you feel safe and comfortable even when you are breastfeeding outside, and it’s nice to have someone alongside you who understands what you’re going through.
3. Know your rights
The UK Equality Act of 2010 clearly states that breastfeeding in public is allowed, and that treating a breastfeeding woman unfavourably is an act of sex discrimination. Knowing this will help you feel confident that you are well within your rights to be feeding your baby in a public place.
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*Research conducted by 3Gem in July 2020, surveying 150 breastfeeding mums
** An online survey was conducted among 1,001 mothers of children aged three or younger in April / May 2019.