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Women in UK will be able to nurse in public

The Equality Bill will be released in England and Wales later this year. One aspect of this is that it will be illegal to stop a woman from breast feeding a baby under six months in a public place. Currently, if women feed their babies they can potentially be charged under public order or indecency legislation. Obviously this can make life very awkward for mothers with young children.

At the moment, 75% of women breast feed their newborns, but it drops to one quarter by the age of 6 months. Most of these mothers do not feed for any longer than two weeks. The UK currently has the lowest breast feeding rate in Europe, and it is hoped that this change in law will help to increase this.

For recent years the Department of Health has run a Breast is Best campaign to try to encourage new mothers to breast feed. However, there has only been a slight increase during this time. One of the issues involved is that mothers feel uncomfortable feeding their children in public and feel forced to feed them in public toilets and other private places.

However, in Scotland, which has a different set of laws, a law was passed four years ago which gave permission to nurse children of any age in public. Obviously it would be better if the rest of the UK followed this rule and were allowed to feed up to any age, but at least it is an improvement on the existing laws.
The law will also affect other aspects of life. Private member?s clubs, working men?s clubs and golf clubs, many of whom treat women as second class citizens, will now have to treat women as equal to men. The law also aims to reduce bias towards employing white males when women or ethnic minorities are equally or better qualified for the jobs.

Also, the Department of Health has recently made available ?150,000 a year, for three years to fund their National Breastfeeding Helpline across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This line is operated by the Association of Breast Feeding Mothers and the Breastfeeding Network. Many women are keen to breast feed but run into various problems and do not know what to do about them and therefore stop feeding. The aim of this phone line is to help eliminate these problems and therefore increase the length of time for which the baby is nursed.


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