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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 June 2007, 16:28 GMT 17:28 UK
'Right to breastfeed' law planned
Breastfeeding
Only 20% of British women are thought to breastfeed for six months
Women would get the legal right to breastfeed in public, under a new law being proposed by the government.

The measure in the Single Equality Bill aims to boost figures suggesting only 20% of UK women breastfeed exclusively for the recommended six months.

Breastfeeding campaigner Alison Baum said some mothers never started breastfeeding in public, for fear of being asked to stop.

A law allowing women to breastfeed in public in Scotland was passed in 2005.

Piecemeal laws

And a survey by the National Childbirth Trust in May suggested 79% of mothers wanted the law extended everywhere.

The bill, which covers England, Wales and Scotland, aims to draw together the current patchwork of laws regarding sex, race and religious discrimination.

A woman needs to have the confidence that she isn't going to be asked to stop
Alison Baum

Among proposals is one giving women the legal right to breastfeed babies who are under the age of one in restaurants, shops or on public transport.

It was backed by Ms Baum, of the Breastfeeding Manifesto Coalition, told the BBC: "A woman needs to have the confidence that she isn't going to be asked to stop."

She added: "The reality is it's often the younger mums or mums from lower social economic groups who might not even start breast feeding for fear of the problems they might encounter."

Illness protection

The World Health Organization recommends new mothers feed their babies nothing but breast milk for the first six months, but figures suggest few do so.

It said breastfeeding protects against many childhood illnesses including gastro-intestinal and respiratory infections.

Women who have breastfed are also said to have lower risks of pre-menopausal breast cancer, ovarian cancer and hip fractures in later life.

If someone is discreetly breastfeeding, in public, and doesn't cause offence, surely [they] should be allowed to do so
Communities Minister Angela Smith

The British Medical Association says breastfeeding protects against many childhood illnesses including gastro-intestinal and respiratory infections.

Women who have breastfed are also said to have lower risks of pre-menopausal breast cancer, ovarian cancer and hip fractures in later life.

Communities Minister Angela Smith, told BBC Radio Five Live that there were double-standards on the issue.

"Go into any newsagent, you see a variety of breasts on display on the counter there and yet a woman who's breastfeeding - very discreetly - a six-month-old baby can be told to leave a cafe," she said.

"That's really quite nonsense... If someone is discreetly breastfeeding, in public, and doesn't cause offence, surely [they] should be allowed to do so."


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
How the bill could help mothers



SEE ALSO
Equality law 'should go further'
12 Jun 07 |  UK Politics
Where are women still not allowed?
03 Apr 07 |  Magazine
'End public breastfeed prejudice'
08 Nov 05 |  UK Politics

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