It’s World Breastfeeding Week and women’s health brand, Elvie, reveals mums are growing in confidence when it comes to breastfeeding in public. *Two thirds (67%) of women who are currently breastfeeding said they feel comfortable breastfeeding in public, compared with only 42% of women who **historically breastfed.

Unfortunately, this increase coincides with a drastic increase in reports of harassment. Half (52%) said strangers stare – a 30% increase compared with women who historically breastfed, a quarter (24% – a 9% increase) have been told to cover up, and a fifth (22% – a 266% increase) have had photos taken and received negative remarks.

The findings follow recent reports of women being ‘told off’ for breastfeeding at Disneyland Paris, being issued a £60 fine for breastfeeding at a petrol station, and the launch of Labour MP, Stella Creasy’s, Stop The Breast Pest campaign to make taking non-consensual photographs of people breastfeeding a criminal act.

Elvie’s research revealed 36% of mums said the pandemic had increased feelings of anxiety towards public breastfeeding. More than a third (37%) admitted to staying home to breastfeed and half (53%) said they’d hid in cars so they could breastfeed in peace. Mums also reported the most daunting places to breastfeed were: public transport (43%), attending an in-person meeting (43%) and the gym (40%). 

With 58% of mums saying signposting ‘breastfeeding welcome’ spaces would make them feel more comfortable to breastfeed in public post-lockdown, Elvie’s founder and CEO, Tania Boler, commented:

“In a world where breastfeeding mums feel the need to cover up, and strangers feel it’s ok to comment and take pictures of mums breastfeeding, it’s sadly necessary to signpost where breastfeeding is welcome. As businesses reopen, we need to see them creating breastfeeding-safe spaces so mums feel comfortable about breastfeeding and pumping in public.”

On the flip side, 35% of currently breastfeeding women said they’d received non-verbal reassurance such as a thumbs up or smile from passers-by, a 75% increase compared with women who historically breastfed. And 35% also said they’d received reassurance from staff in a shop, restaurant or cafe, compared with 18% of women who previously breastfed. 

Elvie has teamed up with a host of influencers and mums to share their real stories and feelings towards breastfeeding in public on social media for the brand’s latest campaign, #TheRealFeed. The campaign aims to help normalise breastfeeding in public and connect mums via social media to get support with their breastfeeding journeys, as they start to head out more and navigate the complexities of breastfeeding and pumping in public.

Aoife Ní Chionaoith shared the following story for Elvie’s #TheRealFeed: 

“I was in Costa once, having my lunch and breastfeeding my son, and a man said “why don’t you cover up? That shouldn’t be happening while people are trying to eat”. I was so stressed out that I didn’t have any courage to say anything to him. He really knocked my confidence.”

Credit: Aoife Ní Chionaoith, breastfeeding in a cafe, shared her story for Elvie’s #TheRealFeed

While Hamila Ali shared her positive experience of breastfeeding in public for the first time while hiking in the Lake District:

“I’m Muslim and wear a head scarf so I’m always covered from head to toe and was worried about revealing myself when getting my breast out to feed, in public. But being in nature made me feel really happy and calm, and the air was so fresh. Looking out at the beautiful view while breastfeeding just felt so freeing and natural. I felt like Mother Nature herself!”

Credit: Hamila Ali, breastfeeding at Aira Force Waterfall in the Lake District, shared her story for Elvie’s #TheRealFeed campaign

Tania Boler adds, “The more we support mums to breastfeed and pump in public, the more normal it will become. Normalising breastfeeding is so important if we want to improve breastfeeding rates in the UK, which remain some of the lowest in the world.”

 

Sources

*#TheRealFeed In Real Life research was carried out by Censuswide amongst 1,011 mums 18+ who have ever breastfed (including 144 who are currently breastfeeding), between 08.07.2021 and 12.07.2021.

**Mums who breastfed but stopped before July 2021

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