SAINT JOHN – N.B. Public Health has launched a breastfeeding selfie campaign in hopes of lifting the stigma around breastfeeding in public.
Saint John’s Alleyne Balemans says she’s had a lot of looks while she’s breastfed her five-month-old and two-year-old daughters in public.
“I have never been asked to stop breastfeeding but I have gotten looks from people who are around,” she said.
She says the looks made her uncomfortable enough to stop breastfeeding her toddler outside of her home.
“I don’t do it in front of a lot of people because I know that there are a lot of people who are very uncomfortable with it,” she said.
It’s those attitudes, says Giselle Powell – a dietician with Public Health – that has fewer mothers choosing to breastfeed in New Brunswick.
“We only have 21.5 per cent of babies exclusively breastfed at six months old,” she said.
Even though, she says, Health Canada recommends that babies should be exclusively breastfed up to six months old and benefit from breastfeeding even until the age of two.
“Reduced infections, reduced gastrointestinal infections, reduced ear infections, reduced risk of developing asthma and allergies as well,” she said.
So, in an effort to encourage more women to breastfeed, for the next year, Public Health will place life-sized cutouts of N.B. women breastfeeding throughout businesses and public places in parts of the province.
“We are asking the public anybody and everybody to take a selfie with the cutouts and to share it on their social media publicly and making sure that they use the hashtag #breastfeedhere N.B.” she said.
Alleyne is one of the mothers who posed for the cutouts. She says she did it because she has the right to feed her children anytime and anywhere.
“It makes me angry because anywhere that a woman can take out a bottle and feed her baby a woman should be allowed to breastfeed.”
It’s the law. Breastfeeding is protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, said Powell.
“A mother had the right to breastfeed in public. We do not have the right to be asking a mother, to leave or to stop breastfeeding her baby.”