Businesses and community venues across North Yorkshire are being encouraged to provide welcoming environments for breastfeeding mothers.
North Yorkshire Council’s libraries, leisure centres and children and family hubs are among 76 businesses and venues to have pledged to support parents to breastfeed in their facilities.
They have all achieved the Breastfeeding Friendly Venues Award (BFV), which has been developed by the council to help identify public places in the county that offer a good level of facilities and welcome breastfeeding mothers.
An online directory has also been established to help parents find venues near them that been given the award. The initiative is part of Breastfeeding Awareness Week, which begins today (Tuesday, August 1).
Officials say there is evidence to show that breastfeeding helps to give babies the best possible start in life. According to statistics, in North Yorkshire, 51 per cent of babies were partially or totally breastfed at six to eight weeks after birth. This is above the England average of 49 per cent.
However, mothers often worry about breastfeeding in public spaces as they are unsure about where they will be welcome, or if they may be asked to leave or experience other negative behaviour.
North Yorkshire Council’s executive member for health and adult services, Cllr Michael Harrison, said: “We know mums have the legal right to breastfeed anywhere, but many do not feel confident in doing so. The BFV award aims to make it easier for breastfeeding mums to recognise where they will be welcomed in North Yorkshire.
“Venues across the county, including cafes, restaurants, libraries and leisure centres are all showing their support for this scheme. These are places where a mum can be assured that staff will be supportive of breastfeeding and also give them the opportunity to meet others and share their experiences.”
Becoming a breastfeeding friendly award venue is easy to achieve. The minimum requirement is that staff actively welcome mothers and babies and that breastfeeding is allowed in all customer areas of the venue. Additional support that mothers appreciate includes:
- Easy access for, and a safe place to park a buggy.
- Easy access to a clean place to change their baby’s nappy.
- A comfortable chair with a back for support.
Lucy Stockdale, who uses the facilities at Selby Library with her daughter, Molly, said: “We’ve been breastfeeding for about four months. We had quite a difficult start and it was quite awkward breastfeeding in public because I had to make sure we were both comfortable and that can leave you feeling quite exposed.
“It’s really nice that there are venues like this where you can have a little bit of privacy rather than having to feed on a park bench in public, especially when it is cold outside or in warm weather where you can’t necessarily cover up because she would get too hot. It’s nice to have somewhere to go where you feel safe.”
Once approved, venues are provided with promotional resources including window stickers and posters to let families know that they are part of the scheme. All approved places are listed on North Yorkshire Council’s website to help parents plan ahead and find venues near them.
North Yorkshire Council’s executive member for children and families, Cllr Janet Sanderson, said: “There are many benefits to breastfeeding for a mum and baby, but sadly women don’t always feel welcome to do so in public spaces.
“It is important to us that mothers have positive experiences of breastfeeding when using public facilities in North Yorkshire and that’s why the Breastfeeding Friendly Venues awards scheme is really important in our efforts to make the county as breastfeeding friendly as possible.”
Gareth and Sarah Sewell own and run Crazy Kingdom indoor play in Northallerton. They say any nursing mother is welcome to feed her baby at their establishment.
Mrs Sewell said: “I know how difficult it is for mums to find anywhere indoors to feed their baby. “My staff and I are not only friendly, but very welcoming towards nursing mums.
“My staff will always offer a glass of water to a mum breastfeeding her child. Plus, meeting other parents who may have similar experiences with feeding can offer invaluable social support and help parents to feel connected and less isolated.
“It was really easy for us to sign up to the council’s BFV scheme as we already had the changing facilities in place. I would definitely promote and encourage more North Yorkshire businesses to sign up to the initiative so more mums and families feel comfortable and confident when breastfeeding while out and about.”
More details about joining the scheme or the venues that have achieved the BFV award can be found at www.northyorks.gov.uk/healthy-living/other-health-information/breastfeeding