Public breastfeeding defended

BREASTFEEDING in public has sparked lively debate recently and now some Penrith women are stepping up to support the rights of nursing mothers.

Emu Plains resident Carmel Matheson joined others outside Channel 7 studios on Monday to protest over comments from presenter David Koch who said breastfeeding women should be "discreet and modest" in public.

Mrs Matheson, a recently qualified breastfeeding counsellor, said she was worried the comments could influence new mothers negatively.

"I was really disappointed, especially from such a public figure whose opinions can sway people," she said.

"New mums who are stressed or have breastfeeding concerns may feel that, rather than continue to seek the support they need, it would be easier to give up because society doesn't think it's right," she said.

She said that the "nurse-in" at the Channel 7 studio had a friendly atmosphere.

"We were really just mothers getting together for a catch up.

"It was all quite pleasant and we were very supportive of each other".

Although the mother-of-two has never received complaints when breastfeeding in public, she has been told her friends have.

"It's something that I'm very passionate about because, from my point of view, I want to put the needs of the child first, and to do that we need to support the mum.

"As adults we can choose to look away whereas a baby can't choose where or when to feed," she said.

Nicole Bridges, a PR officer at the Australian Breastfeeding Association, said that mothers should be aware that they are legally entitled to breastfeed in public.

"They are protected by law, they don't have a responsibility to make other people feel comfortable," she said.

She advises women to be confident that they can nurse in public and should contact the ABA or the Human Rights Commission if they believe they have been discriminated against.

Those who agree with Mr Koch and want to be discreet while breastfeeding have a range of options available, including specially made covers such as those at www.kisskisshughug.com.au (see picture).

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