Debated for many years, it looks like finally mothers will be allowed to breast feed their children in any public place, including trains, bars and restaurants.
Later this year, laws will be introduced in parliament that will make it an offence to top a woman from breast-feeding a baby aged up to six months. At the moment, women could face charges of public indecency if reported. The change in the law comes after an outcry from women who have been made to feel embarrassed for breast-feeding in public.
Just last week a 23-year-old mother was ordered not to feed her three-month-old baby in a doctor’s surgery because it breached health and safety rules.
In one hilarious example of stuffiness, the National Gallery ordered a woman to stop feeding her baby daughter near the famous Tintoretto painting Origin of the Milky Way. It shows Juno breast-feeding Hercules. They later apologised.
The UK has one of the lowest breast-feeding rates in Europe. Many mothers give up soon after birth. A study found that while 75 percent of women breast-feed their newborns, this drops to 25 percent for six-month-olds.
A Cabinet Office spokesman said: “Final decisions have yet to be made, but the government is keen to give new mothers complete confidence to breast-feed while going about their normal business, for example while on the bus or in a cafe.”
Although the Scottish law’s were changed four years ago with no age limit on the child, ministers have not yet decided whether to extend the right to women with babies older than six months in the rest of the UK.
Even though the change to the law is being championed by women MPs, they will not get the same right to breast-feed in committee rooms or the chamber of the Commons. The Houses of Parliament are recognised as a Royal Palace and exempt from the law.
At present MPs are allowed to breast-feed in designated areas in the Commons; after consultation with MPs, Michael Martin, the Speaker, refused to overturn the ban on breast-feeding in committees and during debates.