Did you know that in BC there are laws that protect women’s right to breastfeed in public? To raise awareness of this right, Northern Health has made available a window decal that states: “We welcome you to breastfeed any time, anywhere.” Many businesses and organizations have posted the decal on their doors and windows. They can be ordered on the Breastfeeding-friendly spaces webpage.
The impact of the decal
A decal is a small thing, but it can support important conversations. I was curious to know what impact the decal had on the clients and staff of participating businesses and organizations.
To learn more, we’d have to ask! In March 2019, I had the pleasure of supporting three Health Promotions students from the University of Northern British Columbia to do just that. Sonja Bork, Fatemeh Mohammadnejad, and Molly Brawdy interviewed staff from 10 Northern BC businesses and organizations that display the decal. Overall, they learned that the decal has been well received. They described positive feedback from staff and regular visits from breastfeeding mothers. This is great!
In this project, Sonja, Fatemeh, and Molly also learned a lot. At the end of our time together, they each shared their thoughts with me. From their comments, it is clear that this project will have a lasting impact on how they view promoting breastfeeding.
Learning about biases
Molly found that this project was a chance for her to become aware of her own views on breastfeeding:
“Before, I had not considered my own attitudes towards breastfeeding in public. Through this project, I became aware that I had internalized the idea that mothers should breastfeed in private and cover up when doing so in social settings. While I was supportive of breastfeeding in general, I had not embraced the “any time, anywhere” mindset.”
Legal rights and public support
Fatemeh, an international student, noted tensions between what is legally supported in Canada and public views of breastfeeding:
“Before coming to Canada, I had not considered breastfeeding in public places, as this is not a right in my country (Iran). Through this project, I have learned that in Canada breastfeeding is not a legal problem, as there are laws that protect this right. However, there is still a lack of empathy, respect, and understanding in some organizations and in society in general. There exists some level of rejection of mothers who breastfeed in public spaces.”
Because some people may not be aware of women’s right to breastfeed, Fatemeh saw value in the breastfeeding decals:
“This initiative is an opportunity to promote the right of mothers to breastfeed in any space, without feeling uncomfortable and stressed. By displaying a decal, organizations can help to raise awareness and educate clients about the importance of breastfeeding for mothers and infants.”
Sonja felt that the decal is a useful health promotion initiative and that the students’ role in this project was itself an important catalyst for change:
“I have found this project to be both useful for our own learning and for Northern Health. Apart from our tasks in this project, we also convey the idea of breastfeeding-friendly spaces to our peers, friends, and families, thereby … serving as mediators in this promotional process.”
Finally, through this project, Molly described a major shift in her own attitude about breastfeeding:
“As I heard participants’ views and thought about the initiative in general, my ideas of what it means to support and promote breastfeeding shifted. Now, when I see a woman breastfeeding in public (whether covered or not) I will not see it as awkward or uncomfortable. Instead, I see an example of a woman confidently engaging in a normal behaviour for the benefit of both herself and her child.”
The reflections of these three thoughtful students show the value of supporting conversations about breastfeeding. Thank you, Sonja, Fatemeh, and Molly, for your great work, and good luck in your future health promotion activities!
Do you want a breastfeeding decal for your business or organization? Submit your request.