Apology after mum ‘told she could not breastfeed in council office’

Katherine Johnston (04 January, 2019) Health

The alleged incident will cause embarrassment for the council as it is trying to encourage more new mums to breastfeed, recently joining breastfeeding welcome scheme, aimed at encouraging businesses to make mothers feel more welcome.

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Southwark Council has apologised after a mother was allegedly told she could not breastfeed in one of its offices.

Soraya Zaccaria was visiting a Southwark Council service point on December 11 with her 22-month old son when he started crying because he was hungry.

But after asking a member of staff if there was somewhere she could sit down with her baby, she claims he told her it was too busy for her to feed inside and she and her son were left with no option but to go outside in the freezing cold.

Ms Zaccaria says the man then criticised her for leaving when she was in the queue, and when she asked to make a complaint and speak to a manager, he ‘aggressively’ told her she couldn’t breastfeed in front of all the other people in the building.

Incredibly, despite another woman intervening and explaining that according to the Equality Act 2010, by law a mother can breastfeed anywhere, he still did not relent, she claims.

Ms Zaccaria told the News: “Southwark Council talk about fairness, equal opportunities, but they can’t even teach the Equality Act 2010 to their employees.

“I can’t believe that in 2018 somebody like him can work for a public body like Southwark Council.

“I cannot begin to tell you the sense of helplessness and anger that you feel when somebody is walking all over your rights and has the right to shove their misogynistic views in your face because they are in a position of authority.”

The alleged incident will cause embarrassment for the council as it is trying to encourage more new mums to breastfeed, recently joining breastfeeding welcome scheme, aimed at encouraging businesses to make mothers feel more welcome.

The World Health Organisation, breastfeeding has numerous health benefits which last into adulthood, and recommends new mums exclusively breastfeed for six months, and then up to two years after mixed food.

The UK has one of the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the world. By six months, only a third of babies take any breast milk, and just one per cent are exclusively breast fed. And, according to UNICEF, eight out of ten women stop before they want to.

Common reasons for stopping include infections, pain and discomfort, lack of milk or issues latching on. Returning to work and feeling uncomfortable feeding in public also pose challenges.

Although breastfeeding does not work for everyone, the council says it wants to make it as easy as possible for those who can and want to breastfeed.

The council also runs breastfeeding cafes for mothers to get together and get support.

Cllr Evelyn Akoto, Southwark Council’s cabinet member for community safety and public health described the alleged incident as ‘utterly unacceptable’.

She told the News: “As a mother of a young child myself, I totally understand the upset that this may have caused Ms. Zaccaria, and for that I am sincerely sorry.

“This… does not represent council policy and we have spoken to all staff to remind them that the mothers are, of course, welcome to breastfeed in all council buildings.”

For more information about breastfeeding cafés in Southwark, visit southwark.gov.uk

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