Walking past the Tesco store in Beverley, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, I glanced through the window into the cafe, and saw this huge poster. “Here to help,” it says, in big friendly letters. “Hungry baby? We’re happy to warm your milk for you.” There’s a smiley face, and the name of the ten year old who designed it.
That’s kind, you might think. They’re giving out free jumpers, which on a miserable drizzly day seems like a nice thing to do. And then you would realise that the poster assumes that you are bottlefeeding. And statistically, they may well be right [let’s trot out those stats again: 81% of mothers initiate breastfeeding, 58% are still breastfeeding at six weeks, 12% at four months].
While the poster does not explicitly state that breastfeeding mothers are not welcome, and under the Equalities Act 2010 they are required to accommodate breastfeeding mothers, the underlying assumption that anyone with a baby in the cafe will have a bottle of milk with them simply undermines breastfeeding, and that contributes to the rapid drop-off in breastfeeding rates in the UK. There is no poster welcoming breastfeeding mothers; there would not be room for one anyway, as the bottlefeeding poster takes up the entire wall. And it would make no sense to put up a poster stating that both breastfeeding and bottlefeeding mothers are welcome. That, however, was the response from @UKTesco, when I tweeted about the poster: please be aware, breast feeding is always welcome at the store 🙂
You might think I’m getting a bit stale if I continually bang on about not dividing up the breastfeeding mothers and the bottlefeeding mothers into separate camps. The statistics above tell us that a huge proportion of breastfeeding mothers also bottlefeed, so the distinction is very vague anyway. How hard can it be to make all mothers feel welcome, and advise them that facilities are available for whatever kind of feeding they need to do?
However there is another problem with this poster, which is that it implies bottles could be made up in advance and warmed up. This contravenes NHS guidelines to make up each feed as your baby needs it, because of the risk of food poisoning bacteria in the formula. Perhaps they could go back to offering hot water (over 70 degrees) instead. And perhaps not get ten year olds to devise their policies.