Family life

The best places in Canada to breastfeed in public

"Forty-two percent of Canadian moms experienced criticism or prejudice for breastfeeding in public."

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Photo: iStockphoto

For an act that is totally natural—breastfeeding in public—it may not always feel that way. You may have a baby who is easily distracted, which makes getting her to latch a tricky task. Or you may have a baby who likes to pull off your nursing cover. And then, of course, there’s the chance you may be openly criticized or shamed by a complete stranger—a very unfortunate reality.

It seems like even a week can’t go by without a news report about pro-breastfeeding protests taking place in defence of moms who’d been publicly shamed for simply feeding their baby in a place other than the privacy of her own home. According to the Lansinoh global breastfeeding study, more than half of Canadian moms (52 percent) said breastfeeding in public is perfectly natural while  19 percent said it’s embarrassing (and I can relate to that—it took six months for me to work up the courage to nurse Isaac in public). The most disheartening statistic from the study is that 42 percent of Canadian moms experienced criticism or prejudice for breastfeeding in public.

That said, some businesses and cities in Canada have made great strides in supporting the rights of breastfeeding moms. These are some of the best places in Canada to breastfeed your baby in public:

Saskatoon
The city’s Breastfeeding Protection Pledge is the first of its kind in Canada. It’s a partnership between the Saskatoon Health Region’s Population and Public Health and Saskatoon Breastfeeding Matters. The program launched last May and asks that restaurants and businesses guarantee they won’t ask nursing moms to cover up, move spots or leave while they’re breastfeeding their babies. Twenty-one businesses are now a part of the initiative, which includes window stickers and information on their website to inform moms of their rights.

Cape Breton
With the support of the Nova Scotia Health Authority, Cape Breton is encouraging local businesses to become breastfeeding-friendly. What makes the Make Breastfeeding Your Business campaign different than other public health initiatives, is that an Action Support Kit has been developed for employers as well as businesses. It includes tips for supporting moms who pump and store breast milk. One of the latest businesses to sign on to the campaign is a CrossFit gym, making it a perfect fit for moms who are ready to begin a postpartum exercise routine.

Wiarton, Ont.
Yes, it’s true that a few weeks ago a restaurant in Wiarton made headlines for allegedly harassing nursing mom Holly Treddenick. But since then, the Grey Bruce Health Unit released an educational tool kit aimed to nurture a pro-breastfeeding culture in the small Ontario town. Included in the 12-page document are tips for business owners who receive complaints about nursing moms.

Edmonton
After a mom was kicked out of a public pool for breastfeeding her infant in 2001, the Breastfeeding Action Committee of Edmonton worked tirelessly to support the rights of nursing moms. The Edmonton Capitol Region has introduced a policy for public places and businesses and has a goal of being the most breastfeeding-friendly city in Canada.

Penticton and the Okanagan
Working with businesses in the BC region, the Okanagan Breastfeeding Coalition has developed checklists and policies to help normalize breastfeeding in public. Their toolkit for businesses also includes policies that can be included in employee training handbooks and window stickers so that nursing moms know they are welcome. A pilot program with Penticton businesses has proved to be successful.

Follow along as Jennifer Pinarski shares her experiences about giving up her big-city job and lifestyle to live in rural Ontario with her husband while staying home to raise their two young children. Read more Run-at-home mom posts or follow her @JenPinarski.