Breastfeeding 'too controversial' for city venues

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HEALTH workers today claimed breastfeeding in public is "too controversial" for some city shops and cafes.

A survey carried out in Leith found a number of business owners had removed stickers advertising "breastfeeding welcome here" from their windows.

Nearly all the traders had originally agreed to display the stickers, but most then vanished within a fortnight. A variety of explanations were offered to the Evening News - including one shop blaming a window cleaner.

However, Queen Margaret University public health student Victoria Adelesi said she had been told a different story. She carried out the survey while on placement at Leith Community Treatment Centre, to identify attitudes to breastfeeding in public places.

She said: "I went to local businesses and organisations with sit-in facilities to see who would be willing to display stickers promoting breastfeeding.

"After carrying out the survey in ten businesses on Great Junction Street, all ten advised they did not have any problems about women breastfeeding on their premises. Seven of the shops and cafes displayed the stickers.

"However, after a two-week period, I revisited all these businesses and was shocked to find that six out of the seven had removed the stickers.

"When asking why they were removed, I was advised that they felt being associated with promoting breastfeeding was too controversial and they preferred not to promote it."

Heather Tierney Moore, director of nursing with NHS Lothian, said breastfeeding mothers should be welcome in public.

"It is very disappointing to hear that some local businesses have changed their mind about supporting breastfeeding," she said.

"Breastfeeding brings many known health benefits to both mother and baby.

"While Lothian now has one of the highest rates of breastfeeding in Scotland, with six out of ten mothers breastfeeding in the first few days of their child's life, it is important that we build on these achievements."

None of the Great Junction Street traders approached by the Evening News said they were against breastfeeding on their premises - but our team could not spot a single sticker.

Jason Williamson, owner of the Greedy Guts Sandwich Bar, said: "We had the sticker up, but the window cleaner came and he took it down. Breastfeeding is not a problem for us, and we would put another sticker up."

Labb Mohamad, owner of Popeye's Sandwich Bar, said: "We had the sticker up - it was on the drinks fridge. But a man from Coca-Cola came and he didn't want anything on the fridge. I would be happy to put another sticker up in my window."

A worker in the Up The Junction cafe claimed to have a sticker in her window promoting breastfeeding. But when asked to point it out to the Evening News, she could not locate it.

"We had it up. I don't know what happened," she said. "It's no big deal if someone wants to breastfeed here - I did it with my own children."

And at Now Rest, a caf just off Great Junction Street on Bonnington Road, worker Josephine Miller said she had not been asked to put a sticker in the window.

But staff offered to produce their own "breastfeeding is welcome" notice, and immediately put it on display.

"The babies have got to feed," said Ms Miller.

Graham Russell, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses in Edinburgh, said breastfeeding in public should be accepted, although he would not advocate putting up stickers.

"Unfortunately, in our current climate, I think this could attract voyeurs," he said. "As a nation, the British are not grown-up enough when it comes to our bodies, so I would not put up a sign."