Breastfeeding in public: What the law means for women

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Priyanka Barua espouses the freedom of Australia's breastfeeding laws and the security and normalcy such laws afford women.

FOR THE NEWBORN baby, breast milk is like spiritual holy water.

If possible, it’s beneficial to feed new born babies breast milk for at least the first six months of life.

Breastfeeding mothers in Australia know that they can feed breast milk in public places, or anywhere, when needed and this is great.

Like me, all breastfeeding mothers should be thankful to the Australian government for this right.

I am a 30 year old Indian woman. I came to Australia from India two years ago, on a 457 visa, with my husband. He is an information technology engineer. We are very pleased that this is the case in Australia as in India, there are lots of restrictions over breastfeeding.

For mothers, this means that when they are out of home, it becomes very difficult to feed their babies. If their baby starts crying from hunger, mothers have to search for a shopping centre parenting room, or public toilets, in order to meet this need.

But under Australia's federal Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (and the recent amendment Sex and Age Discrimination Legislation Amendment Act 2011), the right to breastfeed is protected by law and allays fears and controversy over breastfeeding in public places. This legislation supports that breastfeeding in public is not unnatural or illegal. So hungry babies can be breastfed anywhere and at any time as needed.

Because It is illegal in Australia to discriminate against a breastfeeding woman, this law is a safety signal for breastfeeding mothers and protects a mother's right to feed her child. 

If a breastfeeding mother faces discrimination, then she is able to report it to the police as a criminal act.

There are lot of babies who never accept bottle milk. My six month old baby girl is among them. When she was three months old, we went to Bondi beach.

I tried to give her the bottle, though I knew that she would not accept formula or expressed milk. But she did not accept bottled milk so I had to feed her breast milk. Thankfully, no one around me made any comment or raised an eyebrow. People were enjoying the sun and beauty of nature instead of being concerned about a baby being fed.

My daughter has even been breastfed on the forecourt of the Sydney Opera House, in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Manly beach and so on. I was happy to breastfeed my adorable baby in such beautiful places. People here are very friendly and broad-minded and I never felt any hesitation to feed in public.

Breastfeeding is just part of nature whether in public or not and in Australia, this is recognised and supported.

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