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Breast Feeding - Complaint.


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We have received two written complaints from parents about another parent who breast feeds her child when bringing her older child, and collecting her. The "baby" is actually a toddler, and the mother feeds him whilst standing queuing up to sign in, and then sits either by the entrance door, or on the steps outside. She is not discrete, and does not attempt to cover herself up. Before we received the compaints we had offered her a more comfortable area to feed the baby, but she declined.

 

Both letters refer to the fact that it is a natural, acceptable practice, but take exception to the openness, inviting comments from their children, and to the necessity, as the toddler does not need to be fed "on demand" at his age.

 

We are now in a dilemma. Whilst we do not take exception to breast-feeding, we are now obligated to take some form of action. We have written individual replies to the complainants advising them that we will be taking advice and will act appropriately in due course.

 

Do we advise the parent that her actions are causing difficulties for others, or do we let her continue oblivious, as we believe it is her right to feed her baby as and when she wishes?

 

As always, any advice would be gratefully received!

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Oooh, that's a toughie!!

 

When you say Toddler, how old do you mean? I breast-fed both my children up to (and beyond with my son) 12 months, although from around about 9 months it was a bed time feed which I suspect was more a comfort thing for all of us!

 

I sympathise with your beliefs about the parent's rights, though, sure you're right - so I'm as much in the dark here as you!!

 

Anyone with anything more helpful to offer ??? :o

 

PS - 2 written complaints? Are they completely separate, could they be colluding? And, have you informed Ofsted?

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A difficult situation to deal with. I can only suggest you speak with the parent and explain what has happened re the letters-without mentioning names. Tell her your viewpoint on the matter but say that you have to also consider what other parents are saying. You may be able to come to some sort of compromise.

Does this complaint have to be reported to OFSTED? If the complaint is about another parent not the provision I don't think you need to inform them.

Linda

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Yes, I do think they have colluded! Not informed Ofsted, as didn't think they would be interested - more of a "domestic" issue. At our recent Ofsted inspection, they asked to see our complaints file, which did contain complaints about the car park and other such themes, but as we had dealt with them and replied appropriately, they did not mention whether or not they should have been approached. The inspector did say that if a complaint was received by them directly from a parent/carer, the first thing they would ask is: "Have you discussed it with the supervisor?" and advise this as the first step to dealing with it.

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Oh, here we go with the breast feeding 'confessions'.

 

I breastfed my youngest child almost until he joined pre-school. I never ever ever ever thought I would still be doing this when he was nearly three (having teased my friend when she was still breastfeeding her 18 month old!), but he just wouldn't give up. So from that point of view, it was a necessity - he knew what he needed, when he needed it and how to go about getting it!

 

It sounds to me that the breastfeeding mum is a naturally 'open' sort of person who isn't aware of the offence she is causing - especially as you have previously offered her a more discreet place to feed. Perhaps she'd be mortified if she knew - but perhaps she doesn't see that there's anything to be offended by.

 

I too wondered about the two complaints being received more or less at the same time. I was also interested in the comments made - especially about inviting comments from other children. I'd be very interested to discuss with the letter writers what exactly they object to - they do sound a bit judgemental and I wondered if there was something else going on underneath the surface but this was an obvious focus for expression of dissent without tackling the real issues?

 

I remember in the near distant past there was some political debate about breastfeeding in public, and there was some mention of legislation around this area but I'm not clear how this was resolved. Perhaps you could do a bit of research in this area to see if there is anything in law about breastfeeding in public. If you're a PLA member perhaps you could talk to lawcall and see what they know about it?

 

I'd say this is an issue of inclusion - how far does one parent's rights to feed their child in a way they consider appropriate encroach on another parent's right not to be offended and ultimately does the setting need to make a judgement on the relative merits of each parent's point of view?

 

Using the conflict resolution methods we use with the children to sort out problems, would it be appropriate to get everyone together to have an open discussion? Or do you think that might make things worse?

 

I'd be really interesting to see how this resolves itself!

 

Maz

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Can you help the parent who feeds to compromise? She has every right to feed her child, but other parents have the right to protect their child from seeing it if thats what they wish.

I dont know what you'll do if she says no though.

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Does this complaint have to be reported to OFSTED? If the complaint is about another parent not the provision I don't think you need to inform them.

Linda

 

Whoops, sorry!

 

You are quite right, Linda - domestics really don't count!!

 

Sorry, lots going on here that's frazzling my brain....... :o

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ooh, tricky! Is there a local La Leche League where you are? They offer support and advice on breastfeeding and may have experience of similar situations. If not, perhaps a local health visitor?

Will watch this one with great interest!

Good Luck!

Nona :o

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Guest Wolfie

I've got nothing to add to this but am watching the thread with real interest...I really don't know how I'd go about resolving this one! I too like to think that it could be resolved by getting the different parties together and chatting but I obviously don't know the personalities involved.....

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what an awful shame that such a basic, human,natural, loving and caring act should cause such a fuss.Iknow the other parents have rights too, but honestly, my reaction is to tell them to get a grip and stop being so uptight, after all, they only need to tell heir children that little 'Joey' still needs his mummys milk.if they are sensible about it, the children won't have a problem with it, though i suspect it isn't the children with the problem............I did breastfeed my babies, though not for many months , longest i got to was 6 months, but when they needed feeding, i fed them!

Edited by narnia
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Oh narnia, you do make me laugh! I never got any disapproving looks when feeding my own toddler - but if I had I would have loved to have your attitude!

 

Maz

 

PS I just had a horrible thought - what if this was the kind of problem I got to deal with in my Gateway Review? :o

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I think on balance that this mum should be allowed to breast feed her child, she obviously feels this is a natural thing to do. I'm not really sure what authority you would have insist on a course of action in any case, if its happening while parents are waiting to collect children.

 

Easy for me to say I know, I don't have the problem to deal with.

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Maz, I remember the publicity received last year about a new bill they were trying to introduce but don't know how far it is through and whether it will ever materialise. It is an offence in Scotland to ban a woman from breastfeeding in a public place but that's where my knowledge ends. As someone who is a strong supporter of breastfeeding I would feel very unhappy to think that a pair of small minded individuals could dictate something like this. Would you react differently if the child was a small baby? As far as I am concerned the age of the child is not material, as a mother should have the right to breastfeed for the length of time they feel appropriate.

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Beau - that was my understanding (about the possible law) but I didn't know it was actually an offence to prevent a woman breastfeeding in public in Scotland - good for them.

 

If we take this at face value, this is a huge area of debate: whose rights take precedence? In this case, I wouldn't be at all surprised if there was something else at the back of this, but only time will tell. In the meantime, the child's needs seem to be missing, don't they?

 

Maz

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very good point maz about the child's needs.

I think many people are uncomfortable with breastfeeding children past a 'certain age' whatever that might be but my motto is live and let live. If I don't like what's being done, I don't look!

I agree with whoever suggested asking the complainers exactly what they take issue with. Is it that they think the child is too old? Well, that's their opinion but there isn't a legal age at which you have to stop feeding your baby. Would they have a problem with a tiny baby being fed or with a toddler being given a cup of milk? Is the feeding mum the sort to be doing this knowing she is getting backs up? I only say that as unfortunately people do do that sort of thing! If she has noticed disapproving looks perhaps she feels more like doing it on principle!

Anyway, once you know exactly the issue you can decide if you need to involve the other mum. Have they actually mentioned it to her I wonder? If you do speak to her you could start by saying how pleased you are that she feels relaxed enough to feed her child at your setting but you have received some comments from less open-minded people and feel it might be best if she used your quiet area...

The only other thing I can think of is when I was faced with a complaint once (about a child biting another - what was I going to do about 'that child'?) and had no idea what to do about it I asked the parent who complained what they would like me to do.... she had no idea and got flustered and I got the impression she just needed to rant!

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It is a natural act but some people are made uncomfortable by it. I was about 4 years old whan I saw my aunt breast feeding my cousin and the image has stayed with along with the shock/amazement/horror I felt at the time.

Its all very well saying that the mother and child have their rights and I doubt anyone wants to ban it, but I do think that if she could be more discrete the parents who are complaining might be happy. Everyones needs should be taken into account, not just the feeding mother.

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Perhaps the best course of action would be for the parents to ignore the breastfeeding, perhaps the mum is just asserting her right to breast feed because she is getting disapproving looks and if people took no notice she might stop doing it.

 

What authority would the setting staff have over something like this that a parent is doing outside the setting?

 

Would you start banning parents who aren't suitably dressed - showing their mid-drift or underwear or builders *um, showing too much cleavage, wearing nose rings, showing hairy legs in shorts - really some parents' dress sense is appalling!! :o

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Everyones needs should be taken into account, not just the feeding mother.

A good old British compromise is proabably what's needed: after all inclusion is for everyone. Rights versus responsibilities - always a tricky balancing act. This is a situation that requires very sensitive handling - very thought provoking (and I'm just so glad I'm not facing this particular dilemma in my setting).

 

Maz

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  • 2 weeks later...

Just thought I would bring you up to date on this dilemma!

 

I contacted the PLA, La Leche League, and The Breastfeeding Network for their advice. All agreed the mother has a right to breast feed her child at pre-school. I received information about breastfeeding which suggested those who complained might be interested in a child-friendly breast-feeding education resource, explaining to children how animals need milk from their mothers, just as human babies do.

 

In the mean time, the mother concerned was happily breastfeeding her child openly in ignorant bliss. So this week, I approached her, and as suggested by forum members, supported her choice to breastfeed, but advised her of written complaints, wishing her to be more discrete. She was amazed at the complaints. She asked if the pre-school wanted her to stop, and I explained we would welcome any mother to breastfeed her baby, and would provide a comfortable area to do so.

 

She replied that she did not need anywhere to sit, and would continue to feed her baby as before. Had the pre-school objected, she said she would have sat outside on the steps to feed him!

 

She also offered to speak to any parent/carer who wished to discuss it with her.

 

I then wrote to the two parent/carers, advising them of the pre-school's support for breastfeeding mothers, enclosed copies of information received, and advised them that the mother was willing to discuss it with them.

 

This was yesterday, so am now waiting to see what Monday brings!

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Nice one Di!

 

She is obviously very committed to her rights/needs to breastfeed her child - not many would be prepared to speak directly to the people making complaints about her. I'll bet she has spent a bit of time thinking about who it might be - certainly if it were me I'd find it difficult not to watch other people's reactions when I fed my child in future to see if I could work out who it might be!

 

It will be interesting to see what happens next - and whether the parents who have complained will take this mum up on her offer of a face to face discussion. I would also be interested to know what the complainers make of the information about child-friendly breast-feeding resource: is this designed to be used in a family situation or in settings?

 

Have you written this up as a formal complaint or have you taken the view that since the complaint wasn't directly concerned with the group's practice that it wasn't necessary? I know there was some discussion about whether it would be necessary earlier in the thread...

 

Let us know what response you get, won't you?

 

Maz

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well done Di.S in taking the time and making the effort to sort this problem, parent make problems that dont need to be

 

As the complaint was not regarding you or your provision but about something happening outside of your group I think you would have been within your rights to tell these parents to sort it out amongst themselves.

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Well done you!

 

What a tough dilemma-it brinmgs all sorts of emotions and thoughts to mind.

 

I worry about the changes in our lives and how we behave sometimes. For example I'd be more than happy for anyone to breastfeed like this at our pre-school, however, if a young male was dropping off his niece he may feel embarrassed...or excited...or intrigued...or nothing...therefore, I do think it would always be worth while having a peek to see who is around when you breastfeed.

 

Anyway, that aside, I think you've managed a tricky situation very well x

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The "baby" is actually a toddler, and the mother feeds him whilst standing queuing up to sign in, and then sits either by the entrance door, or on the steps outside. Quote.

Looking at it from the toddlers point of view, none of these positions sound very comfortable or ideal to have some closeness with your MUM

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Wow what a sensitive situation. I would normally champion actions in support of breast feeding, I fed my youngest son till he was 18 months (Not planned!!) although the latter part of this was probably mainly bedtime feed. However, I would question whether a toddler needs to be demand fed throughout the day.! Dare I suggest the mother may have a bee in her bonnet and is stamping her feet to assert her rights!! I don't question her right to do so but I would imagine she isn't really doing anything to promote the cause of prolonged breastfeeding . Maybe she feels that breastfeeding in a discrete way is "doing down" her rights to feed in public?? We all have to make compromises based on what we would like to do versus what is "acceptable"

Not sure what the solution is!!

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Looking at it from the toddlers point of view, none of these positions sound very comfortable or ideal to have some closeness with your MUM

I can only speak from my toddler's point of view when I was still feeding him - he would enjoy that particular kind of closesess anywhere! And the withdrawal was terrible for him when I decided it was time to stop. I think he's over it now though (he's eleven :o )

 

Maz

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