Q&A with Kate Quilton on Channel 4's Dispatches breastfeeding documentary
We chatted to the journalist, presenter and new mum about the stigma associated with breastfeeding in public and the impact this is having on women, following the Dispatches documentary, Breastfeeding Uncovered.
Image: Channel 4
In Channel 4's Dispatches documentary, new mum Kate Quilton investigates why Britain has some of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world and what can be done to offer more support to women.
From government cuts and cultural attitudes to the 'breast is best' debate, Kate talks to scientists from Imperial College London and researchers at Swansea University to uncover the truth about the stigma connected to breastfeeding in the UK, what can be done to challenge this, and what ways women can be encouraged to breastfeed.
We chatted to the journalist and presenter to find out how her investigation and personal experiences have helped to raise and tackle the main issues associated with breastfeeding.
What are the biggest social stigmas associated with breastfeeding?
'Surprisingly, breastfeeding in public in this country can still be taboo. Lots of the breastfeeding mums that appeared in our documentary have encountered negative attitudes when breastfeeding out and about. Whether they’ve raised an eyebrow, been questioned by a passer-by in the park, or even been asked to feed in the toilet, these attitudes are still present and discourage mums from doing one of the most natural things you can do - breastfeed your baby.'
What impact is this having on mums?
'It can have a big impact. I’ve met mums who won’t breastfeed in public because they don’t feel comfortable. Brilliantly, one of the mums that appeared in our documentary doesn’t usually breastfeed outdoors but joined us on our protest at parliament and fed her baby outside, on the grass. It was a bit of a breakthrough. She said that from then on, she would continue feeding in public.'
It has been suggested that breastfeeding should be taught in schools. Do you think this would help change the current public perception?
'The more people see it, the more normalised breastfeeding will become. If kids are exposed to it at school, this can only be a good thing.'
What ways could we encourage women to breastfeed?
'New mums don’t necessarily need encouragement to begin breastfeeding - brilliantly 80% of mums in this country breastfeed from birth. We need instead to look at the reasons why they stop.'
In your opinion, what could be done better to support breastfeeding mums?
'In 2015 there were lots of cuts to the services that support breastfeeding mums. Overnight, some areas of the UK lost their breastfeeding support services. We need to reinstate this support, we need leadership in government on the issue, and as a society, we need to support breastfeeding mums. And not shame them in public as some of the mums I know have experienced. It’s unbelievable that this is still happening in the 21st century.'
Is breastfeeding vs using formula an either or debate?
'No. And there are many mums out there mixed feeding. All too often women are pitted against each other on the issue of feeding their babies. And mums can feel a huge amount of guilt however their feeding their babies. This all needs to stop.'
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