Breastfeeding in Parliament
Last week the Parliament of Iceland had a first. They were addressed by an MP from the podium who was breastfeeding her baby at the same time! Unnur Bra Konradsdottir, MP declined the offer of a colleague to hold the baby, and just took her up to the podium with her. Iceland is very relaxed about public breastfeeding, but this was a new one. Everyone seemed to take it in their stride.
The UK House of Commons
Can you imagine if that was the UK Parliament though? Here in the UK, we have all sorts of laws protecting the right to breastfeed in public. But they don’t stretch to the House of Commons. Infact, breastfeeding is expressly forbidden in the House of Commons. Back in July an extensive report was published on the matter. It recommended that breastfeeding should definitely be allowed. The late Jo Cox MP spoke on the matter, suggesting it would be good for the baby, and good for democracy. It would allow women MPs with babies to fully participate in the business of the House of Commons.
Sammy Wilson, DUP MP for East Antrim disagreed. He felt that breastfeeding in the House of Commons would be exhibitionist. “If you have somewhere else to go (to feed) whiy do you have to come into the House of Commons…?” he said. His party later contradicted him, saying they thought breastfeeding was good for babies and that MPs who had infants should be able to feed them.
Whatever the consensus is though, the John Bercow MP, Speaker of the House has not endorsed the recommendations. Breastfeeding is still not allowed. It’s not the first time a recommendation has been ignored by the UK House of Commons. A similar report in 2002 was ignored and the ban on breastfeeding upheld by the then Speaker Michael Martin.
The Most Natural Thing in the World
But back in Iceland, it’s all just a matter of nature. Konradsdottir said it would anyway have been more disruptive not to carry on feeding her daughter. The 6 week old infant has been attending committee meetings and parliament almost since she was born. Konradsdottir said that breast feeding is “the most natural thing in the world”. And we agree with her. We’d love to see the UK House of Commons endorse that report. Good for the baby, good for democracy!