In talking with anyone about the Baby Café service the question invariably asked is, ‘What about mums who don't breastfeed…aren’t you discriminating against them?’
Our response to that is as follows:
Nobody should be turned away from a Baby Café drop-in.
Our operating handbook states that ‘When mums not requiring support with breastfeeding turn up to a Baby Café drop-in session they should be made to feel welcome, offered refreshments and any other information they require.
Generally, because they no longer need breastfeeding support, they then go elsewhere to get the kind of postnatal support they are seeking’. The point being that, like countless other services, Baby Café drop-ins simply do not cater for everyone and whilst everyone is welcome to drop in we would expect that mothers with no interest in breastfeeding would naturally go elsewhere.
Baby Café drop-ins are not ordinary postnatal or parent and toddler groups, they are a specific, specialised service.
Baby Café drop-ins are highly inclusive.
The Baby Café model provides drop-in support which is free to mothers. Anyone, regardless of age, race, income, social status or beliefs can get support at a Baby Café drop-in. A Baby Café drop-in brings together a wide variety of mothers from different backgrounds united by a common interest, breastfeeding their babies.
It is not discriminatory to set up a support service for a group of people with a common interest.
The health service does it all the time (think of smoking cessation groups, stroke groups or carers’ support groups). There are other services for new mothers which do not include all mothers (think of twins clubs, post-natal depression groups or dads’ groups). Plus countless other examples from everyday life where services are set up to meet the needs of a subgroup of society.
Baby Café drop-ins operate under the founding belief that breastfeeding is the normal way to feed a baby.
Research has shown that mothers need support to breastfeed successfully. At a Baby Café drop-in any mother who has an interest in breastfeeding can gain support and information on that particular parenting choice. It is also a place where the mother can relax and feel comfortable about breastfeeding, and see other mothers who feel similarly. It is critical to maintain this atmosphere and this is why facilitators may at times have to step in if they feel that the focus on breastfeeding is slipping.
Mothers want to go to the Baby Café drop-in because it’s a nice place to go.
The aim of the Baby Café drop-ins is that they should be high-quality, comfortable, welcoming, friendly places. It is no surprise that there are many formula-feeding mothers who feel aggrieved that they are not ‘entitled’ to attend such a nice group, especially in those areas where there is little other provision.
However, the Baby Café objectives state that it exists to provide support to breastfeeding women and their supporters. Extending our provision to include formula-feeding mothers is simply not an option.
We feel strongly that there is simply not enough provision of all kinds for new mothers and would urge those in authority to consider ways to support them better. But it is not our job to support everybody—our remit is to support breastfeeding mothers.
Baby Café drop-ins are able to support mothers who are feeling unhappy about their breastfeeding experience, regardless of how they are currently feeding their baby.
It is well documented that a high proportion of British women give up breastfeeding before they really want to. There is also a lot of pressure to breastfeed, despite the fact that we live in a culture predominantly tailored to support and inform the non-breastfeeding family.
Is it any wonder, then, that some of them feel like salt is being rubbed in the wound by being ‘excluded’ from a service. Any mother who has given up breastfeeding, for whatever reason, and is upset about it may feel even more miserable at not being able to go where her friends are. To those mothers we would say, 'Come along, find out anything you want to know, have a chat with a professional or another mum and let out some of those concerns.'
The Baby Café drop-in is an ideal place to go for this—we would much rather a formula-feeding mum came along and got some ‘closure’ on her breastfeeding experience than carried on feeling miserable about it because she felt unwelcome.
Nobody is going to sit in judgement on an individual’s decision on how to feed their baby; our job is to provide support to those who have chosen to breastfeed and we have to maintain a breastfeeding-focussed atmosphere in order to do that. Of course, our long-term aim is to ensure that high quality early breastfeeding support is widely available and the numbers of women stopping before they are ready falls.