Healthy Living in the North

Breastfeeding-Friendly Spaces: Shifting attitudes about breastfeeding

The Breastfeeding-Friendly Spaces decal is pictured. It features a blue and white graphic of a mother and child breastfeeding and includes the text: "We welcome you to breastfeed any time, anywhere."

It’s a woman’s right to breastfeed in public, and local businesses can support that right by ordering this decal.

Did you know that in BC there are laws that protect women’s right to breastfeed in public? To raise awareness of this right, Northern Health has made available a window decal that states: “We welcome you to breastfeed any time, anywhere.” Many businesses and organizations have posted the decal on their doors and windows. They can be ordered on the Breastfeeding-Friendly Spaces webpage.

The impact of the decal

A decal is a small thing, but it can support important conversations. I was curious to know what impact the decal had on the clients and staff of participating businesses and organizations.

To learn more, we’d have to ask! In March 2019, I had the pleasure of supporting three Health Promotions students from the University of Northern British Columbia to do just that. Sonja Bork, Fatemeh Mohammadnejad, and Molly Brawdy interviewed staff from 10 Northern BC businesses and organizations that display the decal. Overall, they learned that the decal has been well received. They described positive feedback from staff and regular visits from breastfeeding mothers. This is great!

In this project, Sonja, Fatemeh, and Molly also learned a lot. At the end of our time together, they each shared their thoughts with me. From their comments, it is clear that this project will have a lasting impact on how they view promoting breastfeeding.

Learning about biases

Molly found that this project was a chance for her to become aware of her own views on breastfeeding:

“Before, I had not considered my own attitudes towards breastfeeding in public. Through this project, I became aware that I had internalized the idea that mothers should breastfeed in private and cover up when doing so in social settings. While I was supportive of breastfeeding in general, I had not embraced the “any time, anywhere” mindset.”

Legal rights and public support

Fatemeh, an international student, noted tensions between what is legally supported in Canada and public views of breastfeeding:

“Before coming to Canada, I had not considered breastfeeding in public places, as this is not a right in my country (Iran). Through this project, I have learned that in Canada breastfeeding is not a legal problem, as there are laws that protect this right. However, there is still a lack of empathy, respect, and understanding in some organizations and in society in general. There exists some level of rejection of mothers who breastfeed in public spaces.”

Raising awareness

Because some people may not be aware of women’s right to breastfeed, Fatemeh saw value in the breastfeeding decals:

“This initiative is an opportunity to promote the right of mothers to breastfeed in any space, without feeling uncomfortable and stressed. By displaying a decal, organizations can help to raise awareness and educate clients about the importance of breastfeeding for mothers and infants.”

Supporting change

Sonja felt that the decal is a useful health promotion initiative and that the students’ role in this project was itself an important catalyst for change:

“I have found this project to be both useful for our own learning and for Northern Health. Apart from our tasks in this project, we also convey the idea of breastfeeding-friendly spaces to our peers, friends, and families, thereby … serving as mediators in this promotional process.”

Shifting attitudes

Finally, through this project, Molly described a major shift in her own attitude about breastfeeding:

“As I heard participants’ views and thought about the initiative in general, my ideas of what it means to support and promote breastfeeding shifted. Now, when I see a woman breastfeeding in public (whether covered or not) I will not see it as awkward or uncomfortable. Instead, I see an example of a woman confidently engaging in a normal behaviour for the benefit of both herself and her child.”

The reflections of these three thoughtful students show the value of supporting conversations about breastfeeding. Thank you, Sonja, Fatemeh, and Molly, for your great work, and good luck in your future health promotion activities!

Do you want a breastfeeding decal for your business or organization? Submit your request.

Lise Luppens

About Lise Luppens

Lise is a registered dietitian with Northern Health's regional Population Health Nutrition team. Her work focuses on nutrition in the early years, and she is passionate about supporting children's innate eating capabilities and the development of lifelong eating competence. She loves food! You are likely to find her gathering and preserving local food, or exploring beautiful northwest BC on foot, bike, ski, kayak, or kite.

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Breastfeeding-friendly spaces: Make breastfeeding your business

Breastfeeding friendly spaces decal stating, "we welcome you to breastfeed any time, anywhere."Protecting, promoting, and supporting breastfeeding takes an entire community, big and small. That’s why Northern Health is happy to support a provincial-wide initiative to encourage breastfeeding-friendly spaces across the north.

The Breastfeeding-Friendly Spaces program has created a toolkit to help businesses and organizations create a welcoming, breastfeeding-friendly space for all families. The toolkit includes:

  • A window decal, featuring the universal breastfeeding symbol, to be prominently displayed in front windows. Displaying this decal shows your commitment to support breastfeeding.
  • A companion tip sheet that offers information about how employers and staff can support breastfeeding families.

The importance of breastfeeding

Did you know that a woman’s right to breastfeed is protected by law in BC? As per BC’s Ministry of Justice:

  • Nursing mothers have the right to breastfeed their children in a public area.
  • It’s discriminatory to ask a mother to cover up or breastfeed somewhere else.

While these facts are not new, it may not be common knowledge. Northern Health is committed to supporting breastfeeding-friendly spaces across northern BC. We encourage all businesses and organizations to do their part to contribute to a positive community that recognizes the importance of breastfeeding!

Breastfeeding friendly spaces decal on the window of the library entrance.

Ignacio Albarracin, Public Service Manager for the Prince George Public Library, stands at the library’s entrance with the new provincial Breastfeeding-Friendly Spaces decal displayed.

A closer look

The Prince George Public Library is one in a growing list of northern BC organizations that is proud to declare their facility to be a breastfeeding-friendly space.

“The public library is a welcoming space, it’s an inclusive space, and serving households with children is one of our core services,” says Ignacio Albarracin, the library’s Public Service Manager, about why they have put up the decal. “We understand that it’s the law, that women have a right to breastfeed anywhere, and this is also consistent with our values to make this a family-friendly space. We want mothers to feel that it’s safe and appropriate to bring their children here. We want them to feel that they’re not going to be bothered or judged if they breastfeed their children here.”

This breastfeeding-friendly spaces decal and tip sheet were created in partnership with Perinatal Services BC, all BC health authorities, the Ministry of Health, and the BC Baby Friendly Network. The new program will be replacing Northern Health’s existing “Growing for Gold” program, which was developed for the 2015 Canada Winter Games and featured a window decal stating, “Naturally, you can breastfeed here.” We appreciate the northern businesses and organizations who have supported this initiative and they can expect a new toolkit in the mail very soon.

When you order a decal, your business/facility will be added to the list of breastfeeding-friendly spaces on the Northern Health website. Help us send this important message: “We welcome you to breastfeed any time, anywhere,” by requesting your decal now!

Want to do more? Consider displaying these posters as well:

Jessica Quinn

About Jessica Quinn

Jessica Quinn is the regional manager of digital communications and public engagement for Northern Health, where she is actively involved in promoting the great work of NH staff to encourage healthy, well and active lifestyles. She manages NH's content channels, including social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc). When she's not working, Jessica stays active by exploring the beautiful outdoors around Prince George via kayak, hiking boots, or snowshoes, and she has recently completed her master's degree in professional communications from Royal Roads University, with a focus on the use of social media in health care. (NH Blog Admin)

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