Great Britain has one of the lowest rates of breast feeding in all of Europe. Just two-thirds of new moms attempt to nurse their infants. British government seems eager to change that. It wants businesses to become “new mother friendly” by providing private areas where employees could breastfeed a child—areas maybe even equipped with refrigerators to store breast milk.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley points out that breast feeding is one of the simplest ways to insure that Great Britain’s future workforce is a healthy one. And though the initiatives would seem to be a no-brainer, they are facing staunch opposition. Surprisingly, two prominent British women are among those against it.
Tracy Clark-Flory wrote a piece earlier today on Salon which took a closer look at the situation. She points out that the government’s attempt to support working moms has drawn outrage from some. Former British Conservative Party politician Ann Widdecombe told the BBC that the new proposals are enough to make her “absolutely weep.” She laments the fact that the state is suggesting that employers provide special facilities and “goodness knows what else” for breastfeeding women during a time of recession. By doing so, she claims, the government is trying to “micro-manage our lives.”
Economist Ruth Lea is also against the initiatives, warning that women could be the ultimate victims. She tells the Daily Mail the following: “Inevitably this will lead to extra costs on business, and make it harder and harder for them when they are expected to be creating new jobs. If you are an employer and you are looking for a new recruit and you have a young man and a young woman, what would you do?”
Maybe I’m missing something, here. But if I am, then I’m in good company. Because Tracy Clark Flory is missing it, too. Both Widdecombe and Lea act as if the government is demanding that each employer expand their existing workspace to include a breast-feeding wing, complete with state-of-the-art climate control and other amenities which foster an ideal lactating environment. But all the government’s really doing is suggesting that employers partition off a tiny part of an existing room to afford new moms some privacy, or perhaps convert that ninth-floor conference room that’s always unoccupied into a place where such women could breastfeed.
But what about the refrigerator? They aren’t free, right?
Well, I’ve got an extra refrigerator I’d be happy to donate to my company (if I worked for one). It’s just sitting in our garage right now. I bet a lot of other people do, too. Maybe each company could see if some benevolent employee would donate his or hers. If not, I believe you can get one from Goodwill for like 50 bucks. OR, get this, a cooler just might work. After all, my red one does manage to keep my beers ice-cold.
I, for one, would like nothing more than to see a working environment that makes it easier for new moms to breastfeed in our country. What about you? Do you think the cost associated with such an initiative would cripple businesses? Are you shocked that two of the vocal opponents to such a scenario in Britain are women?
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