WEST KELOWNA - A delegation from UBC Okanagan seeking support for a breast-feeding initiative got a rough ride from West Kelowna council, despite its support from other local governments.
The group was seeking council’s endorsement for the Baby Friendly initiative, plus a pledge to make district facilities breast-feeding friendly and educate employees and local businesses about the rights of breast-feeding mothers contained in the B.C. Human Rights Code.
Councillors grilled the trio of nursing students, led by a public health nurse from the Interior Health Authority, over everything from the financial to the political and social cost of supporting the breast-feeding initiative.
Coun. Rosalind Neis, herself a registered nurse, disputed the claim the program would cost the district nothing and railed against the social engineering governments engage in. “Big brother is innundating the public with signs about how we should dress, how we should talk and what we should eat,” said Neis.
She also lectured the group about the flip side of breast-feeding inclusion, where women who bottle-feed in public are criticized for being bad mothers. “There is another side to the picture that hasn’t been addressed,” added Neis.
Coun. Carol Zanon took issue with the group’s claim of greater long-term health benefits for breast-fed babies, saying there is a danger for children who are breast-fed too long. “I’m also worried about intimidation of women who do bottle-feed,” she said.
Coun. Bryden Winsby said the district will be taking a political position that some residents might not share by supporting the initiative and questioned how it might play out if enacted.
“If one puts a sticker up, posters up, endorsing a certain thing, it’s understood that the municipality takes this view,” he said. “So what happens if we have people in our facilities who do harass breast-feeding mothers? What do we do with them? Do we have to report something, do we have to admonish them, send them home, what do we do?”
For her part, public health nurse Linda Kerche said the initiative had sprung from her experience with local mothers who had been harassed when attempting to breast-feed in public.
Kerche said the group had not considered the potential for harassment of bottle-feeding mothers and told council she supports mothers no matter how they feed their babies. “I have always made an effort not to be a breast-feeding Nazi,” she told council.
In the end, council did not support the Baby Friendly initiative, despite its adoption by Kelowna and Lake Country, telling the delegation they would consider it a later date.
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