A mother was left “very upset” after a member of staff at the Department of Foreign Affairs told her to move to another room when she was breastfeeding her baby earlier this week.
Victoria Page (37) was breastfeeding her three-month-old baby Alexander on Wednesday in the waiting room of the passport office when a member of staff approached her.
“My son woke up and I was feeding him, and a man comes over and says ‘you can’t do…’ But he didn’t finish his sentence and then he said ‘I’m going to show you somewhere that you’d be more comfortable.”
“I said ‘I really don’t mind feeding him here’. My baby was happy, he was comfortable, and you don’t stop feeding a three-month old baby without them losing their minds.”
Victoria said that before the staff member approached her she had sought out the seating in the passport office because the waiting area of the consular services office was closed. It was here, to this empty waiting area, that the staff member ushered her to.
“I thought he was going to show me to a mum and baby room, but no.”
“The manner I felt wasn’t just that he was uncomfortable. He just didn’t want me feeding there.”
Victoria had arrived 35 minutes early at the consular services office, but she felt that other members of the public who arrived later were allowed take their ticket for an appointment ahead of her while she was breastfeeding.
The Equal Status Act (2000) protects mothers from being discriminated against or harassed because they are breastfeeding. Mothers are entitled to breastfeed in public places and don’t have to ask anyone for permission because of this act, the HSE says.
Read More: Liz Kearney: ‘It’s a simple fact that apparently bears repeating: in Ireland, you’re legally entitled to breastfeed anywhere you want’
“I was very upset but if anything it’ll make me breastfeed basically everywhere,” Victoria said.
“I’ve never had an issue anywhere, you always get funny looks, but I wasn’t expecting this from someone in a public office. This is the Department of Foreign Affairs which is full of diplomats.”
“You can’t have someone like that without training, if he can’t deal with that situation”
She added: “If he wanted to help, he could have brought me a glass of water, that’s how you help a breastfeeding mother.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs told Independent.ie that it apologised and the situation has been resolved.
“The Department contacted the individual concerned and the issue has been resolved. The Department’s approach to breastfeeding is to support and welcome members of the public and staff in this regard,” the spokesperson said.
But Victoria, who works in multilingual tech support, described the apology as “tepid”.
“I didn’t receive anything from the department saying ‘we’ll speak to this person’ or ‘he’ll receive training’, and that’s what would have made the apology believable.”
“They said he didn’t mean anything by it, and we want everyone to feel welcome at the department.”
La Leche leader and breastfeeding counsellor Jan Cormie described the encounter as “very unfortunate”.
“It’s one thing to offer a woman who is breastfeeding another room but she’s entitled to be where she wants to be.”
“There’s a lack of understanding and given that Department of Health recommends that mothers breastfeed exclusively for six months, and then alongside complementary foods for two years as does the World Health Organisation, it’s an awful pity that another government department is [not leading by example].”
“Far from asking her to move, he should have been asking her is there anything she needed.”
Meanwhile, Irish Aid, which is the Irish Government’s official aid programme and is a division of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade states that it is committed to the goal of promoting breastfeeding in partner countries such as Vietnam, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Mozambique.
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