More than 40 breastfeeding mothers and supporters held a peaceful protest at a Gold Coast Shopping Centre today to prove a point that mothers can breastfeed any place, at any time.
- Dozens of mothers and supporters peacefully protested at a Gold Coast shopping centre
- It comes after an incident between a breastfeeding mother and staff member at Pacific Fair last weekend
- Supporters say mothers need to know their rights
It comes after an incident at Pacific Fair Shopping Centre last weekend where a Gold Coast mother said she was told to breastfeed away from the “high-end” area of the centre by a staff member.
Pacific Fair maintains the incident was a “misinterpretation” but said it would retrain staff on its breastfeeding-friendly policies.
A spokesperson said it had always been the case that mothers were free to breastfeed anywhere in the centre.
Supporters today said the protest aimed to spark a broader conversation about breastfeeding and continue to normalise the practice in the public eye.
Support from across the globe
Mothers, fathers, grandmothers, and supporters gathered in the luxury store section of the centre, where Gold Coast mother Shannon Laverty said she was approached by a staff member last weekend.
Ms Laverty said she was breastfeeding her newborn son when a member of the centre’s concierge team informed her about the parent’s room and asked her if she would use it.
Ms Laverty said when she declined, the staff member told her she could not continue to breastfeed in the “high-end” section of the centre, near luxury shops.
The incident provoked an outpouring of support from mothers across the country who detailed similar experiences of feeling shamed for feeding their children in public.
At the peaceful protest on Friday, Ms Laverty said she was overwhelmed by the number of people who had turned up to support the cause.
“This is to support all of the women, and fathers as well, anyone on the motherhood and fatherhood journey,” she said.
“The community has just been behind me. It’s been so uplifting seeing messages from women from Australia, New Zealand, overseas, saying ‘we’re popping our titties out just for you today’.
“And it’s just so beautiful to see all these empowering men and women around us today. It’s amazing.”
‘Go the mums’
Ms Laverty said she hoped the protest would help educate the wider community about breastfeeding and allow mothers to feel supported instead of alienated.
“And for women to know their rights, I think we don’t know enough or it’s not spoken about enough,” she said.
“It’s so easy for someone to push us into a corner or into a parent’s room.
“I think so many women don’t know what they’re entitled to, so that’s the number one, and just to show other women that we support them.
As dozens of women began breastfeeding their children this morning, surrounded by smiling supporters, one proud dad yelled “go the mums”.
First time mothers Amy Farrow and Melissa Llewelyn both attended the protest on Friday and said it was an issue close to their hearts.
“It’s important, anything that shows breastfeeding in this light, and that it’s okay and you’re not alone,” Ms Llewelyn said.
“We’re both first-time mums and we’ve been pretty good at feeding wherever we like, but it doesn’t always feel nice.
“And I don’t think any mum should feel like that. It can be awkward enough as it is.”
Ms Farrow said mothers already felt enough stress and pressure, particularly new mothers navigating parenthood for the first time.
“[I turned up] for all mums really. Breastfeeding is important and you shouldn’t be shamed, and I just think it’s important that we show our support and care for mums in general,” Ms Farrow said.
“You’re navigating so much already and you’re just trying to feed a baby, so it’s important to feel supported.”
Centre sorry and welcomes mums
In a statement earlier this week, Pacific Fair said it was sorry to hear of Ms Laverty’s experience at the weekend, but felt the team member had been misunderstood.
A centre spokesperson said it “has always been our policy that mothers are free to breastfeed anywhere at Pacific Fair”.
“Unfortunately while a member of staff was attempting to explain the various options available at the centre, there may have been a misinterpretation which caused offence to the customer.
“[She] was never required to move on whilst feeding.”
According to the spokesperson, the incident did not meet the centre’s standards of customer care and multiple staff members had apologised to the mother of two.
It promised to retrain its staff on its breastfeeding friendly policies.
In Australia, women are legally allowed to breastfeed their children anywhere at any time.
Under the federal Sex Discrimination Act 1984, it is illegal in Australia to discriminate against a person either directly or indirectly on the grounds of breastfeeding.