Breastfeeding support groups have condemned the actions of an attendant who fined a mother for parking in a restricted area to feed her child and then took photographs for proof.This incident occurred in Scotland, where anyone who interferes with breastfeeding can be fined up to £2,500 (nearly $5,000). Since Scotland is the first (known) jurisdiction to impose a fine for interfering with breastfeeding, the language of the law (.pdf) could be a model for other jurisdictions to follow:
The warden employed by a national car park management company confronted Jerricah Watson, 19, after she pulled into a permit holders-only bay in the Candle Lane area of Dundee to breastfeed her 14-week-old son Jaksyn.
Ms Watson pulled into the quiet street to get away from the city-centre traffic and said the warden initially said it was okay to feed her child. She said he then took photos and put a ticket on her car.
When she approached the attendant, from Birmingham-based Central Ticketing, which is responsible for policing the parking in the area, he said it was too late to withdraw the ticket. The penalty was for £85 or £60 if paid within two weeks.
"As I'm breastfeeding and therefore my son is fed on demand, I need to stop right away," she said.
"I feel with the government both locally and nationally trying to encourage mums to breastfeed that it was unfair of the man not to take that into account or even bother to ask me to move or give me a few minutes to feed my child."
The incident has alarmed breastfeeding support groups who believe more should be done by government to allow babies to be fed naturally.
Gillian McWhirter, a Scottish breastfeeding support group adviser, said: "This is a very unfortunate situation. There is enough of a problem getting mothers to breastfeed because they are embarrassed to do it in public. But to not just give this woman a ticket but take pictures of her while she was in the car, is quite shocking.
"These kind of situations encourage ignorance over the importance of breastfeeding, which scientific evidence shows decreases the rate of infant illness.
"It is a basic right for a child to receive nutrition and every mother knows that when baby cries, baby has to be fed."
Thyll Buchanan, a registered Scottish breastfeeding network supporter, added: "Young mothers need all the help and support they can to continue to breastfeed. It is safer to pull over and feed a crying baby than to try and continue driving under stressful conditions."
Central Ticketing said it would cancel the ticket if an investigation into the mother's complaint found her story to be true. Part of the inquiry would involve examining pictures taken by the parking attendant.
"We will see if this woman's story stacks up, because the warden would have taken photographs and she would have been in the vehicle," said the spokesman.
"We issue thousands of parking charges a week. Fifty per cent of people send in an appeal. You have to bear in mind of every 10 letters we receive seven or eight of these members of the public are telling lies. We are not saying this woman is. This will be investigated."
Figures released last month show that fewer Scottish mothers are opting to breastfeed despite numerous government campaigns promoting the health benefits.
Last year, only 44.2% of mothers were breastfeeding at the time of a health worker's first visit when the baby is about 10 days old while 36.6% were doing so after six to eight weeks. That compares with 45.1% and 37.2% respectively in 2005.
1 Offence of preventing or stopping a child 5 from being fed milk(1)Subject to subsection (2), it is an offence deliberately to prevent or stop a person in charge of a child from feeding milk to that child in a public place or on licensed premises.
(2) Subsection (1) does not apply if the child, at the material time, is not lawfully permitted to be in the public place or on the licensed premises otherwise than for the purpose of being fed milk.
(3) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (1) is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale.
(4) In this section—
"child" means a person who has not yet attained the age of two years;
"feeding" includes—(a) breastfeeding; and"licensed premises" means premises licensed under—
(b) feeding from a bottle or other container;(a) section 12 of the Theatres Act 1968 (c.54);"milk" means breastmilk, cow’s milk or infant formula;
(b) Part II of the Licensing (Scotland) Act 1976 (c.66);
(c) Part II of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 (c.45); or
(d) section 1 of the Cinemas Act 1985 (c.13);
"public place" means any place to which, at the material time, the public or any section of the public has access, on payment or otherwise, as of right or by virtue of express or implied permission.
I'm not implying that the parking attendant violated the Scottish law, it just seemed like a good opportunity to blog about Scotland. I like the fact that the statue defines "public place". Although the definition of "public place" is probably well-defined in the case law of US states, the definition was not incorporated into most breastfeeding statues, leading to some confusion among the general public.