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O’Leary pushes for breastfeeding policy at St. John's facilities

Deputy Mayor Sheilagh O’Leary stands next to a life-size cutout in council chambers provided by Baby-Friendly Newfoundland and Labrador, a group committed to increasing breastfeeding in the province.
Deputy Mayor Sheilagh O’Leary stands next to a life-size cutout in council chambers provided by Baby-Friendly Newfoundland and Labrador, a group committed to increasing breastfeeding in the province. - Juanita Mercer

‘It’s not just for women, it’s for families,’ deputy mayor says

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

For two weeks in a row at the St. John’s council meeting, Deputy Mayor Sheilagh O’Leary questioned city staff about a timeline on implementing a breastfeeding policy.

She is seeking a policy internally for city staff and council, but also externally for any city-operated facilities and events.

“If something happens that a woman goes into one of our community centres … and she has to feed her child and she needs to breastfeed, well, we want to make sure that we create a safe space for that and that somebody’s not going to be stigmatized for it or told – and we see it all the time in the news about women who are asked not to remove, or told not to do that, to feed their child, which is absolutely ludicrous,” O’Leary previously told The Telegram.

This week, O’Leary was told by city manager Kevin Breen that not much has changed since last week.

Last week, when O’Leary asked city staff for an update on implementing a breastfeeding policy, Breen said it would be included in the respectful workplace policy, which staff is currently developing.

However, that policy only pertains to city staff and council.

As for an external breastfeeding policy for city-operated areas such as recreation facilities, Breen said that’s a larger piece of work and not something staff intends to work on at this time.

O’Leary responded that she would bring it up at committee of the whole.

“It’s not just for women, it’s for families, and it’s an extremely important thing that many cities have taken on,” O’Leary told The Telegram after last Tuesday evening’s council meeting.

“I want to know the timeline on seeing these kinds of policies coming forward. … Every week I continue to ask that question because I want to know a timeline.”

She acknowledged that city staff are busy, and policy development takes time.

“But it’s extremely important that we play a proactive role in healthy neighbourhoods by helping to make people feel comfortable, letting them know that we can promote (city facilities) as breastfeeding-friendly spaces.”

Twitter: @juanitamercer_

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