At the beginning of August, high tech accessories company Elvie installed a bench reserved for breastfeeding in the center of a Belgian city. Mothers can pump their milk and nurse their child as they wish. The initiative aims to support young parents and (finally) lift taboos surrounding breastfeeding in public.
"All boobs are welcome here." This inscription can be read on the side of a public bench installed in the Belgian city of Kortrijk, located in West Flanders, ten kilometers from the French border.
Behind this initiative is the company Elvie, specialized in accessories intended to improve the daily life and comfort of young mothers. "All moms should be able to breastfeed or express milk in public without fear or judgment," the brand wrote on its Twitter account.
Installed in early August in the city center on the occasion of World Breastfeeding Week, the bench designed and imagined by Elvie has a hollow surface in which parents will find a changing mat and even toys.
If the bench (blue and pink) has not escaped the stereotypes of gendered colors, its message is however more than benevolent... And perhaps necessary to change mentalities. "In addition to the bench, we have launched #BreastPlaces, a map of places in the city where young parents can feed their babies and breastfeed in peace," says the brand.
Take a seat, motherpumpers- this is your safe space to feed & pump. #Elvie believes that all moms should be able to breastfeed or pump in public without fear or judgment. And that's where #BreastPlaces comes in. pic.twitter.com/gq7rvxFbvE
- Elvie (@elvie) July 29, 2021
"Cover that breast which I cannot behold!"
Young mothers are unfortunately all too familiar with the spirit of Molière's line from Tartuffe for the simple reason that they are frequently subjected to similar injunctions. No later than last May, the story of Maÿlis from the city of Bordeaux in France sparked a wave of indignation and support on social networks.
While waiting in the street to receive a parcel, Maÿlis took advantage of the moment to breastfeed her 6-month-old baby boy. Her act earned her the salty remonstrances of another lady present in the queue who, it is alleged, ended by slapping her. Onlookers had almost no reaction, reported Maÿlis on Doctissimo, an online forum for medical information in France.
The story of this mother is far from being an isolated case: many women are still subjected to insults and disapproving looks or are refused access to public place because they "dare" to breastfeed. More often than not, they are accused of "lacking modesty" or even of "exposing themselves."
In November 2019, Nefera Mavamb breastfed her child while she was in her car, parked on a street in Bruges (Belgium). On Facebook, the young woman explains that she was forced to leave the scene after a police officer stopped her and ordered her to stop breastfeeding, claiming that it was "indecent exposure."
However, in France as in Belgium, breastfeeding in public is not illegal. Last June, a French regional deputy, Fiona Lazaar, introduced a bill to create the offence of "obstruction to breastfeeding." The proposal consists of only two articles: the first provides for a fine of 1,500 euros against any person who attempts to prevent a person from breastfeeding in public. The second is simply a reminder that breastfeeding "does not constitute sexual exhibition."