Mothers and their babies gathered in more than 80 towns around the country on Sunday for the "Big Feed" (La Grande Tétée), an event to promote breastfeeding as part of World Breastfeeding Week.

"/> Mothers and their babies gathered in more than 80 towns around the country on Sunday for the "Big Feed" (La Grande Tétée), an event to promote breastfeeding as part of World Breastfeeding Week.

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BREASTFEEDING

Breastfeeding mums gather in push for change

Mothers and their babies gathered in more than 80 towns around the country on Sunday for the "Big Feed" (La Grande Tétée), an event to promote breastfeeding as part of World Breastfeeding Week.

French mothers are some of the most reluctant in Europe when it comes to breastfeeding their children. By the time babies reach six months, very few mothers are still feeding their children breast milk. 

Figures released by the OECD show that only around 60 percent of children in France have ever been breastfed. This compares to figures of almost 100 percent in Norway, Denmark and Sweden. The European average is around 90 percent and only Ireland has a lower rate at just over 40 percent.

Newspaper France Soir quoted one of the “Big Feed” organisers as saying the events were designed to show that breastfeeding is not a “marginal act.”

Breastfeeding can still attract surprise and disapproval in France, particularly in public. Many blogs are devoted to the experiences of women who continue breastfeeding long after most mothers have switched to using formula. 

“I’ve been told repeatedly by medical practitioners to stop breastfeeding and that it’s abnormal for my baby to not take a bottle,” writes mummyinprovence on her blog. “There is this crazy fear that breastfeeding will make you a slave to your baby.”

A 2010 book by the well-known French feminist Elisabeth Badinter supported this viewpoint. In Conflit, La Femme et La Mere (Conflict, the woman and the mother), Badinter claimed breastfeeding was one of the ways that women were being forced to aim for perfection as mothers, turning back the gains by feminists over recent years.

In an interview at the time with magazine Der Spiegel, she said guidelines that mothers should breastfeed for six months “catapult us back to our grandmothers’ era.”

“The objective is to bring breastfeeding mums together and to support them,” Big Feed organizer Marie-Claude told newspaper France Soir. “Mothers can sometimes feel isolated.”

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BREASTFEEDING

Disneyland Paris apologises after mother stopped from breastfeeding at the park

Disneyland Paris, Europe's biggest tourist attraction, has apologised to a mother after two members of its security staff ordered her to stop breastfeeding her baby in public.

Disneyland Paris apologises after mother stopped from breastfeeding at the park
Photo: Jaime Reina | AFP

Another female visitor drew attention to the incident on Sunday, tweeting indignantly that two security agents had “prevented a mother from breastfeeding her two-year-old baby on the grounds that it shocked foreign clients. In France, in July 2021!”

The tweet was accompanied by a picture of the two agents standing over two women sitting on a bench, one of them holding a small baby. In another tweet, the witness said the mother was Australian.

Responding to the messages, on which the French government was copied, Disneyland said Tuesday it “profoundly regrets this situation and present once more our apologies to the mother in question”.

The agents’ actions were “not compatible with our regulations and our values”, it said, insisting “there is no restriction on breastfeeding at Disneyland Paris”.

It also added that it offered “different places” at the site “for those who prefer a dedicated place” to nurse their children.

In its first Twitter response to the incident on Monday, Disneyland had struck an unapologetic tone, saying only that mothers had the use of special rooms “with suitable and comfortable material such as special breastfeeding seats”.

It changed its tune after being castigated on Twitter by France’s minister for citizenship, Marlene Schiappa, who was previously minister for gender equality.

“Dear @DisneylandParis, breastfeeding a baby is not an offence. It’s good that you have dedicated rooms but no-one knows when and where a baby will be hungry,” she wrote.

“Don’t you also start stigmatising mothers, it’s hard enough like that elsewhere,” she added.

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