Working mums know the daily balancing act that comes with babies and breastfeeding, and Australia’s female politicians are no different. There are plans afoot to allow MPs to nurse their babies in Parliament – but one mum pollie says she still won’t feed in the chamber.
There’s been a parliamentary baby boom, with 10 federal MPs having babies this year. The influx of infants comes as a parliamentary committee explores options to support working mums, which may include allowing breastfeeding in the House of Representatives.
Earlier this year cabinet minister and mum Kelly O’Dwyer was told she should express breast milk to avoid missing voting in parliament. However the Liberal MP says if the rules are changed, she still wouldn’t breastfeed in the chamber, preferring the current proxy vote option that can be used when expressing milk.
“It’s a very personal thing,” Ms O’Dwyer told ABC radio. “I think every mother would say to you that there are some things you feel comfortable doing and some things you don’t.”
Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young supports the push, telling AAP, “It’s 2015 and it’s time.” In 2009 Senator Hanson-Young had to remove her then two-year-old daughter from the upper house chamber, because of a ruling by the Senate president. Breastfeeding is now allowed in the Senate.
“It’s all well and good to pay lip service to women’s participation but what we actually need is practical changes like this,” the senator says. She’s also expressed her disappointment that parliamentary sitting weeks next year will clash with school holidays.
Labor MP Clare O’Neil has taken to social media to throw her support behind breastfeeding in the chamber.
As a mum and MP, it would make a huge difference to be able to take an infant into the chamber. Please make it happen @JoanneRyanLalor!
— Clare O'Neil MP (@ClareONeilMP) November 9, 2015
When asked whether she thinks breastfeeding in parliament will be distracting she jokes, “With Bob Katter, Clive Palmer and Christopher Pyne in the chamber, I feel a child would be the least of our worries.”
However, not everyone supports the move, with some claiming Parliament House shouldn’t be any different to other workplaces in Australia.
In Argentina, parliamentarian Victoria Donda Perez (pictured below) was lauded for her approach to breastfeeding while at work. While a photo of breastfeeding military mums demonstrated the pursuit of normalising nursing in all working environments. Twitter and IBM are the latest in a growing number of companies that are helping mums send their expressed breastmilk home while away on business.