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Breastfeeding Discrimination

(73 Posts)
MIVA Tue 05-Feb-19 21:18:53

Just wondering if anyone has had a similar experience or can give me any advice on being discriminated against for breastfeeding as a university student?
I'm currently in my second year of university, studying childhood studies.
I thought that especially because of the course I'm doing that I would receive loads of support from my tutors and uni however this has not been the case.
When I first informed the uni I was pregnant they failed to do a risk assessment until I was 2 weeks away from giving birth and at this meeting I was asked how I was planning to feed my baby when she was born. when I explained I wanted to breastfeed it was agreed that they would allow me to bring my daughter in to my lectures and seminars so long as she was not causing a disturbance.
I attended 1 lecture and 1 seminar in which the tutor didn't even notice I had my baby with me until just before the end of the seminar but after received an email to say they were putting me on home study and I wasn't to come back into uni until my daughter was of age to go into childcare. They said it was due to health and safety- not wanting loss of reputation or public condemnation but did not even offer the chance for me to discuss my options.
I said I would attend and express but the university don't offer any breastfeeding facilities and don't even have a breastfeeding policy or anything to do with breastfeeding unless your staff.
Can anyone help???

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AlwaysColdHands Tue 05-Feb-19 21:23:26

They should have facilities for you to express & store milk - contact your student services/ support or Students Union?

Bringing baby into lectures (or possibly even on site for any sustained period of time) is quite possibly an insurance/ Health & safety issue.

MIVA Tue 05-Feb-19 21:33:32

They don't have any services or facilities and I've been completely isolated from everyone as a lot of my modules are group work.
I understand about insurance and health and safety but from what I've read up on which I've attached, their not actually allowed to stop me from attending or have I read that wrong?
On maternityaction.org.uk it says further and higher education bodies must not discriminate, harass or victimise a student who is breastfeeding in terms of admission or provision of education or by excluding the student or subjecting her to any detriment.  This includes access to benefits, facilities or services.

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Newtobusiness Tue 05-Feb-19 22:07:45

Im not sure I would bring baby onto site.
However you are well within your rights to be expressing during your breaks.

It isn't ideal, but are you able to express in the toilets? This is what I do at work as in my line of work I don't feel comfortable to tell my colleagues that I'm breastfeeding/expressing. (I'm freelance and meet a new team every day so don't feel like announcing this fact all the time.)

As an employee you have rights that mean you are entitled to a break to express milk. However I'm not sure what your rights are as a student.

greatbigwho Tue 05-Feb-19 22:10:38

It's a tricky one, because they're not banning you because you're breastfeeding, they're saying you can't attend lectures if you have your baby with you, and that would presumably be the same if you're breast or formula feeding.

titchy Tue 05-Feb-19 22:14:30

They're not excluding you though. They're excluding your baby. Their insurance will cover staff, students and authorised visitors. That doesn't include your baby I'm afraid.

You have no right to bring your baby with you, you cannot simultaneously be actively participating in a seminar/lecture/group work/ exam or whatever AND looking after a baby. You wouldn't expect that as an employee, you can't expect it as a student

Use childcare or take a break in study.

titchy Tue 05-Feb-19 22:15:55

You can and should argue for facilities to express and store milk - your students union should help with that one.

MIVA Tue 05-Feb-19 22:23:59

Then surely they shouldn't have said I was okay to take her in prior to me having her and retract that because a tutor has raised concerns.
It's a 40 mile round trip so I wouldn't be able to just pop out and feed her on my breaks. I understand about expressing in toilets but I don't feel it's the most hygienic place to express and again the law states they should offer facilities for you. Surely in this day and age they should be more accommodating??
Their excluding the baby but are excluding me in the process, had I not been breastfeeding none of this would have happened so should I stop breastfeeding, one of the most natural things to accommodate my education when surely they should be helping to support and accommodate me and any other student who chooses to breastfeed?

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MIVA Tue 05-Feb-19 22:25:27

Unfortunately with two children, one already in childcare and bills to pay I have no other option than to continue my studies, but thank you for your advice.
I'm going to look into getting them to introduce a policy and create breastfeeding facilities

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AlwaysColdHands Tue 05-Feb-19 22:30:34

It sounds like you may have been given wrong/misinformed advice the first time around. Press your students union/ inclusivity/ students services urgently.
Best of luck

PlaymobilPirate Tue 05-Feb-19 22:30:38

I think you're looking for discrimination when it's not there. Being a breastfeeding mother and breastfeeding a baby in class are 2 different things. You're in class as a student, not as a parent.

PlaymobilPirate Tue 05-Feb-19 22:31:09

How old is your dd?

pasbeaucoupdegendarme Tue 05-Feb-19 22:34:25

Are they really legally obliged to offer you facilities to express? (I genuinely don’t know.) I know how it works if you’re an employee, but not as a student.

I sort of feel you’re trying to have the best of both worlds here: if you were working you would have to have childcare in place.

ColdCottage Tue 05-Feb-19 22:37:23

Wasn't there a similar case in the news recently. Perhaps google and see if they can offer some support for you.

Can you find out what the maternity options for staff are?

PennyMordauntsLadyBrain Tue 05-Feb-19 22:37:59

Surely your university faculty building has a small office or seminar room that you could use to express in? It would be really unusual to have every room booked out for meetings or teaching throughout the day, so with some basic organisation pastoral staff should be able to sort that fairly easily.

I can see where they’re coming from not being happy with you bringing your infant with you to teaching sessions. There will be other students, not necessarily even in your class who have sorted out childcare or arranged their schedules so they can carry on their education. I’d be pretty annoyed if I was one of them and someone rocked up to a seminar or whatever with a babe in arms.

greatbigwho Tue 05-Feb-19 22:42:20

Additionally, the window of time you'd be able to have a baby sleeping enough to accommodate attending lectures and seminars with them is only a few weeks, surely - past 10-12 weeks they start to be much more awake and wanting to engage that you'd need to make other arrangements to avoid disturbing other students irregardless of how you're feeding?

Schmoobarb Tue 05-Feb-19 22:42:25

I’m not sure expecting to have your baby with you at all times just so you can feed her is discrimination. Equally breastfeeding students must be pretty uncommon so it’s not really that surprising they won’t have dedicated facilities, although if they have facilities for staff, it might be worth asking if you can access those too for feeds.

You sound pretty inflexible tbh. It’s hardly the University’s fault you live 40 miles away and chose to have a baby on the course. I would imagine most mums in this case would appreciate they might have to compromise somewhere either by taking time out of the course or bottle feeding the baby.

titchy Tue 05-Feb-19 22:42:24

They're not excluding you! Agreed whoever told you it would be fine has caused the issue - but they shouldn't have told you that and have probably been shown the error of their ways.

I'm not sure why think if you were bottle feeding it would be any different. You really shouldn't expect to attend classes with a baby however you feed. Sorry.

BowBeau Tue 05-Feb-19 22:45:33

There’s bound to be a room somewhere that you can use. They usually have small rooms for private meetings and for use as prayer rooms. You should be able to express in one of those.

I agree it’s not discrimination to say you can’t bring the baby into class though. Students are paying to be there, they can’t have people bringing their kids in willy nilly. If you bring yours it sets a precedent for others to bring theirs.

Schmoobarb Tue 05-Feb-19 22:48:46

Do they have a crèche you could put the baby into and pop out for feeds?

greendale17 Tue 05-Feb-19 22:53:18

*You have no right to bring your baby with you, you cannot simultaneously be actively participating in a seminar/lecture/group work/ exam or whatever AND looking after a baby. You wouldn't expect that as an employee, you can't expect it as a student*

^This

MIVA Tue 05-Feb-19 22:56:35

She's just gone 4weeks old. So had I have been working I would still have been on maternity leave and it wouldn't have been a problem. Yea they are legally required to provide facilities to anyone who is breastfeeding. With my first child I was working full time but just before going back to work i stopped breastfeeding (due to an infection in my breast) so I understand it would be different in the work place, but university is a completely different environment, there's not even 60 people on the course I'm studying and I had managed to do all my readings, I participated in the lecture did all the in seminar work whilst looking after my daughter so there were no issues- I would completely understand if she had screamed the place down or it was disturbing other students or my studies but she literally slept most of the time woke up a few times to feed but went straight back to sleep. It's not about me having the best of both worlds, it's about giving my daughter the best start in life and not being made to feel like I'm being punished for it?? Also I had checked with the other students (with it being a small group) if anyone had any objections- most of them are mothers themselves and not one of them had any complaints. I'm only planning on feeding her myself until 4 months (by this time she's old enough to go into childcare- as advised by uni and I would either express or use formula)
I've actually been more than flexible with the uni, even during the pregnancy I didn't have anytime off and from having my little girl I went straight back to uni after I've had her, I've not missed any of the three deadlines I've had this month and from my part I did everything they asked me to do. The conversation I had took place with my module leader who also took the view that to ask either my partner or family member to take time out of their jobs to bring my daughter over to me so I could feed her was completely out of the question nor did he think I should be made to go and sit in my car or the toilets to either feed or express. Bottle feeding is completely different because the baby doesn't need to be with you in order to feed.
So because my uni is 40 miles away and I'm trying to better myself by continuing to study I basically shouldn't be so selfish as to breastfeed my baby and give her the best start in life. Doesn't really seem fair.

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recreationalcalpol Tue 05-Feb-19 22:58:41

It is discriminatory if you can’t bring your baby with you but also can’t express for him. It means that you effectively have to give up breastfeeding, which is obviously not on.

I’m self employed so have no rights at work, and had to write my own breastfeeding policy which included access to a lockable room and fridge etc. I was in a good position to negotiate though, which you may not be. But worth a thought. One would hope that a university would be quite forward thinking. There was a piece on woman’s hour about this the other week, maybe try looking up the podcast. Good luck OP

greatbigwho Tue 05-Feb-19 23:01:53

You're right, it's not fair that you're in this situation, but life isn't always fair.

Health and safety rules preclude infants from being on the premises, however they're fed. The university are offering a solution whereas they'll support you to work from home for the next three months until you stop feeding and someone else can look after your baby. I think they're doing all they can in this situation, and I'm not sure what else they can do, apart from potentially invalidate their insurance.

MIVA Tue 05-Feb-19 23:03:01

Thank you- you've managed to make the point I was trying to make but worded it better!
It seems like you had the best time negotiating unlike what I've gone through!
I will look the podcast up now as all the research I have currently done is just about the law which does state that it's discriminatory as I mention in my second or third comment

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