Escort policy discriminates against breastfeeding moms: Nunavut MLA
"A breastfeeding mother...should be allowed to do so,”
Breastfeeding mothers should be allowed to bring their babies with them when escorting others to medical appointments in Iqaluit or Ottawa, Pangnirtung MLA Hezakiah Oshutapik said in the legislative assembly March 19.
That was an issue Oshutapik said his constituents raised with him.
“[They] are being told that they cannot bring their infant with them on the trip. I believe that the department needs to be more flexible in this area,” Oshutapik said.
A 2011 Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami report called, “Early Inuit Child Health in Canada,” says breastfeeding is important for infants and mothers and is widely recognized as the best source of nourishment for a baby, he said.
Inuit have rates of breastfeeding that are lower than other aboriginal populations in Canada, and lower than the national average, the report said.
That’s in contrast to historical reports of early child feeding for Inuit in the Canadian Arctic where breastfeeding was the traditional way of feeding an infant, it said.
In some cases, breastfeeding mothers are raising their children alone, and there may not be anyone else available to perform escort duties and take care of the infant, Oshutapik said.
“A breastfeeding mother who is prepared to perform escort duties and take care of her infant should be allowed to do so,” he said.
Keith Peterson, Nunavut’s minister of health and social services, said mothers aren’t allowed to bring their babies because of an issue with the airlines.
“I believe it is one adult, one child. It would be difficult for a mother or father to look after two children while they’re travelling in the event of an emergency,” he said.
But the department’s current client escort approval process does not address this issue, Oshutapik said, calling for a more clear set of guidelines for client escort approval.
“If there is some uncertainty with our clients or with our staff interpreting the Client Travel Policy, I will ensure that my officials clarify it for them,” Peterson replied.
Breastfeeding has the potential of preventing infant mortality, reducing chronic diseases and improving immunity, the ITK-commissioned report said.