Leading article: A nudge that may do little to help women

Share
Related Topics

That Britain is not a child or baby-friendly society by European standards is an oft-heard complaint with a good deal of justice to it. The hostility still evinced towards mothers who breastfeed babies in public, for example, compares unfavourably to the much more relaxed approach that our continental neighbours adopt towards this most natural human activity.

Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, intends to take on this cultural legacy of a more puritanical era, nudging it into a new, healthier direction in the workplace by giving women rights to take breastfeeding breaks at work and obliging businesses to set aside dedicated breast-feeding rooms.

British society "doesn't make it easy" for mothers to breastfeed their children, he has said, noting NHS figures that show a high proportion of mothers blame their return to work for the fact that they had to stop breastfeeding after only a few months.

Mr Lansley's words have drawn predictable cries of rage from some employers, complaining of a new, interfering, anti-business diktat inspired by Brussels; the idea comes shortly after the European Parliament voted to grant women two one-hour breastfeeding breaks at work each day.

All the same, people are entitled to question the practicality of the proposal. Unless all business start to provide crèches, it is not clear what women are supposed to do with their babies once they have finished these breastfeeding breaks, for one thing. Then, what is the point of two such breaks a day, when most babies need several?

Breastfeeding is not an activity to be undertaken in a hurry or in conditions of stress. If the mother is not relaxed, it can be hard to express milk. The idea is a curious one that a busy working woman can simply switch off a frantically ringing mobile phone, put the laptop on to "sleep" mode and then dart off for a quick breastfeed session that has been sandwiched in-between high-pressure meetings.

If the minister feels that too many babies are being cut off from their mother's milk too early on in life, a simpler reform might be just to extend maternity leave.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teacher, Permanent Role in Ashford

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: Randstad urgently seeks a qualif...

SAP BI CONSULTANT

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: SAP BI CONSULTA...

Infrastructure Manager - Southampton - Up to £45K

£35000 - £45000 per annum + 36 days holiday and more: Deerfoot IT Resources Li...

Drama Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Liverpool: We are looking for someone who can t...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Spy chief speaks on the record: "Thank you, and that's it, really"

John Rentoul
 

The daily catch-up: fathers looking after children, World Cup questions and Nostradamus

John Rentoul
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice