Icelandic MP breastfeeds baby during a debate in parliament

'It is the most natural thing in the world,' she said, describing being a mother as 'like any job, you've got to do what you've got to do'

Charlotte England
Thursday 13 October 2016 15:37 BST
Independence Party MP Unnur Brá Konráðsdóttir breastfeeds her baby at the podium
Independence Party MP Unnur Brá Konráðsdóttir breastfeeds her baby at the podium (RUV screenshot)

A politician has breastfed her baby while speaking at the national parliament in Iceland.

Unnur Brá Konráðsdóttir, from the centre-right Independence Party, nursed her 6-week-old daughter at the podium of the Alþingi parliament on Wednesday, while explaining her vote on new immigration legislation to colleagues.

Although the northern European country has an extremely relaxed attitude towards breastfeeding in public, it was the first time an MP had fed her child while actually addressing parliament.

Ms Konráðsdóttir, who is chair of the parliamentary Judicial Affairs and Education Committee, said taking her daughter to the podium with her was the least disruptive option.

According to The Icelandic National Broadcasting Service, MP Svandís Svavarsdóttir of the Left-Green Movement, offered to hold the baby, who was born 1 September, while her mother spoke about a proposed new Foreigners Act.

But Ms Konráðsdóttir reportedly declined the offer.

“She was hungry and I had not expected to go to the pulpit," she said. "Then another MP was giving statements on a bill that I put forward on the behalf of the Judicial Affairs Committee, to which I had to respond. So I either had to tear the baby girl of me and leave her crying with the MP sitting next to me or just take her with me and I thought it would cause less disturbance to take her with me”.

She added: “She has been with me at the Parliament almost since she was born so my fellow MPs are used to her. She has attended numerous committee meetings with me over the final days of this parliament. Usually she is very calm and when we cast our votes she is sound asleep. So there have never been any incidents before."

The baby, who is Ms Konráðsdóttir third child, recently attended the Arctic Circle conference with her mother, and a meeting at the University of Iceland to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Reykjavík Summit.

Breastfeeding in public has been the subject of heated debate in many counties, but the Icelandic MP described it as “the most natural thing in the world".

She told AFP being a mother is like any job: "you've got to do what you've got to do."

In the UK, which has one of the lowest rates of breastfeeding worldwide, MPs are currently not allowed to breastfeed in the chamber of the House of Commons.

A year-long independent review into tackling sexism in parliament, which was released in July, found the rules should be changed to allow women MPs to breastfeed in the chamber during debates.

Senior DUP politician Sammy Wilson criticised the suggestion, saying it would be exhibitionist for women to breastfeed in public areas of parliament. But his comments prompted angry backlash.

In the report, the late MP Jo Cox said: "We should take on the popular press if it is critical and say, 'this is what women do; get over it'. It is good for children, so we should advocate it."

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