With so many unpleasant stories in the media about how poorly women breastfeeding in public are being treated it's nice to know that there is at least one company which is trying to make a difference: Starbucks.
The coffee chain is taking huge steps in a bid to become more appealing to breastfeeding mothers, offering them a place where they can enjoy their beverage of choice without getting nasty glances and being made to feel unwelcome (at least not from the baristas), as they roll out a new programme which will see staff being trained on how to deal with breastfeeding mums.
According to The Huffington Post, Starbucks is the first company to have partnered with the National Childbirth Trust's Parent Friendly Places Charter to provide bespoke training for the thousands of baristas it employs in over 800 stores across the U.K.
The initiative is an admirable one and hopes to offer parents a space where they feel welcome and supported with access to all relevant facilities, where possible, as well as providing assistance from staff should they need it.
But more than that it's an opportunity to eradicate the negativity that so many women face while trying to perform one of human nature's most natural acts in a public space: trying to feed their child. It's a heated topic and one that has seen many women asked to stop breastfeeding their child in public as it offends other patrons. Hopefully the implementation of this programme is the first step in the right direction and the chance to provide some much needed change.
"We want all of our customers to have a good experience at Starbucks and we recognise that parents out on their own with very young children, sometimes for the first time, appreciate some support," vice president of operations for Starbucks Rhys Iley said.
"Through working with NCT we have already refreshed our training and improved our facilities," he added. "We hope parents of young children visiting our stores will let us know, there and then, if there is anything we can do to improve their experience."
It seems that the programme will be warmly welcomed by new mums as mum-of-two Tori Chubb shared her thoughts with The Independent, saying, “I was very self-conscious when I was out with my daughter and I imagine many new mothers feel the same way. It will be nice knowing there is somewhere everyone can go where they will be comfortable and the staff won't be shocked seeing someone breastfeed. It will help those with toddlers as well — staff on hand putting young children into high chairs and things like that.”
Dr. Sarah McMullen, head of research and quality at NCT expressed her excitement at the partnership.
"We are proud to launch the first Parent Friendly Places partnership on the High Street with Starbucks, so that parents with young children feel welcome and supported when they walk into a store," she said. "We know from our members that many struggle with unwanted attention and comments on their feeding method whether it's by breast, bottle or in a high chair, when out and about with their baby or child. It's important that parents feel reassured they have the support of staff and won't be judged.
"We also know that it can be a challenge for establishments to understand and assist with the needs of parents with very young children. We believe this Charter will address the challenges parents face on the High Street and hope that other retailers will follow suit in becoming more parent-friendly."
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