Tag Archives: breastfeeding

WATCH: Jo Swinson on cheating pairs, adorable babies and the realities of working and breastfeeding

Here’s Jo Swinson’s speech in the debate on allowing proxy voting for MPs who have had babies.

It was one of the most real and honest speeches I’ve ever heard. Jo talked about her fury when Tory Chairman Brandon Lewis broke their pairing arrangement in July to vote in a key Brexit vote.

She also spoke about some of the appalling comments she got on Twitter after that, including the criticism that she had gone to the Trump demo for 45 minutes but couldn’t manage to vote in Parliament, something which would have meant hanging around for 5 hours.

Jo talked about the intricacies of establishing breastfeeding and how you need to concentrate on it during the early days. Her voice cracked with emotion as she talked about the difficulties she had establishing breastfeeding with her first son. I actually cried too as I remembered what it was like to be syringing expressed milk into my baby, 19 years on. She got there, though, with all the support that she needed.

She was also open about the realities of expressing milk several times a day. I think it’s fantastic that she posted a picture of her breast pump on Instagram the other day.

She talked about the need to have proper breastfeeding and expressing facilities for all nursing babies who work on the Parliamentary estate, recognising it was easier for her as she had her own office and control over her diary.

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So why shouldn’t MPs breastfeed in the House of Commons?

There was a very sensible debate on the family friendliness or otherwise of the House of Commons earlier this week. The press seems to have latched on (sorry) to the issue of whether women MPs should be allowed to breastfeed their babies in the Commons chamber itself, although the debate was much more wide ranging – and we’ll have more about those other aspects later.

The debate was brought by Jess Phillips ,the MP for Birmingham Yardley who recently took such a battering on Twitter for daring to suggest that Parliament might have more important priorities than have a special debate for International Men’s Day. The irony of her being the only woman on the Committee that decides Commons business was not lost on many people.

At any debate on these issues, you get the odd Tory turning up whose only purpose seems to be to make themselves look ridiculous and to basically troll the proceedings. On this occasion it was Sir Simon Burns, the MP for Chelmsford. Early in the proceedings he suggested that the House of Commons did not have an overwhelming majority of white men when asked by fellow Conservative Maria Miller:

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Why Lib Dems should support this SNP pioneer

Ruth Bright and childA few weeks ago an SNP MP did something very brave but ridiculously ordinary. Did she:

  1. Eat chips on the terrace of the Commons
  2. Clap instead of saying “Hear, hear”
  3. Say the UK parliament should relocate out of London

No, none of the above. What Alison Thewliss did was tweet a photo of herself breastfeeding her toddler. Ask almost any breastfeeding mother and she will tell you that many people will tolerate cute young babies breastfeeding in public but breastfeed an older child and the reaction is very different. 

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Jo Swinson on one of the great double standards of our time

Breastfeeding is in the news again after Claridges thought that it was ok .to tell a mother to cover up as her baby nursed.

Nick Clegg was asked a rather strange question, which he eventually answered pretty well, about whether the importance of breastfeeding should be covered in Personal Health and Social Education classes and whether mothers should be told that it should be done in private. The right answer is, of course, yes to the first and no to the second.

It’s really quite ridiculous to think that it took until 2010 for the rights of mothers to breastfeed their babies in public was protected in law. This means that nobody can ask a mother to stop doing so in any place where she and the baby are allowed to be. Scotland was way ahead of the game, protecting women some five years before. Remembering the struggle it was to get that bill through, I wouldn’t give too much credit to the Labour/Liberal Democrat government of the day. It took a cross party alliance of women to keep Elaine Smith’s private member’s bill alive.

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Should MPs be allowed to take their babies into the voting lobby?

There’s been a bit of controversy over the issue of breastfeeding in the House of Commons and taking babies into the voting lobby sparked by comments by Jo Swinson, who gave birth to her son Andrew on 22 December. The argument goes that you can take a sword into the Commons voting lobby, but not a baby. On face value, it sounds like yet another way in which Westminster needs to be dragged into the 21st century.

Jo said to the Guardian:

“I think it’s been lovely the way people have been really supportive in parliament of my pregnancy,” she said. ” I think some of the structures of the institutions of the House of Commons probably don’t make it as easy as it could be, in particular that you don’t get maternity cover. As a minister, I get cover for my work … but nobody else will be being the MP for East Dunbartonshire.”

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Actually, Nick, there might be something in the vouchers for breastfeeding idea…

Nick Clegg was asked yesterday, on his LBC phone in, what he thought about the plan to give women in deprived areas £200 in High Street shopping vouchers. This was one of these questions which he had to answer by instinct because he didn’t know the detail and to give him credit, he said a lot of the right things. He talked about how no mum should feel pressured to breastfeed, but those who do should get the support they need. Whether he knows on a practical level what that actually means, though, is not clear.

He was unambiguous about …

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    MPs would be absolutely mad to put no deal on a ballot, and the EU will not grant an extension for such a crazy purpose....
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    Joseph Bourke, the only somewhat beneficial Brexit resolution is its cancellation, the sooner the better. Consequently, compensating public "investment" might have some payback only in...
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  • User AvatarLaurence Cox 21st Jan - 11:25am
    @David Beckett You can blame Sir Winston Churchill for that. When the House of Commons was bombed in WW2, it was the Government that he...