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Mum slams Sammy Wilson's 'voyeuristic' breastfeeding claims with viral video

By Angela Rainey

Published 27/07/2016

Michelle Major, with son Suni, wants wider acceptance of breastfeeding
Michelle Major, with son Suni, wants wider acceptance of breastfeeding
Sammy Wilson

A Northern Ireland mother has created a viral video promoting breastfeeding to challenge a DUP MP who said the practice amounts to "exhibitionism".

The video was created by mother-of one Michelle Major (37), from Magherafelt, who said she did it to vent "her frustration at outdated attitudes" that suggest breastfeeding should only be done in private and not in a public space.

>>Audio: Listen to Sammy Wilson's views on MPs who breastfeed in House of Commons<<

The video has already been viewed over 27,000 times.

Mr Wilson, the MP for East Antrim, also referred to breastfeeding as "voyeuristic" during a radio interview which discussed a report that advocates allowing female MPs to breastfeed while at work.

He then changed the word "voyeuristic" to "exhibitionism" when challenged further on BBC Radio Ulster's Stephen Nolan Show. He said: "In the House of Commons there are plenty of places where women, if they want to breastfeed their children, can do it without being under the glare of the cameras in the Commons chamber, bringing children into the Commons chamber," he said.

"This kind of voyeurism, to an extent that is how it would be viewed in some cases. If you have somewhere else to go why do you have to come into the House of Commons chamber, have it on film and everything else, when there is somewhere else you can give your child its needs?

"It's voyeuristic if you have got an opportunity to do it somewhere which is much more private, away from the glare of the public and the cameras, etc.

"To me, anyone who chooses to do it in the chamber rather than who do it in the quietness of their office, is doing it for reasons other than simply feeding the child - to make a point."

The remark has sparked a backlash from mothers across the UK who claim it is typical of the attitude breastfeeding mothers are facing here.

Ms Major has been breastfeeding her son Suni for 17 months and said she intends to do so until he self-weans. She added that "breastfeeding is natural and should be protected in law as it is in Scotland".

"There are many issues that women face when breastfeeding," she said. "One of them is feeling embarrassed feeding their baby in public, partly due to being under-confident and also because of outdated attitudes like Sammy's.

"It is the most natural thing in the world but opinions like Sammy Wilson's, and from a man in his position, should have been kept to himself.

"Women who have just given birth need support - they're often exhausted, feeling emotional and overwhelmed, but comments like his set things back. There needs to a law here that protects it - in Scotland it is illegal to ask a woman feeding her baby by breast or bottle, to leave.

"But positives have come out of the negatives which is that he has put breastfeeding in the spotlight so, hopefully, it will change peoples' attitudes," she added.

Ms Major, who runs the Sunshine Project which aims to bring positivity into people's lives, added that she would like to see all workplaces and businesses introduce training to their staff to increase their acceptance of breastfeeding at their venue.

According to statistics from Department of Health, Northern Ireland has the lowest rate of breastfeeding in the UK, particularly among young mothers and those with less time spent in education.

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