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'Breastfeeding in public is natural'

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'Breastfeeding in public is natural'
Photo: DPA
11:00 CEST+02:00
A young mother in Dresden has started an international photography project aimed at confronting the taboo of breastfeeding in public. The Local spoke with Stephanie Karch about the challenges nursing mums face in Germany.

A mother in Hamburg was forced to get off of a bus by the driver while trying to breastfeed her infant child because it reportedly bothered other passengers and the driver.

Another woman was thrown out of a cafe in Krefeld, North Rhine-Westphalia, also for similar reasons.

Stories like these often spread like wildfire across social media and raise debate about what is proper when it comes to breastfeeding.

For one young mother in Dresden, such stories inspired more than just conversation. They motivated her to start a project that has now spread to three different countries within a month.

“Nursing mothers are often discriminated against,” Stephanie Karch told The Local. “A woman just told me that she was breastfeeding at a public park and someone called the police on her.”

Karch, a 24-year-old mother of three, launched the project ‘Mama Stillt', or Mothers Breastfeed, about a month ago with friend Phil Ruppenstein, posting pictures online showing women nursing their babies in public.

Since then, what started as a photography hobby has grown into nearly 3,000 likes on Facebook and 200 collaborating photographers across Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Karch said she has also recently been getting interest from people in the Netherlands.

The photographers, both professional and amateur, mostly take pictures showing women nursing in very ordinary settings, like in train stations, at the park or at the beach.

Danke an Tanja von rohden Fotografie Eine sehr schöne Aufnahme ❤

Posted by Projekt Mama Stillt on Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Some photos are more glamorous, with the mums dressed in flowing dresses or with flower crowns around their heads.

❤❤Glückskinder Fotografie ❤❤

Posted by Projekt Mama Stillt on Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Sharing nursing photos online is not a new phenomenon as “brelfies”, or breastfeeding selfies, have become a trend on social media with even celebrities like rocker Gwen Stefani snapping a pic or two.

Still, Karch said amid the praise her project has received, there is still some negativity.

“I honestly don't know why people have such a problem with this,” she said. “There has been a lot of positivity in the comments on the pictures, but there are also people who don't like it.”

There is no law prohibiting mums from breastfeeding in public in Germany, but there is also no rule against private businesses asking nursing women to leave.

Germans tend to be less accepting of breastfeeding in public than in the United States or Britain, according to the Lasinoh Global Breastfeeding Survey published last fall.

Most mums in the UK and US said they thought publically nursing babies was “perfectly natural” at 63 percent and 57 percent respectively, but in Germany, just 44 percent felt the same.

About one quarter of German mothers saw public breastfeeding as “embarrassing” or “wrong”.

Almost every state in the US has laws protecting women's ability to breastfeed in public or private and more than half have laws relating to providing women spaces to breastfeed in the workplace.

Karch said she hopes the project can inspire some change and political advocacy within Germany for the rights of nursing mothers.

“There are other countries like the USA that protect mothers,” Karch said. “I hope we can bring this to Germany one day.”

Karch said she wants to create a gallery viewing with a collection of the photos taken, but she is still working on a plan.

Guten Morgen Ihr Lieben Ich bin die Stephie und Administratorin dieser Seite. Hobbyfotografin...

Posted by Projekt Mama Stillt on Wednesday, June 10, 2015
Above: Karch introduces herself on the project Facebook page.
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