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There was a traffic jam at Bendigo Marketplace this afternoon.
But the congestion was not in the carpark – it was in the food court. Dozens of mums and their pint-sized bubs parked their prams at the shopping centre in support of public breastfeeding.
The Boobs for Babies event was organised after a worker at the shopping centre asked 22-year-old Luci White to leave the food court while feeding her son, Zaydd, on Tuesday afternoon.
Shamed and upset, the mother and son retreated to the confines of the centre’s babycare room. When her friend posted about the experience on Facebook, it spurred another mum, Michelle Van Zyl, to organise Friday’s rally.
“I’m really, really happy with the turnout,” Ms Van Zyl told the Bendigo Advertiser.
“I thought there’d be 10 mums who would come.”
Ms Van Zyl said the get-together was important to send critics of public nursing the message that their criticism was discriminatory and unwelcome.
“To have people comment and say horrible things while you’re just trying to feed your baby, it can be really horrible, and not really fair,” she said.
“We’re not in the dark ages anymore,” said Amy Wilson, another mum at the rally.
James Edwards was one of several men to join the sit-in. His partner, Zharlah McCurdy, breastfed their three-week-old son, Spencer, in public for the first time on Wednesday in a gesture of support for Ms White.
While Ms McCurdy admitted to being nervous, she said it was a liberating experience.
“If he’s hungry and I’m sitting down to eat my lunch, then he can eat too, no matter where we are,” she said.
Ms McCurdy said the week’s events had united Bendigo mothers and she now knew there was a community of women to whom she could turn for advice about motherhood.
Bendigo Marketplace released a statement apologising to Ms White on Wednesday afternoon, saying the centre supported women’s right to choose where they feed their children.
Centre manager Mark McEnallay reiterated those sentiments today.
“Bendigo Marketplace prides itself on being a family friendly and community focused shopping centre,” he said.
“It is very important to us that we continue to provide a welcoming and supportive environment for all members of the local community.”
He confirmed the marketplace was working with the Bendigo branch of the Australian Breastfeeding Association to make the it a more comfortable place for women to nurse their children.