Larissa Waters, a senator from Queensland, Australia, did something on the floor of Parliament today that is both completely normal and subtly revolutionary: breastfeed her 2-month-old daughter, Alia Joy. Because as normal as caring for a child while going about your regular business may seem, stories of people shaming mothers for breastfeeding in public pop up all the time and it's far from accepted to do it in every workplace.
Waters, the co-deputy leader of the country's Green Party, is the first woman to breastfeed her child in Australian Parliament. She just returned from maternity leave, and Alia Joy is her second daughter.
"So proud that my daughter Alia is the first baby to be breastfed in the federal Parliament! We need more #women & parents in Parli #auspol," Waters tweeted earlier today.
Australia is no stranger to the breastfeeding-in-public debate. The Parliament amended its rules last year to finally allow female lawmakers to nurse their babies in the chamber — and vote by proxy if they can't make it to the floor. Before that, children were completely banned.
Waters helped affect the rule change. In November, according to CNN, she said, "If we want more young women in Parliament, we must make the rules more family-friendly to allow new mothers and new fathers to balance their parliamentary and parental duties."
The country has come a long way since another female MP, Kirstie Marshall, was thrown out of the chamber for feeding her 11-day-old daughter Charlotte back in 2003. She was told: "You can't have a stranger in the House, and she hasn't been elected to Parliament," and then taken to a room set aside to feed the baby.
Women have broken breastfeeding barriers in other countries, too. In October 2016, Icelandic MP Unnur Brá Konráðsdóttir addressed her colleagues about an immigration bill while breastfeeding her daughter. "It is the most natural thing in the world," Konráðsdóttir told The Independent, and at the time no one batted an eye (god bless Iceland).
Spanish politician Carolina Bescansa brought her 5-month-old son Diego into the chamber of Parliament in January 2016, and was criticized for exploiting her baby for political purposes by both feminists and conservatives. But she says she was just trying to feed him because he needed to be fed.
"If a mother has to care for her child, she has to care for him wherever," Bescansa said, according to The Guardian. "It’s time that this chamber started to resemble the rest of the country."
As for Waters, she foreshadowed the public breastfeeding in Alia Joy's March 7 birth announcement.
"I'll be having a few more weeks off, but will soon be back in Parliament with this little one in tow," Waters wrote on Facebook. "She is even more inspiration for continuing our work to address gender inequality and stem dangerous climate change. (And yes, if she's hungry, she will be breastfed in the Senate chamber.)"
Seeing that little face is all the inspiration we need to keep working toward gender equality in the world.
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