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Male midwife hits out at breastfeeding group ban
9:41am Monday 8th October 2012 in Health
A MALE trainee midwife claims he was barred from attending a breastfeeding drop-in session in Southampton – because he is a man.
Student Chris Butt made the claims after being told some new mums are “sensitive” to men being present at women-only sessions.
Last night bosses at the National Childbirth Trust said the 30-year-old was instantly offered the chance to attend alternative classes with more than one room and where dads were also invited.
And one Southampton breastfeeding counsellor said she actively supported male partners of new mums to come to her classes.
Mr Butt, who is one of just 132 male midwives in the UK, made his feelings known in an article for Midwives, the magazine of the Royal College of Midwives.
He wrote: “I didn’t believe for one minute that I would be turned away from breastfeeding groups.
“Do the facilitators of such clinics think I practise midwifery in some magical way where I don’t see intimate parts of women’s bodies? Do they think I stand behind a screen as a baby’s head is crowning, shouting out advice on when to breathe?
The Bournemouth University student added: “I wonder how many women who attend drop-in breastfeeding clinics have ever been asked if they mind a male student being present. Not many, would be my prediction.”
Last night it was not clear which drop-in session in Southampton was under the spotlight.
Southampton NCT breastfeeding counsellor Joanna Daniels said when Mr Butt had enquired about attending, he had been offered the chance to join a class in Botley – but did not attend.
She added that the Southampton drop-in only involved one room and trainees were supported as much as possible.
She said: “I love men coming to the breastfeeding classes and normally when I teach breastfeeding classes, all the dads are there.
“We have to think about mothers’ feelings. We are dealing with people who are often struggling and it is a big thing for them. I think we will always respect mothers’ feelings.”
Belinda Phipps, chief executive of NCT, the UK’s largest charity for parents, said she was “disappointed” the student had not followed up on alternative offers.
She added “We want breastfeeding to be as normal as reading the newspaper, so normally partners do attend support sessions. We are also committed to supporting the development of health professionals.
“However, women who seek breastfeeding support are often feeling particularly vulnerable and some may feel uncomfortable with a male presence, so we also offer women-only sessions for those who want this.
“On this occasion, when a male student midwife wanted to visit a womenonly group, we offered him a number of alternative options and did all we could to support him in furthering his professional development.”