Breastfeeding has been a big deal lately. Debates on public breastfeeding have hit every social media outlet possible, and even celebrities are putting their two cents in. Even with all the encouragement from moms like Pink to pop it out in public, however, there is still apparently a group of women who aren’t so comfortable with nursing in front of others. More specifically, in front of men. A midwifery student from the UK’s Bournemouth University was recently denied access to a breastfeeding class because he is, well, a “he.”
Chris Butt, 30, is a second-year student in the university’s midwife training course and tried to attend breastfeeding classes run by the National Childbirth Trust (NCT). The classes near his university would not admit Butt to the classes, stating that some women are “sensitive” to men being present in the class. Upon completion of his training, Butt will be one of the 20,000 midwives in the UK, only 132 of which are male. Breastfeeding education is crucial, since the Department of Health encourages women to breastfeed, and midwives are often the catalyst to helping women become comfortable and effective at breastfeeding their babies. Britain, however, has “one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world.”
Although Butt has been invited by the NCT to attend more open classes where male partners also attend, the NCT objects to Butt’s presence at the “women-only classes despite the fact that he is a health professional – but said they would have no problem with a female midwife.” In an article for midwives in the magazine of the Royal College of Midwives, Butt criticizes the exclusion:
“I didn’t believe for one minute that I would be turned away from breastfeeding groups. Do the facilitators of such clinics think I practice 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?”
Butt is backed by his professors and the head of midwifery at the Royal Hampshire County Hospital in Winchester where he has delivered five babies on his own as part of his hands-on training.
A spokesman for the NCT said, “He wanted to attend a women-only session, where there were no break-out rooms available if the women attending felt uncomfortable with a male presence.” A breastfeeding counselor in Southampton commented, “Chris has to understand that some women are sensitive to a man’s presence.”