As part of an inclusive welcoming event, you should welcome infants and infant carers (who are predominantly women), since many infant carers cannot separate from their infant for the length of an event.
Allowing infants and young children to attend
In order to welcome carers to your event, you need to allow their infants and young children to accompany them to it. This means checking several things:
- are all conference events (including all social events) being held at all-ages venues?
- are all conference events (including social events) being held in smoke-free and low to moderate noise environments?
- do all conference events have places to keep bags (since carers need to bring infant care supplies) and a good supply of seating (since carers usually will want to sit down to feed a baby)?
- does your insurance allow and cover all-age attendees? (if not, get a new or additional policy!)
One of the most common issues of exclusion of infant carers is overt discrimination against breastfeeding parents, or lack of resources supporting breastfeeding, which covertly signals that you do not welcome it.
In many jurisdictions, discrimination against breastfeeding is illegal (usually on the grounds that it discriminates against the baby itself to ban it). If the baby is allowed in a space at all, it is allowed to feed there. Even if this is not mandated where your event is, it is a good principle for you.
Principles of supporting breastfeeding:
- explicitly state that breastfeeding on demand is welcome in all conference spaces
- answer as many questions as you can preemptively, since emailing event organisers about breastfeeding can be confronting. Have an infant care policy on your website (an example is below).
- breastfeeding is regarded as private by some parents, and it can also sometimes simply be difficult (the baby is distracted or unsettled). In both cases, a dedicated infant feeding room is helpful.
Supporting all infant feeding
Not only breastfeeding should be supported at your event; all infant feeding should be supported.
Some bottle feeders are queried or criticised about not having chosen/been able to breastfeed; this should treated as an harassment issue if it occurs. It is unacceptable to allow people to be harassed about infant feeding mechanisms at your event.
Note: do not use "formula feeding" and "bottle feeding" interchangably, you can leave carers providing expressed milk feeling excluded. You shouldn't need to talk about what's in the bottles, "bottle feeding" is somewhat more inclusive and "infant feeding" more inclusive again.
Your feeding room
To support breastfeeding, a dedicated infant feeding room should:
- have a sign marking it as the infant feeding room
- have a lock and/or an occupancy signal
- be visually closed from other attendees (ie, if it has windows other attendees could look through, cover them)
- have a comfortable chair
If you are likely to need to support multiple carers at once, asking them to all be in the same room at once is not ideal. At least partition a room with curtains.
It is more unusual for a carer to be comfortable with expressing breastmilk in public, and pumping requires more supplies. Most expressing carers will want to use the feeding room. To support expressing, your feeding room ideally has:
- storage space where pump supplies can be left throughout the event
- an electrical outlet to power electric pumps
- a small table near the chair and the outlet to seat pumps and supplies
- a fridge to store the milk in
All infant feeding should be allowed in the nursing/feeding room, never imply that bottle feeding is not allowed in the room.
Other feeding resources
To support bottle feeding, your feeding room or another part of the venue ideally has:
- a microwave for sterilising bottles
- a fridge to store prepared bottles in (as for storing expressed milk)
- a bottle warmer (a separate device designed to evenly warm bottles to a gentle warmth, microwave heating can overheat or unevenly heat milk)
A change table (any waist-height table with a soft top large enough for a baby will do) is also useful. (Beware: some venues place change tables in women's bathrooms. This is not inclusive!)
Example infant feeding policy
This policy may be used under Creative Commons Zero / public domain, ie free for modification and redistribution without attribution.
EVENT NAME welcomes infant feeding on demand in all event venues, including breast and bottle feeding. Any unwelcome commentary on or attempts to prevent infant feeding in any conference venue can be reported to the event organisers at CONTACT POINT and will be treated extremely seriously.
We also provide a lockable dedicated infant feeding room with the following resources [EDIT THE LIST AS APPROPRIATE]:
- lounge chair
- electrical outlet
- mini fridge
- bottle warmer
- storage shelves/units for expressing and feeding equipment
- baby change table
Other infant care resources available at our event are:
- microwave at LOCATION
- bottle warmer at LOCATION
- refrigerator at LOCATION
- baby change table at LOCATION
If you have any questions about our infant feeding policy and resources, or if you require resources in addition to those listed above, please contact CONTACT POINT.
This policy should be paired with a child attendance policy. See the Example child attendance policy.