Students wanting to breastfeed their babies at the Armagh campus of Southern Regional College (SRC) are being hampered by a lack of support and facilities, it has been claimed.
Alicia Lappin, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), said she had been contacted by a number of young women who attend the campus, asking her to advocate on their behalf.
She said: “They have found the college is very unsupportive of breastfeeding. They are all young mums who have returned to education.
“They have not been offered a space and when they’ve asked where they could go, they were told there is a toilet, and one girl was also told she could use the first aid room but it would be unlocked.
“One girl goes out to her car to express, so she has no plug for the pump, and another one has her mum bring out her baby to her and they have to drive somewhere else so she can feed it.
“These girls are putting a huge amount of effort into feeding their babies and a couple of them have also said they have got into trouble for being late getting back to class afterwards.”
Ms Lappin said she was shocked that a new building does not provide a suitable space for breastfeeding or baby changing, especially when the South Eastern Regional College has recently signed up to the Breastfeeding Welcome Scheme.
“The NHS is pushing breastfeeding and so is the World Health Organisation, yet there seems to be no support here,” she added.
“In my experience, there is usually a designated room, but there doesn’t seem to be in this case. If there is, nobody knows about it – these girls certainly haven’t been told about it.”
Ms Lappin said she had contacted SRC on the women’s behalf three weeks ago and had received two separate responses.
“Both claimed that there are suitable spaces, one being the first aid room, and that it is currently being used by students and this is working well,” she said.
“Unfortunately, this is not the experience of students on the ground who have found the first aid room inaccessible when required.”
Meanwhile, in a separate issue, a student has contacted Armagh I, accusing the college of “banning physical affection between students”.
He said: “I am a student in the Armagh campus – the majority of us here are adults and the college is banning partners and friends from simple gestures of affection such as hugging and other non-intimate ways of showing affection.”
A spokesperson for Southern Regional College said: “We have no comment to make at this time.”