A student at the University of Derby in England says she was suspended because she brought her breastfeeding infant to classes.
Leah Foster told Derbyshire Live that she had expected support from the university, which had reportedly initially told her she could bring her son Emmett to classes with her. She was then called into a meeting where she was “blindsided” with the news that she was prohibited from bringing him to any more classes because students had complained about him.
Foster said that her young son wasn’t a distraction, and she always removed him from class if he started to fuss. “They did say they’ve received complaints but I don’t see how he can be distracting in any way, if he starts to make a noise I remove myself and him from the lesson so it’s no more disruptive than someone getting up and going to the toilet,” she said. “They also said that some people have complained that they can’t bring their children onto campus but I said that he’s only coming with me because he’s so young and he’s breastfed.”
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She also noted that she never brings her older child, who she knows would be a distraction. “I have a two-year-old as well but he doesn’t come with me because he would be too disruptive so I have different childcare arrangements for my two-year-old son but Emmett is still too young.”
Foster noted that personally she has never received any complaints about Emmett being with her, and most often her fellow students and teachers compliment her on his good behavior. Still, she was told on November 22 that she was suspended for two weeks while the university conducts an investigation into her case.
“There’s a lot of anxiety about how much I’ve missed, I actually miss going into campus and I miss my friends, I’m worried that I’m missing out on content in the seminars and workshops.”
In a statement to Derbyshire Live, the University said:
The University has not and would never exclude a student because they wish to continue studying while breastfeeding or caring for children, or because they wished to breastfeed on any of our campuses.
We have many students who are combining studying with parenthood, and support them in every way we can, including personal support plans tailored to the individual. However, we do not permit babies and children to be brought into teaching sessions, primarily because of the disruption caused to other students.
The university went on to point out that there are places on campus where breastfeeding mothers can feed their infants — but this policy seems unrealistic. Mothers are only bringing their infants to campus because they need to attend class; offering a special place to breastfeed doesn’t help a mother who is then not allowed to bring her baby to class.
Sadly, many of the Facebook comments surrounding the story further point to the anti-child mentality of today’s society. “Care for the baby you chose to have… or get someone to care for your child. You can’t have everything as or when you want it,” wrote one person. “Why anyone would think it’s acceptable to take a baby with them is crazy. Entitled people who think just because they have had a child the world needs to revolve around them.”
Society so often sells women the lie that they can’t have a child and be successful, pursuing their education or careers while navigating motherhood. Abortion advocates position it as an either-or proposition: either you have an abortion and go on to be successful OR you are saddled with a child for the rest of your life. This is a lie that is told again and again, and sadly many women believe it. But this is untrue.
Mothers are capable of many things, including finishing their education and succeeding in a career, but they need understanding and flexibility from those around them. This kind of care has been demonstrated on other college campuses, like this professor who put a crib in his classroom, or this one who held a fussy baby while teaching. When pregnant and parenting mothers have support, they don’t have to choose between parenting and success.