Channel Seven host David Koch is standing by his controversial comments that women should be ‘‘more discreet and modest’’ when breastfeeding in public despite scores of angry mothers protesting outside the Sunrise studio in Sydney.
About 100 mothers and their supporters converged on the studio in Martin Place at 7am to breastfeed live on national television for the Sunrise Nurse-in, which was organised on Facebook following Koch’s comments on Friday.
But despite the uproar, Koch said he would not take back his comments, which were made in response to a story about a Queensland mother being asked to be more discreet with her breastfeeding at a public pool. Koch had said it was ’’fair enough’’ that an attendant had asked her to move.
‘‘It’s my opinion. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion,’’ Koch said during a segment in Monday’s broadcast, when he faced off with one of the organisers of the nurse-in, Amy Ahearn.
‘‘I think you should breastfeed anywhere, any time at all. It’s just that I think you’ve got to be aware of your environment and to show respect to others and common courtesy to others ... and they should show respect to you as well, but depending on the situation, to be discreet and to be modest.
You have such a huge audience here. By saying that women should cover up or be discreet, that word has a shame connotation.Amy Ahearn
"I don’t mind if women sunbake topless, but I think out of respect to others, I hope they wouldn’t do it between the flags in high traffic areas at the beach with families around, or sitting on the edge of a public pool, that they would do it discreetly on the grass. They were the values we had, which are courtesy, and I don’t think they’ve changed today. Some people would call me a dinosaur, but ...’’
Ms Ahearn said while she believed Koch’s comments were well intentioned, they had done ‘‘more damage than you could realise’’.
‘‘You have such a huge audience here. By saying that women should cover up or be discreet, that word has a shame connotation,’’ she said.
‘‘We just want to see public feeding normalised. It shouldn’t be something to be hidden.
‘‘You don’t have to hide under a blanket. In my case you can’t, she [her daughter] will pull it off. You shouldn’t have to run and hide in a parents’ room or a toilet or any other area. It’s just a part of life.’’
The Sunrise host apologised to anyone who interpreted his comments as implying there was any shame associated with breastfeeding in public.
‘‘I apologise if that’s the way people have taken it, but breastfeeding in public isn’t new. We breastfed in public our four kids 30 years ago, but we adopted a line of having the common courtesy to others. Others may not be as comfortable as we are with breastfeeding,’’ he said.
Koch said two of his daughters currently were breastfeeding, and one had ‘‘tore strips off him’’ after his comments on Friday.
On Monday, 721 people had indicated they would attend the nurse-in on Facebook, with 313 ‘‘maybes’’.
About 100 people turned up, with many mothers carrying signs and breastfeeding on national television.
The group then presented Koch with a collage of breastfeeding photographs, sent in by 140 mothers.
Men were definitely in the minority, with only two males, including the partner of organiser Ash Zuko.
Ms Zuko, a full-time mother, said she was pleased at the turn-out.
"This is what we were hoping for - to show that it's nothing big and scary and outlandish, it's just part of life," she said.
The 28-year-old said she had no qualms about the idea of breastfeeding live on national television.
"You can't dictate when your baby wants to eat, that's the whole point," she said.
"If I'm on a public bus with my five-month-old I can't say 'can you hang on 20 minutes'.
"She can't understand that - her stomach's empty, she needs to eat."
Midwife Emma Beddall, 35, was among the mothers who came out on Monday morning, with her four-month-old daughter in tow.
"We don't want to be judged and have conditions put on how we care for our babies," she said.
She said she was offended watching Koch ask women to be discreet.
"It's certainly not personal, but I was offended by comments like 'be classy'," she said.
"I don't think breastfeeding is either 'classy' or 'unclassy', it's just the best health option for my baby."
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