Larissa Waters breastfeeding in Parliament
Australian Senator Larissa Waters breastfeeds her baby in the Senate Chamber at Parliament House in CanberraAAP/Mick Tsikas/via REUTERS

An Australian senator has became the first person to breastfeed a baby in the Australian parliament after rules were amended to allow female lawmakers to nurse their infants in the house. The amendment reversed a ban on the presence of children in the chamber.

Previously, legislators who needed to breastfeed their babies were given proxy votes.

Senator Larissa Waters tweeted: "So proud that my daughter Alia is the first baby to be breastfed in the federal Parliament! We need more #women & parents in Parli.!"

Waters, who had been a moving force in making the changes to the rules, said in November: "If we want more young women in parliament, we must make the rules more family-friendly to allow new mothers and new fathers to balance their parliamentary and parental duties."

The co-deputy leader of Australia's Green party, returned from maternity leave on Tuesday (9 May) with her second daughter, Alia Joy.

Social media debate

Her actions received a rather mixed response on social media.

Most users with an opinion were less concerned with the breastfeeding than with whether it was okay for a parent to take their children to work. They said it was a distraction – not just to the mother but to her colleagues too.

La Betzinger wrote: "I don't have a problem with breast feeding. I however, want to know if it's ok for us to bring our children to work! Boy would it have saved me lots of money for daycare!"

Terrell Spark agreed but with a rider. "Depends on what you do for a living," she wrote. "Some jobs children should be nowhere near."

Miranda Moberg Diaz said: "Totally supportive of breastfeeding in public. But. This goes beyond that, to a woman bringing a baby to work which could be a disruption to the mother's ability to focus, distracting to customers or clients and it tramples on the rights of others to work in an environment without children."

She continued: "Instead of highlighting babies at work, I wish we would put more effort into longer and paid leave, better and more affordable childcare and more flexible and remote work options."

And Jen Cox asked:

Nathan Swenson was against the move. "There's a time and place and that may have been the time but not the place," he said.

"And before the defenders come screaming in with 'its natural' so is taking a leak or dumping a deuce, but no one promotes doing those in public."

Robert Geller tweeted: "I don't really have a problem with public breastfeeding. However, I think it's a little disrespectful to breastfeed during a parliamentary session or, for that matter, any meeting.

"It would be the same if a man (or woman) were texting or were severely underdressed. It simply shows a lack of professionalism and dedication/attention to the task at hand."

Ted Marr said: "Boy oh boy. No modesty what so ever. Many MANY women have breastfed their babies over millennia and have not had the need to do so in front of all."