Breastfeeding in Public: What is the big deal?

Breastfeeding is such a natural thing, women should never be embarrassed to feed their baby but do some take it too far?

Breastfeeding is such a natural thing, women should never be embarrassed to feed their baby but for some reason breastfeeding seems to get up some peoples noses.

Breastfeeding is always a really controversial topic, and never more so than when it concerns feeding in public, so I wanted to find out what your opinions and experiences are regarding this matter.

Personally, I breastfed Toby until he was nine months old, and I can honestly say I was so lucky in the fact that I never received any requests to leave cafes or shops, I also never found myself subject to nasty looks or comments from other people. I do, however, know a lot of people who did suffer this, which just drives me mad. Recently, Victoria’s Secret (of all places!) made headlines for throwing a breastfeeding woman out of their store in the US.

So why does this happen? What is so offensive about breastfeeding, isn’t it just a natural thing?

Personally, I always used a cover where possible, for myself more than anyone else. Toby didn’t like a cover over his face so I never covered his face, just the top or side of my breast depending on my angle, still it gave me a bit more comfort and if I didn’t have a cover or scarf to hand, I just fed my baby. If there was a feeding room around me, I went to it for a sit down and the peace and quiet it gave me to share that special time with my boy. When I was sat in a cafe, I never felt the urge to hide in the bathroom and would have been appalled if someone had suggested it… in fact, I think they may have wanted to hide in the bathroom once I had finished with them!

So what does the law say here in the UK?

“The new Equality Act says that it is sex discrimination to treat a woman unfavourably because she is breastfeeding. It applies to anyone providing services, benefits, facilities and premises to the public, public bodies, further and higher education bodies and association. Service providers include most organisations that deal directly with the public. Service providers must not discriminate, harass or victimise a woman because she is breastfeeding. Discrimination includes refusing to provide a service, providing a lower standard of service or providing a service on different terms. Therefore, a cafe owner cannot ask you to stop breastfeeding or refuse to serve you.” – Taken from maternity action.org, a wonderful site where you can find all sorts of information. Check it out here.

Pretty clear huh? So why does it still happen? In November 2013 a woman in Blackheath (read the article here) was asked to ‘cover up or leave’ a cafe where she was breastfeeding her 5 1/2 month old baby as she was embarrassing customers but what could possibly be embarrassing about a person feeding their child? I can understand if a woman unlatches her nursing bra, exposes her breast and sits there for a few minutes before latching on her baby, but when does that happen? Other than that, then I just don’t get it! If it isn’t your breast, it isn’t your business.

I don’t believe that a woman should ever feel embarrassed to feed her child, it is biologically what breasts are for after all, they aren’t the marketing tool that the media seem to think they are! I also don’t believe any breastfeeding Mama has the right to judge someone who doesn’t breastfeed or can’t, the choice should be entirely the mothers, and if she doesn’t want to feed thats all good. I have some friends who feel physically sick at the thought of their baby latching to their breast, something I can’t personally understand at all, but that I value and respect as their opinion as long as they don’t try to push it on me!

So my stance? Pro-breastfeeding, pro-bottlefeeding, pro-feeding in general, however you want to, so long as your baby is happy and healthy and you are happy and healthy, why would anyone judge that?

Have you ever had any negativity towards you for breastfeeding your child in public?

Harriet x

P.s – The link in the post is to a UK law site, however if you are in the the USA you can find information on your rights here or Australia here. I can’t add all the many countries to the list but a quick google search should help you out if you need to know your rights.

4 Comments

  1. Helen Williams
    February 7, 2014 / 8:34 pm

    I never experienced any negativity while feeding my 2, luckily! In fact I was approached by an elderly gentleman once who congratulated me on breastfeeding son number2, said it was wonderful to see. (was with his wife and was in no way done in anything but a positive vein!).

    • Harriet February 8, 2014 / 7:17 am

      Oh Helen that is so sweet! It seems to be younger generations who have become desensitised to breastfeeding, after all older generations didn’t have as much choice!
      Thank you for your comment 🙂
      Harriet x

  2. February 6, 2014 / 9:47 am

    I now live in Ireland and I had the opposite. I had mostly women coming up and chatting when I breastfed my 2.
    We were desperate for someone to say something too us,as we were ready for them…. Maybe that is why nobody said something. 🙂

    I think in Scotland, it is illegal to stop women breastfeeding in public places. If somebody does complain then they are escorted from the premises, not the breastfeeder.

    • Harriet February 6, 2014 / 10:42 am

      Thanks for the comment Mandie! Yes I believe it is illegal in Scotland, and its great to hear that you didn’t have any issues, I have seen so many people struggle and its not fair at all. Surely breastfeeding is just a normal part of life!

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