Friday 12 July 2013

Kindly Stop Breastfeeding, You're Putting me off my Crumpet

Another day, another breastfeeding blog. Yeah, sorry about that. This morning, as Ebony fed the rabbit through the bars of his run, I checked my Twitter feed. A friend had sent me a link to a story about a breastfeeding mother being asked to feed in private.

There are a number of things about this story that make me feel angry. The first is that this happened at Kiddicare, a shop filled with baby products. During those early days of breastfeeding, I felt most safe in places that stocked baby products - because SURELY they have breastfeeding mothers in there all the time. John Lewis and Mothercare were two places I frequented during the first few months of Ebony’s life.

This isn’t the first story of a breastfeeding mother being asked to leave a shop or cafe, and it sadly won’t be the last. So, who’s fault is it that this keeps happening?

Is it Kiddicare’s fault for not ensuring their staff know about their pro-breastfeeding policy? Yes, I would say it is. As a youngster I worked in a large department store, and was never told about breastfeeding policies. I don’t know what I’d have done if a member of the public complained about the sight of a breastfeeding mother. As a 16 year old, I hadn’t given much thought to breastfeeding, and I certainly wouldn’t have been informed about a mother’s legally protected right to breastfeed in public. Would I have told a breastfeeding mother to move somewhere more private? I hope not, but without knowing store policies and legal issues, I can’t say for certain.

So yes, it is Kiddicare’s responsibility to ensure their staff are aware of the Sexual Discrimination Act and the fact that it protects a woman’s right to breastfeed in public. While it’s great that large stores like Kiddicare offer feeding rooms, staff should be made aware that they are for the convenience - not censorship - of the mothers. If a mother is happily feeding in a cafe while enjoying a drink and talking to her friends, then she shouldn’t feel forced to move into the breastfeeding room. Breastfeeding rooms, while great for cautious mothers, made me feel a bit like a dairy cow trapped in a farm with a host of other breastfeeding mothers.

I’m really glad that the mother at the heart of this particular story, refused to move. I think that’s great, and hopefully the miserable misinformed misogynist who complained, will now be better educated about where the law stands on this issue. Breastfeeding is public can be a daunting experience, and in fact puts some mums off breastfeeding altogether. Isn’t that awful? In a country where you can see tits, boobs and knockers lining the shelf of every supermarket and newsagents, women feel terrified to feed their babies in public in case they accidentally flash a bit of flesh.

The sight of a woman feeding her child should be welcomed by society. Is there anything more lovely than seeing a new mother bonding and taking care of her newborn baby? This shouldn’t be something women are worried about doing, it should be an occurrence that doesn’t get a second thought. I hope that news stories like this one are making people aware of where the law stands on this issue, and preventing potential future complaints. 

I hope this woman’s stand inspires other breastfeeding mothers to do the same. It’s easy to feel flustered and shrink away when confronted (especially when you have a breast on show at the time), but we shouldn’t feel embarrassed. We should feel confident to explain the law and the fact that, by asking us to move, the staff member has just broken the law. We should then watch with glee as the staff member goes back to whichever customer complained and explains the situation.

Have you ever been asked to stop breastfeeding? How did it make you feel?

My giveaway to win some breastfeeding goodies from Earth Mama Angel Babies closes tonight. Don't forget to enter!

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