Breastfeeding in Public

I tend to switch off when the topic of breastfeeding in public is raised in the press - especially if it's instigated by a troop of militant, lentil-chomping earth mothers, hell-bent on making new mums feel inadequate, thus bypassing the true importance of the issue altogether



I breastfed both my children and have my own thoughts on the matter. But last week, a certain breastfeeding story really caught my attention...

Breastfeeding at Claridge's

As most will know, this particular story came to light after an indignant new mum tweeted two pictures of herself breastfeeding her baby, whilst she enjoyed afternoon tea in the opulent surroundings of Claridge's. One picture showed her simply breastfeeding her baby with her top pulled up (no boob on show) and the other with a large linen napkin covering the 'offending' area.

Prior to tweeting the pictures, Claridge's staff had politely asked her to shroud herself discreetly with the napkin so as not to offend fellow customers. It emerged that two elderly gents had complained and asked the waiter to request the lady cover up.

This apparently enraged the young mum so much that she tweeted the pics and accused Claridge's of behaving in a 'Victorian' manner and making her feel 'shocked and humiliated.'

Where did Claridge's go wrong?

As far as I can tell, Claridge's staff were certainly not telling this lady to stop feeding or leave the premises, rather to just exercise a little discretion for the sake of certain customers who may be uncomfortable with it, be them of an older generation or new.

Most would probably not bat an eyelid, but the fact is that some do mind; in my opinion, Claridge's were simply trying to treat all their customers as fairly as possible in the given situation.

To be clear, I am a tremendous advocate of breastfeeding. I fully understand how difficult it can be to express milk and that when your baby needs feeding, feed it you must - wherever you happen to be.

Acting with discretion

I see both sides of the argument, but surely it is pure common sense to act with discretion and if this means laying a napkin over your shoulder or, where possible, timing your outings around your baby's feed times, why not just do it? I really don't see the problem.

I realise that there are many other levels to the argument - that breasts are not just there to titillate men (pardon the pun), that they are an incredible force of nature in that they support life itself, etc. I agree with all that, but the simple fact remains that it is just common sense to act discreetly.

No one is telling women to stop breastfeeding, nor are they trying to make it harder for them to do so; I certainly never once felt like that when I was doing it. Using discretion is NOT hard, so why make such an issue of it?

Jayne, Working Mum and Freelance Editor

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