Intolerance; the Battle for Breastfeeding in Public

There has been a few of these stories in the media lately. Breastfeeding mothers staged protest in Brighton centre, after a new mum was told the sight of her breastfeeding in public was ‘unpleasant’ and was asked to cover up more. An Oxford branch of Debenhams was recently involved in a dispute after two managers asked a breastfeeding mother to stop.

I find these incidents appalling, and as a mother who is (still!) breastfeeding, can say that these experiences are all too common. I prefer to cover up as much as I can, but it isn’t always possible. I felt the harsh stares of the disapproving public, who are either ignorant to the needs of a little one or believe a new mum should be cooped up in her home until she is ready to give up the boob.

It has become a lot better in recent times, with women gaining more rights due to the Equality Act of October 2011. It means that a woman cannot be asked to stop, ‘cover up more’ or be refused service or asked to leave a public place because she is breastfeeding. However, many people are unaware of this, which results in people believing it is okay to ask a mother to stop if it makes them uncomfortable, and equally some mothers feel guilty or obliged to grant them their request.

Breastfeeding can be stressful enough, without adding the pressure of carrying out this task in public. Also, when a baby needs feeding, it needs feeding. For the most part, it won’t stop crying until it gets milk so asking someone to stop breastfeeding isn’t going to help matters in any respect.

I also logged onto Facebook this afternoon to see that someone had posted the following status;

Note my comments marked HM. I just couldn’t believe it. I am pleased however that I am not the only one who objected, but I had to really hold back the shock and anger that was brewing…

I am really happy that times are changing though. I am so glad that we have these rights, to protect us and our babies from intolerance and ignorance. I feel lucky that I was able to breastfeed, and that I live in a time where if I had decided not to, that would have been acceptable too.

There’s still a way to go, but so far, it’s a win for mumkind.