Breastfeeding in Public

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I was going to blog about something else today, but then I heard about a lady who was asked to stop breastfeeding in Debenhams, Oxford, because it was a public place. .. and that made me cross.

It is this kind of backward and ridiculously prudish attitude towards breastfeeding that means some women feel trapped in their home with new babies and many give up breastfeeding at the earliest possible opportunity.

In the UK the number of mothers who exclusively breast feed at 6 months is below 1%.  This is despite The World Health Organisation recommendation that exclusive breastfeeding has several advantages over mixed feeding.

One of my many roles as “More than a Mum” is a breastfeeding peer supporter. One of the most regular concerns I deal with is from Mums who feel that they’ll never be able to feed outside of the house.  I have had a woman turn up with a 5 month old child, distressed that she had not been out other than to friends and families houses, because she didn’t think you were allowed to breast feed in public in this country.  That is how  institutionalised this attitude is in the UK.

Breastfeeding is a brilliant thing to be able to do for and with your baby.  It has a number of health benefits for your child and for you (not to mention cost benefits), but moreover, it is your right!  You have the right to breastfeed your baby in any place, unless there are health and safety reasons which make it dangerous. If you need confirmation of this, take a look at this link.  I am fairly certain that Debenhams couldn’t suggest breastfeeding discretely in the corner of Dune shoe shop presents any health and safety issues.

Anyway I don’t wish to rant at you for too long, but I do want to let you all know about the brilliant reaction of the Mum in question. Emily John has set up a social-media protest.  She has set up a facebook event and wants to get as many Mum’s as possible to have a “Nurse-in” at Debenhams in Oxford.    If you are a nursing mum in the Oxford area, please join up.  I’m sure you’d also be welcome as a supporter, feeding or not.  Please pop along to Emily’s “Debenhams Nurse-in” event page on facebook and sign up, and then pass this information on to anyone you know who supports breastfeeding.


A little update 10/10/11 Debenhams have apologised but the ‘Nurse-in’ will still go ahead to raise awareness.  BBC coverage here


13 thoughts on “Breastfeeding in Public

    mrswrongears said:
    October 9, 2011 at 11:47 pm

    In the early days of feeding my son, I worried about what I’d say if someone challenged my right to breastfeed at that particular time.

    It was only after I had finished feeding him in public (he fed until 2 years 4 months, but was down to first thing in the morning in bed or last thing at night, so never really in public) that I found what I thought to be the best response.

    When challenged on feeding baby in a public place, apologise profusely:

    “I’m so, SO sorry I have offended you. Really I am… I’ve got a muslin here somewhere, you’re welcome to put it over YOUR head.”

    And then just carry on. 😉

      morethanamummy responded:
      October 9, 2011 at 11:53 pm

      LOL! I’d love to see the face of someone given that response!

    Lucy at Dear Beautiful Boy said:
    October 10, 2011 at 8:07 am

    How sad that this lady had such a negative response. My planned response has always been to tell them to ring the police if I’m offending them. I know the legally I can feed wherever and the the police would simply laugh at them. Fortunately I’ve never had to say anything because I’ve never been challenged. Although I’m always disgusted by some of the openly disapproving looks I get.
    I think confidence is a big issue. I wouldn’t have had the confidence early on to feed publicly. Especially as feeds could take an hour. But over time and with help of peer supporters my confidence has grown and now I’d feed anywhere if I needed to.

    Angeline said:
    October 10, 2011 at 8:28 am

    This is an outrage!! How dare they?! I wasn’t able to bf but if I had, I certainly would have felt so angry! I will certainly be boycotting debenhams, used to work for them and can see that things haven’t changed!

    Nikki Thomas said:
    October 10, 2011 at 10:24 am

    Unbelievable! I wonder if it was a man who instigated this. Women should be encouraged to breastfed anywhere and everywhere. This pigheaded attitude really winds me up!

      Claire said:
      October 10, 2011 at 1:36 pm

      In my experience men are quite supportive of breastfeeding. It is other women who feel threatened and offended by it. Most of the men I’ve spoken to about it actually enjoy seeing a woman feed her baby – and not in a pervy way 😉

    bluebirdsunshine said:
    October 10, 2011 at 10:43 am

    It’s sad that some women feel like they can’t do what’s perfectly natural when they’re out and about. Feeding a child shouldn’t be something to be ashamed of. I’m lucky that I’ve never been challenged over breastfeeding in public. I’d secretly like to have been so I could have had a little rant about it being my right to bf in public!

    Liz Burton said:
    October 10, 2011 at 7:41 pm


    I breastfed up to the age of one. Not once did I ever come across any negativity or discrimination. I don’t feel lucky – that should be the norm.

    Fair play to her for taking this stance – I wish I was nearer!

    Natasha (@LoveInTheNest) said:
    October 10, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    I’ve been reading about this today, its a disgrace and I hope there have been some major butt kickings over it. I breastfeed my now 8 month daughter and found it really hard to brave it in the early months because of the ignorance of people like those managers. It’s disgusting to think that they find it acceptable to ask a nursing mother to stop feeding her child who NEEDS to be fed. Its a totally natural thing which some ignorant people have turned almost taboo. Huge well done to her for standing her ground and refusing to stop until baby had finished his feed.

    Emma - The Good Parent guide said:
    October 10, 2011 at 10:12 pm

    What a shocking experience. I breast feed both my children for a year each. With my first it took my 4 weeks to breast feed in public, with my second I was feeding her at my local coffee house at 4 days old. I have never been made to feel uncomfortable or had any negative comments said to me regarding breast feeding. I did not always like the breast feeding rooms provided by shops as generally you are sat next to a stinky nappy bin, therefore I use to find a place to stop for coffee. Then it was a great excuse to have some cake, as after all you were feeding a baby!
    I hope that experience does not put Emily off breast feeding in public in the future.

    Heather Waring said:
    October 12, 2011 at 9:49 am

    I was lucky enough never to feel uncomfortable when breastfeeding in public and never to be challenged or asked about it. After all, our boobs are first and foremost for feeding your young, not necessarily for flaunting in the press but there’s very little complaint about that.

    I think it’s appalling that stores such as Debenhams, supposedly family stores catering for all are such dinosaurs. Even if they have apologised, the incidence should never have happened in the first place.

    In my experience, women are very discrete when they breastfeed.

    Anna Jackson said:
    October 12, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    Well done to Emily John for being strong and standing up for what is right. I b/f my nine month old son and although have experienced some ‘looks’ no one has ever come up to me to complain. Wishing everyone at the nurse-in a happy feeding time!

    […] on More Than A Mum was about breastfeeding and people’s, frankly bloody silly attitude towards breastfeeding in public. Well, @plus2point4 just made me aware of Facebook’s removal of photos from Beautiful […]

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