Breastfeeding in public shouldn’t really be controversial – but even in 2016 we hear stories of women receiving disapproving looks or being told to be more discreet.
It’s against the law for businesses (like restaurants or shops) to ask a woman to stop breastfeeding and you’re within your rights to breastfeed in public open spaces including parks and public transport. It’s also in the Equality Act 2010 that it is discrimination to treat a woman unfavourably because she’s breastfeeding. So whether you feed your child discreetly or not is really up to you.
We spoke to three different women to get their views on covering up in public.
“Breastfeeding women need to go to the supermarket, have a coffee out and buy birthday presents, just like everyone else. Women should be able to do this without facing scrutiny about how they breastfeed their baby. Some women cover up while breastfeeding, some don’t.
“The law protects women’s rights to breastfeed in public places, but this is not widely known. Maternity Action continues to hear from women asked to move on or cover up when they are breastfeeding in public places, often from shops and cafes providing services to families.
“There shouldn’t be a debate whether women should be covered while breastfeeding. People who are uncomfortable with the sight of breastfeeding should just look away. Their discomfort is their problem.
“We know that people often complain to cafe staff and shop assistants if they see a woman breastfeeding her baby. It is up to these staff to reply that the woman is entitled to feed her baby in public in whatever way she chooses. We would like to see more resources invested in training for these front line workers. They need to know what the law says and also how to tactfully communicate this to customers.”
Francesca De Franco
“I happily breastfed all three of my children in public and it was all fine. I didn’t feel self-conscious and never had anything other than positive comments from other people.
“However, I was very discreet and was also mindful of the situation/venue I was in. Of course mothers should be able to breastfeed in public but I think there’s a certain way to go about it. I don’t think it’s too much to ask that breastfeeding mums are discreet; the majority are.
“However, I do think there is a group of breastfeeding mums that court controversy. I do see some pretty much putting out their whole boob, which is definitely going to cause embarrassment to some. It’s unnecessary.
“There is also that horrendous ‘Brelfie’ trend; it’s like we’ve taken the ‘right’ to breast feed in public to the extreme.”
“I am for breastfeeding in public, and often (discreetly) fed my two children in public places when they were babies. Breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world, and I just can’t see how people could object.
“I certainly don’t want people looking at my breasts, and never exposed them while breastfeeding. I was aware of the feelings of the people around me and would feed my child under a muslin or my clothes.
“I never had any negative experiences myself when breastfeeding in public (I am sure most weren’t even aware I was!).
“To contrast some of the attitudes in the west, my ex-husband was from a remote, rural area of Indonesia. In his culture it is rude to even expose your shoulders, and yet women openly breastfeed in public without shame.
“No one pays them any attention, and it is not considered dirty, rude or sexual – it’s just a mother feeding her child.”