It’s Only Natural

This week a local mum was told she couldn’t breastfeed her baby in a cafe after customers had complained about another mum doing the same on another day. You can read the story here.

I thought we were passed this.  I thought that in 2011, we could reasonably expect mothers to be able to feed their children in peace, without being told to sit in a lonely room, or worse, a toilet.

I had hope that the protection afforded to breastfeeding mothers in the Equality Act 2010 was simply a formality – that we wouldn’t actually need to call on it these days.  Apparently this is not the case.  In case you’re unfamiliar with the Act, it makes it illegal to discriminate against people based on gender, religion, race, sexuality, (dis)ability etc and it also makes it illegal to discriminate against someone because they are breastfeeding. In reality, all this Act does is pull all the legislation together in one place; it’s not introducing anything new.

For the purposes of this post, the important bit if that you cannot discriminate against someone because they are breastfeeding.  This means that you cannot ask a woman who is breastfeeding, or anyone she is with, to leave your premises because she is breastfeeding.  This excerpt comes from the guidance document for businesses:

A business may ask a breastfeeding woman to leave
their premises if the reason for this request is not
due to her breastfeeding. However, if the woman
later claims that discrimination occurred because
she was breastfeeding, the business will have to
prove that there was in fact no discrimination.

I don’t get what problem people have with women breastfeeding in public.  I fed Bean, and still feed Plum, whenever and wherever the need arises.  Thankfully, I have never had any negative comments made about this, although once in the local A&E department, a triage nurse asked me about 150 times if I was sure I wouldn’t rather feed Plum in a cubicle rather than in the waiting room.  I bet that would have gone down really well with the people in the crowded waiting room – to have a cublicle out of action because I was feeding my baby!  In reality, most times I feed in public, people assume that my child is asleep in my arms – they very rarely even realise that I am feeding a baby.  I know lots of people who breastfeed, but I don’t know any who have a particular liking for showing off lots of flesh whilst feeding their child in public.

The problem goes back to something I wrote about a little while ago.  Then I wrote about society’s desire to sexualise children, but I think it’s all part of the same issue.  We have become so obsessed with bodies as sexual objects that we cannot see past this to the actual function of the body.  The natural function of breasts is to provide nutrition to babies. It’s time we got over this as a society and moved on.

Recently, a BBC radio presenter likened breastfeeding in a restaurant to having sex on a table in the restaurant.  I wasn’t sure I’d read that properly when I read the report earlier this week.  But I had.  It was suggested that breastfeeding was a natural function and there should be no problem with a woman feeding her child in a restaurant, where everyone else is eating.  The radio presenter, James Hazell, suggested that since having sex is also a natural function, it should be OK for him to have sex with his wife on a restaurant table using that argument.

Seriously? What exactly is his problem with breastfeeding?  The woman taking part in this debate had been asked onto the show and was expecting a positive discussion about breastfeeding.  The BBC later apologised, although it was hardly an apology at all, given that it was worded

We apologise if James Hazell’s comments have caused offence to some of the audience.

To word it in this way suggests that it is the audience that has the problem if they were offended at his comments.  No.  The problem is with presenters thinking it is OK to suggest that there is anything wrong with breastfeeding, in the hope that it will provoke a reaction from their listeners.  It is a lazy way to put together a radio programme. I expect better, especially from the BBC.


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  1. Pingback:Breastfeeding Meet-Up | Barefoot Mahala

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