Harvest Horror – No Breastfeeding Here


Yesterday was Harvest Festival and it turned out to be a lot more eventful than I was anticipating. Having delivered Bean to the playground, I went straight to the hall where the assembly was taking place, to serve teas and coffees, as part of my PTA duties. I had my baby on my back and my daughter installed on a seat in the front row, saving a seat for me. When I finished serving, I took my seat and my baby son, having been woken early to be here, immediately asked for milk. I began breastfeeding him, feeling happy about my choice of top which meant I could feed him without exposing flesh to the people crammed into the seats around me.

As the children began to come in and sit down, the head teacher rushed over to me and told me to “hurry up and stop” breastfeeding my son. Apparently, some year 6 boys had noticed what I was doing when they walked in and she was afraid they would be silly and disruptive. “The staff and children have worked so hard, it would be a shame to spoil it for everyone, wouldn’t it?”.

I couldn’t quite believe what I was hearing. I have been breastfeeding for almost five and a half years altogether now, and I have never had a negative comment, let alone been asked to stop feeding one of my children.

Normalise Breastfeeding

I pointed out that the boys in question (who were, as it happens, sitting on the floor a couple of feet away from me, facing the other way, just like all the other children) could not see anything even if they did turn around. Apparently, they knew what I was doing though, and that was enough. The vague suggestion of a breast being used for its prime function was not something they should know about.  The head teacher went as far as saying it was her responsibility to protect the children from such things, and many parents would not want their children “exposed to that”.  She asked why I had not sat at the back where no-one could see me. I pointed out that my two year daughter would not be able to see her big brother perform from the back (not to mention she would have been swamped by all the adults standing in every square inch of space).  She said I should have been more discreet, but could not say how this could have been achieved, other than to say I should hide away.

I mentioned that the law protected me and allowed me to feed my son here. Apparently, she knew I would bring that up and I was invited to see the bigger picture. I told her that I was offended by her request and refused to discuss it any further at that time – in front of all the other parents and grandparents seated to watch the harvest festival.

I continued to feed my son, and then my daughter (and not just to be contrary), the harvest festival went according to plan, the year 6 boys behaved impeccably and all was well. Of course.

After the assembly, when everyone was filing out, the head teacher asked if I had time to discuss the situation in her office. I agreed to. On the way there, she told me that she fully supports breastfeeding, that she breastfed her own children but that she thinks there is a time and place for it. I in turn told her that our area has some of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the UK and that the figures won’t improve by asking people to hide away.

In her office, she reiterated that I must see the bigger picture; that she didn’t want my breastfeeding to disrupt the whole harvest festival, that she had a duty of care to the children, that parents would not want their children exposed to breastfeeding. She also told me I would not change the breastfeeding rates by feeding at school.  She made it clear that although she knew the law, she did not believe that it should count in this case.

I asked her if she would rather I let my son cry and disrupt the assembly. Of course, that wouldn’t have been allowed to happen, since she makes an announcement at the beginning of all these occasions asking parents to take crying or noisy babies and toddlers out of the room. So I asked if she would rather I let him cry and then have to take him out, taking my daughter with me, so that we all missed the assembly and my eldest son would be disappointed at not seeing us there when he performed.  Apparently, this would have preferable.

Annoyed beyond belief by now, I said that I did not agree with her that I was doing anything wrong, and neither did the law. She told me that to try and assert my rights under the law was “to make it all about me, me, me and that’s just selfish isn’t it?”. She then said we would have to agree to disagree.

Well, no. We won’t. Because this isn’t about opinion. This is about the fact that breastfeeding my son in public is OK – by law. He has the right to be fed in the harvest festival if that’s what he needs or wants. He has the right not to have to be hidden away or suffocated by so many people standing so close at the back. He has the right not to have to be covered when he feeds (not that he would let that happen anyway).  I told her this. I told her that I would be complaining to the governors. She told me I had every right to do so, but that she believed a lot of the parents at school would support her in this.

And there speaks a bully. Do things my way and don’t complain because no-one will agree with you.

She seems to have missed several points  – the irony of asking someone not to breastfeed in an assembly celebrating and giving thanks for the food provided to us; the fact that boys who I was going to cause to be silly were impeccably behaved; the fact that the only person drawing any attention to what I was doing was her. Oh, and the fact that she is completely in the wrong on this one.

I will be penning my letter to the Governors this afternoon.

 

~~~~~~

Edited to add that you can read the updates to this situation:

Stop Press – The Headteacher Responds

Harvest Horror – Saturday Update

Harvest Horror – Quick Update

Harvest Horror – Response to my Complaint

Harvest Horror – the Final Outcome

 

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139 comments on “Harvest Horror – No Breastfeeding Here

  1. Interesting that the head in question says ‘parents would not want their children exposed to breastfeeding’. Given that she was wearing a top that covered her completely, I wonder how many parents would really object to a baby being fed rather than screaming its head off while their kids perform their Harvest assembly…?

    • Robert A. Jones on said:

      The problem lies in the fact that we have teachers that are living in the 19th. century. It is so sad that they lack the basic education to see and understand the very nature of a loving mother breast feeding her child. So much for the quality of many teachers. I married late in life so naturally my wife was younger than me. She nursed our son no matter where we were. In restaurants, all public places and yes, even in church. Not once did we ever receive a negative. I thank God for letting us always be surrounded by kind, loving and thoughtful people. Perhaps if more children were given the opportunity to see mothers nursing their children they would learn why God gave women breasts and learn not to be fixated when they see partially exposed or even fully exposed breasts. They would grow up having more respect for women and be much better husbands and fathers. My congratulations to this fine mother, don’t ever stop doing what God intended you to do.

      • mariaines sullivan on said:

        I agree with you and I thank you for been so kind, she needs that and it has to stop in the USA it is natural came from God. That teacher may be old enough to home and never go out again.
        I’am Brazilian and we did not have suck things here.
        Thanks again
        Mariaines

    • Yes, and unless these boys are kept hidden away, they see far more going to the shops than seeing a breastfeeding mum.

  2. This is ridiculous. I really can’t express how stupid this sort of behaviour is, how damaging it is for all women who want to feed their child natually

  3. She shouldn’t be protecting the children from you, she should be thanking you for your example. It horrifies me how few children know about breastfeeding or have ever seen it, as becomes apparent every time I breastfeed at Kentwell when in tudor role.
    liveotherwise recently posted..When the best you can say of a dayMy Profile

  4. Wowser. Good luck. she does sound like a bully, who, as you say, seemed to be the only person remotely bothered. But then I’ve never liked the sort of person that asks you to leave with a crying baby, our vicar used to make a point of telling people ‘babies cry’ and that no one should feel they had to leave if their child was noisy! As a teacher you would think that…no I guess you wouldn’t, she’s old school ‘shut up and learn’ children should be seen and not heard. *sigh*
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  5. I am appalled that this has happened to you. I cannot believe that she took it so far and said those things to you either. I breastfed my children, and fortunately didn’t encounter conversations such as this one, but equally, sensed on occasion that what I was doing was a little taboo – feeding my own child! I really hope you get a supportive response from the governors. Best of luck x
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  6. Lauren (@laurenbigeejit) on said:

    Good on you. And as a Governor of a primary school myself, I would be 100% behind you.

  7. Sarah Piercy (Midwife BA(Hons) on said:

    I am so sorry to hear about your experience. Perhaps you should be the one to point out ‘the bigger picture’ to this headteacher, (I’m hoping that the governers are better informed); that breastfeeding being accepted by our society as the norm, will make a far bigger impact on our children, and their children, than a lifetime of Harvest Festival Assemblies!

  8. Unbelievable. Well done for sticking up for yourself. You should name and shame this head teacher and school.

  9. Nathan Reynolds on said:

    Don’t forget to also report her to the authorities for breaking the law. Failure to do so is an inchoate crime… Ah, the beauty that is favourable law.

  10. Well done standing up for yourself. What a horrible situation to have been in! What really gets me is that she purports to be supportive of breastfeeding.. little bit of NIMBYism going on there…

  11. Kearsten on said:

    How ridiculous….she was making way more of a disruptive scene than any nursing mother could! What better harvest to celebrate than that of the bountiful bosom?! My daughter’s school has been fantastic with breastfeeding in my experience. I am a breastfeeding buddy at the attached children’s centre and have fed my son all over school property in his 38 months and never an issue. A few children have seen me feed during assemblies/plays and giggled and grinned, but whether that was because my son is so cute or because their mom breastfed their younger siblings or what, who knows. It was not disruptive and maybe they learned something, no matter how small. Maybe it was something they had never seen…first time for everything! If our head teacher made a negative comment, I would definitely have a good crew behind me mere yards away! Sounds like your school needs to learn about being breastfeeding friendly….BIG TIME! Good luck with that letter. I hope it received a better response than it sounds like you’re expecting.

  12. Personally I would go above the governers (CCing them into it though) and actually go to the LEA to complain about her. Her attitude towards you sounds absolutely appauling and to tell you using the law is being selfish is just insane. I wouldn’t have been able to last that long speaking to her before walking out! You did incredibly well! I’d also contact your local press. The law is there for a reason and her school is NOT exempt from it!
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  14. What a disgrace for so many reasons!

    Complain and take it as far as you can, she was completely out of order. And go you for being able to stay focused and discuss it with her without being bullied into stopping.

  15. Adam Harris on said:

    The head teacher went as far as saying it was her responsibility to protect the children from such things, and many parents would not want their children “exposed to that”.

    Wrong on two counts:

    (i) I would imagine most of the children present, and parents too, would have been breastfed at some time or another (when they were babies themselves)

    (ii) Her duty is not to protect the parents from being concerned that their children are “exposed to that” – her sole duty is to the pupils (see point (i))

  16. I am stunned, but not surprised…although sad at your experience.

    I agree with Hayley and think you should write to the LEA and copy in the head and the governors.

    Would love to know what they all say about it…have read the Headteachers letter…but would like to know what happens.

  17. Belinda West on said:

    Makes me even more glad I live in Scotland as it is actually a CRIMINAL offense to even ASK some-one to stop breastfeeding here! I hope one day elsewhere will follow suit!

  18. Fantastic mama. The right time to feed your baby is when he is hungry and the right place is exactly where you are.

  19. Well done, Nicola, on blogging this. I have never breastfed, sadly never having had the joy of having children of my own, but I am horrified that in this day and age, this kind of old-fashioned, narrow-minded, ignorant attitude exists. I spend a lot of time in The Gambia where breastfeeding is the only choice women have of feeding their babies; this is a totally natural way of life and nobody is embarrassed in any way by this. It is time that this country woke up and started educating children (and adults like this Head teacher!) that breasts do have an important practical function and that babies have the right to be fed when and where they are hungry. To be hidden away is a joke considering that boobs are plastered all over Page 3, Pirelli calendars and such like. I wonder if this Head Teacher tells parents to make sure that they do not have certain newspapers at home whilst she is telling you to hide yourself away from performing a totally natural process at a Harvest Festival too! I have seen you breastfeeding and know that you do it in a completely respectful way. You are in a position to stand up and make the change to this Victorian attitude towards breastfeeding and you have 100’s of women behind you, including me, do not let her get away with this law-breaking. Good on the little guys too for being sensible about it, in spite of her attitude, there is hope for her pupils!

  20. Good on you! I would also be writing to the LEA about this supposed leader if a school! Shameful practice by a ‘leader’!!!

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  22. What a ridiculous thing for a supposedly educated adult to say to you! Obviously she was the only one who had a problem as the boys behaved well… and if any other parent had actually made a complaint, I’m quite sure she would have gleefully mentioned it as justification for her bigotry.

    Good for you for taking a stand in defense of not only your own children, but for others. I can only imagine how these words would have crushed a younger mom, less certain of her rights and with less experience.
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  23. All I can say is WOW! Breasts were meant to feed babies and your son has every right to eat, even if that be in public! Thank you for sharing your story, I will be sharing as well! Good for you for standing up for yourself and yours and others rights, we should not bow down to authority and allow them to take away our rights!

  24. heather1978 on said:

    In my experience most primary school teachers have been in the education in one form or another since they were 5. When they ask you to see ‘the bigger picture’, it is positively laughable as they are unlikely to have experienced the real world in the way you and I have. I had a headteacher patronise me for being a single mother. She practically patted me on the head with a ‘you poor dear’ attitude. I would contact your local health visitor and ask her to pop along to the school to educate those who believe they are educated!!

  25. Hi K, how terrible that they went to such effort to make the point. Can’t believe how terrible their point of view is! As your part of the PTA, would it help getting some signatures together from mums, to support your point. Beat the bully with their own point… Other parents won’t want it. Well if you prove that they are wrong, your win 🙂

  26. RavenStone on said:

    My standard answer is, “If you don’t want your child to see me breastfeed, I have a blanket in my bag. You’re welcome to borrow it to cover his/her head.”

  27. Great job standing up to her, she was the one disrupting the assembly, and seems to be the one who noticed or complained about the situation! I don’t think Ide have been able to talk to her afterward but simply said no and left, after I had nursed during the assembly and ignored her. I am fortunate to have yet to have any negativity toward me nursing in public, but around here it is expected to nurse more than it is to give a bottle and that makes a big difference in society’s behavior.

  28. Jennifer Mills on said:

    As a mum to be who plans on breast feeding, I find this story very frustrating and saddening. I believe the head mistress is out of touch with what parents at her school would want, I can only see that some parents who didn’t breast feed may complain, regardless if they did complain their attitude is surely to be ignored, racism still exists but we do not listen to racists opinions in terms of disallowing people of different ethnicities into professions et cetera. My sister has a son who is about to turn 4 and has just had her second child and has used the opportunity to educate her 4 year old about breast feeding, as so much research shows it is beneficial surely we want to be promoting it, these young boys may giggle but very soon they will come across sex education and be educated about our sexual organs and their functions, further, earlier than we would like to hope they would I’m sure they will have access to images which objectify women, would it not be much better for their first ‘exposure’ to breasts be through breast feeding rather than a sexual context?

  29. How sad . I breastfed DD in the year 1/2 class at DS1’s first school, they had invited me in to discuss growth and look at babies. The teacher had told me beforehand I did not have to feel as if I had to leave the class if she needed a feed but could use the staff room if I was more comfortable that way. I also fed in most assemblies during her first 6 months.

  30. OMG. I am shocked at her stupidity. She has no place being head of a school.

  31. hannlib on said:

    Appalling behaviour. I actually think she needs hauling up and disciplining. I fed my baby at harvest festival today. Twice. Another mum said how wonderful it was to see. I am sorry you have had to endure such ignorance.

  32. Rebecca on said:

    ‘She made it clear that although she knew the law, she did not believe that it should count in this case.’ Well, sorry lovie, but it’s not up to you when the law should ‘count’. What a dumb woman. Congratulations for remaining so calm and reasonable – and for standing your ground!

  33. Kate Bradfield on said:

    I am so appalled by this I don’t even know where to begin. I literally do not believe a woman in her position could say such a thing. What an idiot, should a child starve because adults are to embarrassed to see a boob working as it should? Says more about her sick mind than the six year old boys who couldn’t care less. Children don’t think breastfeeding is taboo, adults teach them this and so the cycle continues. Well I hope the press get hold of this and make a wholly show of her bullying.

  34. I’m horrified. What is the head REALLY scared about?. It’s not clear as she throws so many reasons at you, which is a sure-fire to cover up what you really want to say. i’d love to know the school name. This head needs LEA feedback. She is so far away from understanding why what she said and did is so wrong. She needs to hear why from her superiors and the governors. Would age be happy with someone bottle feeding their baby during the event??!!!

  35. Oh hun….I could only read so far before my blood started to boil…on your behalf. I hate this. I really do. It upset me like nothing else. Thanks for writing this, thanks for breastfeeding in public, and I do hope your letter is met with the response it deserves, a massive apology and an invitation to speak to the Year 1 class about breastfeeding.

  36. Ammena Kay on said:

    wow! just wow!! I would stand at the school gates and ask the parents if anyone was offended by your sons choice to give thanks for the food you provide, or if anyone agreed with this woman.

  37. I’ve not read all the comments yet so apologies if these have already been raised. Definitely send a copy of your governors letter to the LEA, possibly also to the public health dept at your local council (they are prob responsible for BF ‘promotion’ in your area [though perhaps not if your rates are that low!]).
    There are a lot of things that might make a bunch of Y6 boys giggle (or any children). If, for example, a parent (or pupil) had Tourette’s would they be asked to sit at the back, out if the way? Surely it would seem imperative that head (God forbid) *educate* these children about the condition/how they should behave).
    Some head teacher if she can’t recognise an opportunity to teach staring her in the face. Shame on her.

  38. Heaven forbid that children learn that babies can be fed with the milk designed for them and not just a plastic bottle of treated cows milk and man made vitamins.
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  39. I think the head has a horrible, horrible attitude and world view. Thank heavens you are so strong and sensible. I’m afraid I would have crept away to the back in tears. 🙁

  40. magdalena on said:

    sad sad sad… but so true! I was asked to leave a hospital waiting room and hide somewhere else to feed my few months old baby boy because apparently old people sitting there could feel uncomfortable…
    well done you! I would definitely not be able to stay as calm and composed as you did! I was so shocked I was completely speechless 🙁

  41. As a parent I would be more than happy for my children to be “exposed to that” at school!!! What’s next? “sorry so and so, you can’t come in to our assembly, all the kids are going to start talking because… you’ve got pink hair! … you’re missing an arm!…. you’re in a wheelchair! …”???!!! The kids don’t need “protecting”, they simply need to be reminded that it’s OK for babies to be fed or reminded to pay attention should they get distracted, no matter by what!! I bet most kids would either not notice or not care anyway!!

  42. This is so backward it isn’t real. This one individual isn’t representative of the whole profession though, thankfully, and she clearly doesn’t understand the law and is making her own interpretation of it. It makes me angry that behaviour like this reflects on people’s opinions of teachers and headteachers. Heck, I have recently participated in training where as part of it breastfeeding a baby in person may be THE FOCUS of the lesson. This headteacher needs to get her head out of the dark ages.

    It’s a shame that this wasn’t in Scotland where Breastfeeding has not only specific legislation but is also written into the curriculum.

    Please take this as far as you can!

  43. I’m so shocked at the head’s attitude. Disgusting. Oh yes, protect the boys from understanding what boobs are actually for….
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  44. I wouldn’t have spoken to her, just ignore and contact the governors. You cannot reason with idiots

  45. Becky WIllis on said:

    I do wonder what ‘disruption’ you could cause by not moving one bench back? Not sure what difference that makes other than to teach kids that breastfeeding should be hidden.

    I can understand that she wanted children to focus on the harvest festival but would have thought such questions would have only enhanced the harvest by providing positive, natural promotion of the best food on the planet.

    As for, protecting kids and parents? From what? Have you been swimming in the cooling pools of a nuclear reactor? Do you breathe fire? Are your boobs really tentacles and you are an alien? How absurd. I read her letter to the entire school. What a pitiful cover-up attempt that does nothing but highlight that she actually believes breastfeeding mothers should sit away from others so kids never get to see natural feeding and therefore grow up believing milk comes from a bottle. She reinforces prejudices and is a disgrace to her profession that should be educating and encouraging children.

    Good luck. x

  46. Lindsey on said:

    I am sorry you were breast-shamed. I am not sure how it goes in the UK, but I live in a “red state” (very conservative) here in the U.S., and I was never treated as awfully as you were. I do teach, and honestly, kids just need to know what is going on. The disruption happens when you don’t answer them clearly or truthfully. Next time, just get louder and show more. If they want a spectacle, give them one. And don’t complain about her asking you to stop breastfeeding, complain that you feel sexually harassed. She was sexualizing your body in an inappropriate way. Insist that she is reprimanded in writing. It stays in our files as teachers. And don’t forget to complain to the PTA! How are parents supposed to participate if they can’t meet the needs of their other children!

  47. Absolutely incredible. What century is this woman living in, that in an institution for children and educating children she is attempting to obscure something which promotes children’s health and won’t support not just a right but a need to publicly breastfeed?

    Sounds like you conducted yourself admirably, both at the time by essentially ignoring her, and afterwards in having the discussion and sticking to your guns. The simple fact is you’re right. Hope the governors take steps to rectify the situation.

  48. I have breast fed all 3 of my children and feel this lady did the right thing i fully support breast feeding in public xx

  49. As a parent of a young school boy I would like him to experience mothers breastfeeding normally in a wide range of situations so that he grows up with the concept of a breast as a perfectly appropriate feeding method and not as a purely sexual object. I am horrified that it was denormalised by interference and would prefer the interferer and not the feeder be removed discretely.

  50. Ellen Gray on said:

    As a once breast feeding mum I have to say that I have often been made to feel that I am in the minority and that I am doing something even disgusting!! I used to breast feed wherever and whenever I felt the need to. It can be done very discretely without people hardly noticing what you are doing.
    It is very worrying that someone in her position would set such a bad example to children. We all need to stand up to such people. A very strange reaction from a mother who says she breastfed her own children.
    It is probably the most natural thing a mother can do but for whatever reasons relatively low numbers of mothers seem to choose to breastfed. Being met with this sort of attitude is probably one reason why women are put off!

  51. I am totally Gobsmacked at this – I breastfed my children 20 years ago, in public and was NEVER told I couldn’t!

    I also walked around supermarkets with my friend 10 years ago while she fed one of her children and no one said a word!

    “Exposed to that!” – exposed to WHAT?!?! A natural function? A baby having his lunch? She was the one who was saying breasts are wrong and – as previously mentioned – that’s sexualising YOUR body and is harassment!

    Run with this, to the governors, the LEA and the papers, if necessary – go the whole hog!!
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  52. Ellie Levenson on said:

    I think you should name the school.
    And write to relevant LEA not just governors.

  53. Words fail me! I cannot believe the ignorance of this woman. Go to the Governors and the local authority. Well done for sticking up for your son, daughter and yourself. This kind of behavior is completely unacceptable.

  54. What a bully indeed! It worries me what else she would be ‘my way or the highway’ about! Ironically, she made the situation worse and drew more attention to it by pointing it out. A sad case of power misused. Unfortunately, power mad heads are not uncommon.

  55. I wanted to say that you did nothing at all wrong and to offer you some support. You are right to complain I don’t understand some folk at all … X

  56. Celeste on said:

    Well Done You!
    The bigger picture is you’re quietly exposing children to what’s normal. If more people just got on with feeding wherever, whenever then children would grow up perfectly fine with it. Unfortunately adults then go and make a fuss which draws a child’s attention to it and they wonder what the fuss is.

    When my daughter was in Reception the teacher asked if a parent would be happy to take a baby in so that the children could see it being bathed (they were talking about how we change.) My son was the only baby so I said I’d be happy to. I warned them that after a bath he usually screams and wants a feed, they had no problems with it at all. I took him in, the kids sat round in a circle and watched me bath him and asked lots of questions (he’s going to hate me when he’s older.) The teacher then directed them to draw some pictures of him being bathed and I sat at the side of the classroom and fed him. The kids came over and showed me their pictures as they’d finished, I was still feeding him, a couple asked what he was doing, I said having a drink of milk. I live in a very deprived area, BF rates are very low, so very few of them will have seen a BF Mum.
    None of them were bothered.

    We went on a few class trips while I was on maternity leave (with my son strapped to my back.) I often fed him with the kids around, none of them ever cared. We went on a trip to Manchester and I sat in the centre of town feeding him while all the kids had their lunch. One Dad sat with me, loads of the kids did, all the other adults averted their eyes.

    My daughters friends have occasionally asked questions, my daughter has, they’re usually curious for about 2 minutes, but they don’t think it’s weird or funny, they’re not bothered.

  57. I am so disappointed that someone in such a position of ‘authority’ and responsibility should behave in this way. A complete disgrace. I sincerely hope that your letter to the governors is taken seriously and acted upon. Might also be an idea to take it to local mps.

    Saddened.

  58. Helen (a non-breast feeding mummy) on said:

    I didn’t have a choice about how to feed my children – they are adopted well after birth, the the choice was taken completely out of my hands. If I had a choice, I would have breast-fed them. But even if I didn’t, the fact that other mothers have made that choice shouldn’t be scoffed at. This head teacher needs a good talking too.

    Would she have had the same attitude if the mother in question were to have bottle-fed her baby in the middle of the assembly?? I think not.

    Breast feeding a crying, hungry baby is what a good mother should do. If the mother were to leave the baby crying and hungry I’m also sure the head teacher in question would have something to say about the parent neglecting their child.

    Sort her out!! It’s outrageous.

    • there were a couple of other hungry/unsettled children at the front who were given bottles – much as you would expect at a family-friendly occasion. They were not asked to move.

  59. Jen Dobie on said:

    I am so impressed that you stood up for yourself and your children in what sounds like a difficult and embarrassing situation. I would think that the vast majority of those children have been exposed to far more explicit and sexualised images of breasts in their short lives. I’ll bet most of the parents and children would not even have noticed had she not been flapping about and pointing.

  60. Linda Cash on said:

    Wow, how awful. But its OK for children to see women with their boobs out in the national ‘newspapers’ everyday, purely for men to gloat over. How disgusting. Does the head teacher have a child?

  61. CharlandRoo on said:

    Wow! I am utterly stunned, no doubt if you were to be bottle feeding him at the front, it would have been fine! Sounds to me like she is jealous, good on you for sticking up for yours and your children’s rights! I hope the governing body take the matter seriously!

  62. Suzanne on said:

    Really want you to name this school. I would be mortified if I unknowingly enrolled my son there. Absolutely gutted that this actually happens in real life. Go to the Daily Mail. They love this kind of thing.

    I feel in awe of you writing this and standing up for yourself and your babies’ right to be fed a nutritious meal when hungry. These stupid people make my blood boil!

  63. catherine case on said:

    I would love to know where this is. Sounds like its the head trying to sexualise children! Not normalise breastfeeding. All boys have a little giggle that’s what they do just like one had broken wind.

    Good luck and I hope that bulling head that can’t see the healthy start your giving a child, get sacked!

  64. Pushpa Panadam on said:

    Thank you for what you did… Breastfeeding is normal and I feel sorry that the Head Teacher is the one who misunderstood The Big Picture. Please write to all those to whom you should write as it is a way to educate them and the Head Teacher. I would also suggest that you request time to address the school assembly to talk to the whole school on breastfeeding and bring your baby with you. So when it is time to nurse him, breastfeed and continue talking. Thank you for not being bullied. Love from Asuncion, Paraguay

  65. Seeing as in our area we were asked at a local breastfeeding group if any of us would be willing to come into a secondary school and field questions about breastfeeding in order to encourage it and normalise it… I think the head’s statement about protecting children from breastfeeding is utterly ridiculous and is why natural nursing in public is still taboo among younger generations. She should be so ashamed of her narrow mindedness and hypocritical view (a screaming baby would have been FAR more disruptive!) and I hope that the lady affected is given a proper apology.

  66. I would really like to know which school this is, as I do not want to have my child anywhere near it at any point, please name her and the school. I really think go to the pressa md the LEA, this woman with a n attitude like this should not be an educator, it is a repressive and backwards attitude and no one made a fuss anyway!! Kids don’t care at all!! Breastfeeding is normals nod acceptable to children, when have you ever heard of kids bullying breastfeeding women? Never! It’s stupid wither people using kids as am excuse!

  67. Thank you so much. Truly, thank you so much for standing strong and nursing your child despite her unreasonable requests. You are a rockstar, mama!

  68. wowza. I don’t have words. well done for sticking to your guns!
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  69. Theclubster on said:

    I am 100% on your side as I’m sure most other people are. Sounds like you handled yourself and your situation really well. Good stuff. This head should be named and shamed.

  70. Unbelievable, I am increasingly irritated by the negativity surrounding the most natural process of feeding child. I would put in a complaint both to the governors and the local authority!

  71. whatdosolphinsthink on said:

    Ofsted, please make sure you copy Ofsted in. I am very concerned that a person with such twisted morals is allowed to teach children, let alone lead a school! There should be a proper investigation into this where she she is held accountable (whether it be governors, or Ofsted), but well done for taking a stand.

  72. Well done for being so erudite in making your point.
    That headteacher is out of date on what is good, normal and healthy. Some people are too ignorant to change. In my opinion they are the same as some people who are racist/sexist, etc. They can’t see past their ignorance. Fortunately your child is unlikely to be very directly influenced by the headteacher, it is the class teachers who make all the difference.
    Hopefully you’ll be heartened by the fact that there are heapfuls of support for you, and though you were alone in defending yourself on that day, don’t feel hurt. She’s just not worth it.
    But I would definitely write, speak out and make the headteacher be seen for what she is.

  73. You go girl. You GO. You are in the right and you are changing the world.

    The world needs more women like you.

  74. There is definitely a time and a place for everything and no matter how much you disagree it is the opinion of many people that the act of breast feeding in certain areas just isn’t right, regardless of the law.
    If a parent walked into a public place and their children were to unexpectedly see a woman breast feeding, they do have the right to turn around and walk out; After all, they may not wish for them to be exposed to such activities, regardless of how beautiful it maybe. In a primary school, the choice of what a young child views is often taken away from that parent, any good Head teacher is fully aware.
    Let us survey a healthy selection of unbiased parents, in all fairness how many would actually say ‘YES I want my child to be exposed to a woman breast feeding a two year old’?
    Maybe some, like you, would say, ‘I don’t mind at all’, but like it or not I’m surmising many would say ‘NO’.
    So begins my next point, your Harvest festival. Perhaps on this occasion, having the hindsight that your child may get hungry, a good compromise would have been to express into a bottle beforehand. After all, the key to being a good mother is good organisation and this is non-more so than in your anecdote. I understand the view about it being natural and the big legal you can’t stop me approach, but come on for heaven’s sake! Would it be acceptable, albeit entirely legal, to allow a child to eat a roast dinner on the front row? To use a potty? To change a stinking nappy maybe? I think we all know the answers to these.
    Knowing your target audience and your stand on this issue (you do after all want this kind of publicity I assume), it could be right to suggest a foreseeable contentious agenda maybe? Your big moment in the spotlight to bring this argument to the table!! Newspaper headlines, TV news interviews, a slot in a big gossip magazine, followed by a few thousand hits on your website?
    I’ll take my hat off to you though, grand business strategy. This time next year, you could be a millionaire…

    • just a few points:

      1. Express into a bottle. Lovely idea. Unfortunately, neither of my older children would ever accept expressed milk. I am now not able to express milk for a variety of reasons.

      2. There were several children eating a variety of things throughout the assembly.

      3. There are nappy changing facilities in the location of the assembly. I wouldn’t need to change my baby’s nappy on the floor in the assembly. However, well done you on comparing breastfeeding to changing nappies. It’s not like we haven’t heard that one before.

      4. I haven’t contacted the press, and I have no intention of doing so.

      5. I’d love to know how you think I might be making money out of this? I’m not.

      • jane harvestor on said:

        This is all very one sided! I would like to hear the head teachers view on all this and maybe some of the parents who were there… I’m all for breast feeding but if as you say there was no flesh on view, no problem would have arrisen surely! it makes me wonder if some of what you have writen has be altered for dramatic purposes…

        • wonder away, but I can assure you I have not dramatised anything. There was no flesh on view, no-one had complained. You have had the head’s side of it – her letter to the entire school is posted in a follow-up post, linked to from this one. As is the letter she brought to my home this morning.

        • In the majority of discrimination cases against nursing mothers, the mother has been completely covered, often even with a large blanket or nursing cover. Those who take it upon themselves to shame a nursing mother are not just concerned that a bit of flesh may show, they don’t even want anyone knowing a baby is being breastfed.

    • “There is definitely a time and place for everything and no matter how much you disagree it is the opinion of others that the act of breast feeding in certain areas just isn’t right.”

      Yeah buddy, it’s also the opinion of others that people with dark skin don’t belong in certain places, that women in general don’t belong in certain places, and believe it or not, people have been known to throw fits and “walk out” for being seated next to mentally disable children at restaurants because they apparently don’t belong their. Guess what! That’s what we have these LAWS that you so quickly dismiss for. To stop people from enforcing their prejudices on others. You think just because you don’t like something you should be aloud to stop it? You obviously think it’s okay to mistreat people just because they are different from you. “Excuse me, but you have dark skin, and I don’t want my child to be exposed to your darkness now please go sit in the back like a good little dark person.” Now that sounds stupid doesn’t it? So does your comment.

  75. Sal from Sydney on said:

    What a strangely misguided (okay, I’ll say it: crazy!) head teacher – the only person causing any kind of disruption was her! I’m so sorry you had to suffer this kind of unexpected and unnecessary confrontation, and good on you for standing up for the rights of everyone! Big hugs, love and supportive vibes from Sydney.

  76. It’ll be interesting to know what the governors’ response is. In my observation and experience they back the head teacher every time – I was once informed that ‘that’s part of their function’.

  77. I haven’t read all the threads on this post but I’m delighted that I haven’t come across one agreeing with HeadTeacher! Yes I agree go to governors and LEA but also local press – not sure anyone has suggested that or not? The media can be a very powerful tool. Also good for you for sticking up for yourself, your baby and your other 2 children. This woman needs putting straight by a higher authority. She clearly doesn’t listen to fact, reason and sense from a school mum. I wonder who/what else she doesn’t listen to????!!!!!!!!! I would be interested to know which school this is and which area. She should be named and shamed.

  78. Fiona O'Connell on said:

    Yes, well done you for standing up her and standing your ground. Schools are meant to be places for educating our next generation and families should be made welcome. This woman obviously needs educating! Society moved away from breastfeeding in public because of prudish and sexist attitudes like this. Probably the majority of woman now rely on plastic substitutes filled with modified milk to nourish their infants! That is now considered the norm and is a sad reflection of how brainwashed our UK society is from living naturally in harmony with nature. I hope you have the energy to take this further, you so deserve an apology.

  79. I cannot believe that someone who has a professional responsibility to children and someone who has breastfeed herself would behave like she did!

    Well done for standing your ground and trying to normalised breastfeeding. It bothers me no end that we live ok society where this not normal!

    I doubt she would have asked a mother exposing too much cleavage to cover to up.

  80. gill sullivan on said:

    Well done u. Sounds like the headteacher needs some education herself x

  81. Melanie on said:

    :O just :O actually IMO you would be able to change breastfeeding rates by feeding in school. Children seeing the process will help to normalise the process so when they are grown they won’t think twice about doing it themselves or in the case of the boys in question, supporting their partners. Changing rates is a long game. Every little helps and you are definitely doing your bit.

    I hope you get some joy with the governors.

  82. This is a truly inappropriate line for the head to take. You might be interested to know that my 3 month old accompanied me to a Governing Body meeting this week. I was unlucky with my seating and had men all around and the female head (to whom people often directed their attention) on my latch side. My choice of clothing was discrete, unfortunately baby didn’t co-operate with a discreet latch so when the last person joined the meeting I volunteered to go and shut the external door. I was able to re-enter the meeting with baby feeding. Nobody stared or mentioned although I’m sure they were aware. The only negative comment I got was when I arrived home my sitting Mum said “you fed him in the meeting?!” – doh, why do you think he came with me rather than left screaming at you! It is TOTALLY OK for children of any age, especially from other backgrounds to yours to be ‘exposed’ to breastfeeding, moreover it’s desirable modelling that needs to be seen. The head should care about the Year 6 girls seeing you in action in a positive way.

  83. Cake lover on said:

    Wow, Is about all I can say to this. What an appalling attitude! I breastfed both my kids ( youngest for over 2 years) and never received any negative comments. My son was in year 5 when his sister was born and he and his friends were regularly ‘exposed’ to breast feeding and none of them appear to have been scarred by the experience! It amazes me that people seem to think its acceptable for year 6 boys to play Xbox games with an age rating of 18 but they can’t possibly be in a room where someone is breast feeding! Personally I would not be satisfied until I had this women’s head on a plate ( not literally) but then you face being labelled a ‘breast feeding nazi’ *sigh* good luck to you and please keep us informed of any progress. If you need any public support just ask.

  84. I’m a student health visitor and we are desperately trying to help, support and encourage mums to breastfeed if they want to and this sort of thing doesn’t help our cause the rates have fallen dramatically and this is obviously one reason why!! It makes me so mad!
    Anyway what a happened!!

  85. DavidEA on said:

    While I do support breastfeeding in public , which is needed to change public opinion, you should recognize that many people in the UK do not. The head is in day to day control of the school and it is up to her/him who is allowed to visit the school. I agree that you should refer this to the school governors but do not antagonize the school by seeking local press publicity.

  86. Rebecca Swinbourne on said:

    What school is this at? I’d like to write to them myself! You often hear of these cases in the us but I can’t believe people can be so ignorant her in the UK too. I’m furious for you. I get annoyed when childrens books say babies are fed by bottles – children need to be educated in the natural and best way to feed babies

  87. Kathy Cornmell on said:

    I think the children need protecting from her, if this is how she treats a parent, how many children does she bully.

  88. princess clare bear on said:

    Wow what a complete looser. You may tell her a little story from my children’s primary school……

    Last term at sports day they called mums and dads up for the parents race, First the Dad’s ran, all went without a hitch and everyone was having a whale of a time. Then came the mums turn. Now I’m a little fluffy round the edges and running is not my thing at all so I chose to sit near to the finish line and snap some pictures of my mummy friends doing their thing.

    Now the mummies do get very competitive, probably more so than the men, but we are quite a sporty village school so perhaps that’s why. So the starter sounded and they sprinted off, there were 3 mums out in front and were almost jostling for first place. They had almost reached the starting line when one mummy fell over and rolled across the floor right next to where the children were sat in their teams on the opposite side of the finish line to me. When she stood up a male teacher ran over to her and asked her to pull her top up because not one but two boobies had made an unexpected appearance. The mum looked mortified, the children were all giggling and looking silly, they all rushed to tell me about it afterwards….. and that was the last I heard of the matter.

    They will probably remember seeing Mrs S’s boobies in years to come but they are certainly not at risk, endangered or traumatised by this experience.

  89. If you would be willing to release the contact information for the teacher/school, I would love to join you in writing a letter of complaint – and I’m sure I’m not the only one. I think we all ought to flood the school with scathing letters to really get the point across that the way this teacher behaved is completely unacceptable! I am so sorry you were treated so poorly!

  90. Well done you brilliant girl!
    I’ve had similar problems ((though none quite so confronting) over the years, both in UK and Australia, so I really hope you manage to get your point across and maybe change some anachronistic opinions. Cheers from Tasmania Jo

  91. Kerry Richardson on said:

    Good for you and your children that you stood yuour ground. How very important that you did. Would love to know what response you get back from your letter. Well done you !

  92. Abigail Nelson on said:

    It’s such a shame that SHE can’t see the bigger picture 🙁

    Send a copy of your letter to the LEA. What she did was unlawful and they need to know as well.

  93. Jessie D on said:

    Gaaargh! POOR YOU! You wrote this amazingly, beautifully clear and unshrouded with the rage you must feel. I never comment on these blogs but so wanted to give you a word hug of support. Get that letter out there and I will be checking back to see how it goes. Strength and Honour Gladiator. xxx

  94. ‘The vague suggestion of a breast being used for its prime function was not something they should know about.’ Herein I think lies the heart of the problem. Society has forgotten breasts exist to provide our babies with the most balanced and healthy source of nutrition. Not as a source of ogling or embarrassment Tell me when and where and I will come and help you wave the banners. We need more strong women like you to bring change.

  95. Belles Ma on said:

    As already mentioned above, the importance of breastfeeding is featured in the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence. Here is the outcome, under Health and Wellbeing; Food and Health.

    Learners develop their understanding of a healthy diet, which is one composed of a variety and balance of foods and drinks. They acquire knowledge and skills to make healthy food choices and help to establish lifelong healthy eating habits. They develop an appreciation that eating can be an enjoyable activity and understand the role of food within social and cultural contexts. They explore how the dietary needs of individuals and groups vary through life stages, for example during pregnancy and puberty, and the role of breastfeeding during infancy.

    Children between the ages of 4 to 7 are expected to learn about the following outcome: I am beginning to understand that nutritional needs change at different stages of life, for example the role of breastfeeding in infant nutrition. HWB 1-32a

    This headteacher is a bully and a dinosaur, and has picked the wrong battle. There should be no shame or embarrassment in feeding your child the way you choose. Other people need to get over their embarrassment.

  96. Sandie Gillbanks on said:

    I am a pensioner, don’t have children (my choice) but I have always supported Mums feeding their babies wherever they happen to be.

    This head teacher does seem to have strange ideas of what is or is not acceptable. This is more than acceptable, its natural

    Well done for standing up for yourself, to be honest, once I got the reply from the governors I’d be inclined to name and shame the school – but then again I’m and awkward owd bat!

    I will now go away and scream at her attitude.

  97. Amy Blitz on said:

    For crying out loud, this is absurd that you were put in this situation and forced to defend feeding your child! How come its ok for adults to slurp away and chew with their gobs open in public, yet a discretely BREAST fed baby is soooo offensive. Perhaps the children need to be protected from this psychotic sex-obsessed head of the school woman?? Honestly, people offended by breastfeeding have sexual issues if they cant differentiate what is an appropriate use of a breast and what is not lol. Gahhh…..when will these types of people wake up to themselves???

  98. Catherine Williams on said:

    So the woman who has been charged with educating and opening young minds, takes a very closed view…
    Good luck hun, because she sounds ignorant and pig headed, both qualities are hard to combat.

  99. I love how people try to say you are being selfish. In reality, it was all about her and what made her uncomfortable not anyone else. Most kids never say anything because either they have seen their mothers feed their siblings or they don’t know any better. They usually have other more important things like toys and playing anyway that are more important than wondering what you are doing which is something so natural anyways. Good for you for standing up against her

  100. I had a situation like this in the workplace where I was pumping breastmilk, yet I was completely covered and the manager had the nerve to tell me I can’t pump in the dining area bc it’s supposed to be family friendly. A couple of days later, they fired me, possibly to cover themselves. I wanted 2 file a complaint but bc in NY, if businesses have under 50 employees, they are free from the BF-ing in the Workplace. I have written to my senator and Pres Obama about changing the BF-ing law in Workplace that all businesses, big and small, should comply to BF-ing mothers.

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  102. Nicole S on said:

    Standing with you from across the pond, mama.

  103. I’m so sorry you went through this. I have been through a similar experience at my sons’ school, and it is so demoralizing that people charged with the education of our children could be so very far-off base on this issue. Thank you for standing against this discrimination.

  104. claudia villavicencio on said:

    She sure is a bully, and obviously she is the one braking the law by trying to decide went and were does it applies,at her convenience,go ahead you are just doing the right thing to do good luck

  105. Good for you for carrying on, cannot believe the ignorance of some people! Sounds like the head did all the disrupting!

  106. threenorns on said:

    commented elsewhere but can’t find it now, but here’s another thought:

    not only did that teacher break the law in trying to remove a breastfeeding mother, but she also broke confidentiality and probably committed slander by telling a parent that other (specifically identified) parents were incompetent, as their children are unable to control themselves in public.

  107. Jenny Richardson on said:

    I am so sorry that you had to suffer such treatment. I wish I had been there with you, I would have sat with you! I would have backed you up in all you said. The fact that she said she didn’t feel parents would want their children exposed to that says a lot, and then her comment re their being a time and a place – ooh dear, there lies some hang ups. I am left wondering just what experiences she had?

    I find it very sad that she hasn’t updated her knowledge re breastfeeding, as clearly she does not know that actually we need women to breastfeed any where and every where! And she clearly, does not understand! If you want a feed in let me know, I am not lactating but I can bring a doll and a sling!!!

    Thank you, for sharing this with us, and thank you for breastfeeding!!! I have to say I giggled when you said you fed your daughter too!!! We need more women like you!

    Jenny

  108. Desiree G on said:

    Good job. Way to stick up for your sweet baby and his right to eat! To try to say a law that protects you and your baby does not work for that situation is absurd.

  109. On the next school play, you should buy lots of tickets and get a lot of breast feeding mothers to attend – and sit on the front row on full display – you could then sit at the back of the hall rediculous covered up with a smile on your face 🙂 Beat the bully!

  110. Louise Boulton on said:

    Sorry to hear about your experience. “Protecting” children from breastfeeding is one of the most ridiculous but sadly pervasive ideas in the UK today. I run a brownie unit and have been breastfeeding my child during the meetings. Fortunately I have not had a single complaint. The girls themselves are incredibly mature about it. They don’t bat an eye when I feed him (and unfortunately the Guiding uniform makes it hard to be discreet!). I started by turning the other way or moving to a side room but honestly, I can’t run a meeting like that. These days I just get on with what I’m doing and stick him on the boob when he asks for it. I think children are a lot more mature than some adults give them credit for. When they do find it funny, it’s because they haven’t seen enough of it and/or are taking their cues from the adults around them. Clearly the head was uncomfortable. So glad the Y6 boys were more mature than her.

  111. Name (required) on said:

    So after over 5 years she finally gets one negative comment and is penning a letter to the governor and ranting for a dozen paragraphs? LoL

  112. Melissa Rhodes on said:

    good for you. she needs a lesson in manners!

  113. I am sorry you had to go through this and all because of a small minded woman who should know better. Well done for standing up for yourself and your children. Breast feeding is one of the most beautiful things and children should indeed know it as a natural and normal thing to do.
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  114. ” She also told me I would not change the breastfeeding rates by feeding at school.”

    What a shame she couldn’t see how wrong she was in saying this because of course if children see mothers feeding their babies wherever their babies *need* feeding it will if course become ‘normal’ and they in turn will follow suit in years to come.

  115. Shocking, what a stupid woman. Well done for not caving in. I’ve fed my anywhere and everywhere, including school plays – not to make a point but because that’s how I feed my babies / toddlers. Of course, if children (and adults) see babies being breastfed it will normalise it and of course breastfeeding rates will go up – I’ve seen that in tiny anecdotal ways, so imagine the bigger picture. Perhaps she needs to read the research on breastfeeding and IQ – maybe she’ll change her stance when she thinks about her SATS results!
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  116. ps – if you want to take this to the papers and haven’t already done so, drop me a line!
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  117. Hello, from another Barefoot Mummy 🙂

    This is absolutely appalling, and how dare she try to make you feel like you were doing something horrendous. Children should not be protected from breast feeding, they should be exposed to it more. Only when breast feeding is actively encouraged and it is seen happening everywhere will breastfeeding rates finally start to rise.
    I breast fed both my sons, and I fed them anywhere and everywhere. When I was young, I sat and watched my aunt breast feed my cousin. She was the only person in our family that breastfed her children. It was probably her input that led me to want to feed my boys myself.
    I would also complain to the education authority about her. She has an appalling attitude as a head and I’m not sure I would want my children going there.
    Big hugs to you and your children. x

  118. I am horrified by what happened to you and just wanted to send you my total support. Thank you for what you are doing on behalf of all breastfeeding mums and babies! I feel you have behaved with great dignity and I really admire your strength. If you haven’t already, have a think about getting some legal advice. Also, contacting local breastfeeding groups or getting advice and support from the national ones could be useful – nct and la leche league. They could possibly access legal advice for free? As others have said, please post if there’s anything we can do, like letters of support etc. My very best wishes

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  122. There is a proper time and place for breastfeeding? Tsk. This makes me so mad. What are these boobies for anyway? Gah. I am just glad the outcome (I read the final post) was fair.
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  123. Stories like these always amaze me. It is shocking with how much benefit there is to breastfeeding that it is not accepted publicly.
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  124. Good for you!!! As an avid breastfeeder myself this makes me proud that you stood your ground! NIP on mama!!! ❤

  125. What a fantastically composed piece of writing but a completely appalling situation. I could barely believe what I was reading. I hope the governors had a harsh word as that is not someone who should be in a position of influencing children. Thanks so much for sharing with #BFingdiaries
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