Boobs have been causing all sorts of people to get hot under the collar this week. On Monday, Louise Burns was asked to cover up with a giant napkin while she was breastfeeding her baby in Claridge’s. The internet, not to mention the law, reckons this is a bit of an outrage. Two nurse-ins are being planned to protest at the hotel’s actions, but the biggest of them (104 people are going so far) won’t actually be a sit-in. The mothers emphasise that they’re staging a peaceful protest, so they will be gathering outside the hotel, not inside, so as not to raise any posh hackles. That one is on Monday December 8 at 1pm, and there’s another feed-in planned for tomorrow, Saturday December 6 at 2pm.
Perish the thought that diners might be offended, never mind that a tiny infant needs to eat, or that Burns was unassumingly enjoying tea with her family while discreetly feeding – as the pictures she tweeted show, you can’t even tell that she is breastfeeding. Burns (who incidentally is married to Nathan Barley actor Nick), had a festive family tea turned into what she called a humiliating experience. More evidence that despite the pressure on mums to breastfeed, society offers little real support when they try to do it.
Nigel Farage chipped in with his two cents, saying breastfeeding women should ‘Sit in the corner, or whatever it might be – that’s up to Claridge’s.’ Actually it’s not, Nige. Under the 2010 Equality Act it’s illegal for a business to discriminate against a breastfeeding mother, and unless they’re making all their customers sit in a corner, that seems a bit discriminatory. Wouldn’t want to let the law get in the way of big business, though, right?
We, and seemingly much of London, are with the peaceful protesters on this one, so here are our top ten places to breastfeed.
1. The Museum of Childhood.
Anywhere that’s overrun with kids is usually welcoming to nursing mums, and as well as the cafe with plenty of room for prams, the museum has a ‘quiet room’ downstairs with comfy chairs if you want to get away from the racket.
2. Parent and baby cinema screenings.
No need to miss out on ‘The Hunger Games’ because your baby won’t make it through without needing a feed – settle back at a screening in which the lights are kept on brighter than usual and the volume is lower, and get your culture fix as normal. The Ritzy Group and Rich Mix are two of our favourites, but lots of cinemas have parent and baby times.
3. Anywhere in ‘Nappy Valley’
The borough of Wandsworth has had the highest birthrate in Europe, and it’s still pretty much accepted/expected everywhere – including, in our experience, every pub in Balham and Battersea.
4. Born in Stoke Newington.
This children’s shop is particularly welcoming to little ones. The sofa, glider chair and sample breastfeeding cushions help, and the owner Georgina is very kindly accommodating. On Mondays the shop even shuts for meetings including Naomi Stadlen’s amazing Mothers Talking group, which is exceedingly friendly towards mums and children.
6. Leon in Spitalfields.
The staff never rush you, there’s space for buggies and at weekends a play mat and ball pool are brought out.
7. John Lewis.
This bastion of the middle classes has parent and baby rooms with seating in its Oxford Street and Westfield Stratford Branches, and it doesn’t act as if they’re places to be banished to, but rather that the comfort of customers is important.
The parent rooms at the east and west London outposts of the mega mall have sofas, space for tots to crawl about and cubicles with smart chairs if you want more privacy.
9. Bethnal Green Road.
A friend once stopped to feed her baby on a bench, only to be invited inside the hairdressers it was in front of so that she’d be more comfortable. Now that’s kindness.
You have the right to breastfeed anywhere and even Claridges has since said that breastfeeding is ’embraced’ there. A quick office poll confirms that our experiences have been overwhelming positive, in that no-one has batted an eyelid in venues across London. Another reason we love this city – go London!
By Natasha Polyviou