POLITICS

Nigel Farage Says It's 'Good Manners' To Breastfeed 'Discreetly'

05/12/2014 14:06 GMT | Updated 05/12/2014 14:59 GMT

Nigel Farage has defended suggesting mothers could "sit in the corner" if they need to breastfeed their babies in public, but said it was "good manners" if women were "discreet".

The Ukip leader provoked a backlash on Friday morning when he told LBC Radio that mothers should try not to breastfeed in an "ostentatious" manner.

David Cameron's official spokesperson said it was "totally unacceptable" for mothers to be made uncomfortable. And Labour's shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said it was Farage who should "sit in a corner".

However the Ukip leader hit back, blaming the media for stoking the row. "I personally have no problem with mothers breastfeeding wherever they want," he said in a statement.

"What I said was - and it is immensely frustrating that I have to explain this - that if the establishment in question, in this case Claridge's, wants to maintain rules about this stuff, then that is up to them, as it should be."

Earlier this week a mother described her humiliation after she was asked to cover herself with a napkin while breastfeeding at Claridge's in London.

Farage added: "I remarked that perhaps they might ask women to sit in a corner. Did I say I believe they should have to? No. Did I say I personally endorse this concept? No.

"We do however have to recognise that businesses have a responsibility to all of their customers, some of whom may well be made uncomfortable by public breastfeeding.

"It's a two-way street - breastfeeding women should never be embarrassed by staff asking them to stop, and most mums will recognise the need to be discreet in certain, limited, circumstances. It is just a question of good manners."

On Tuesday Louise Burns, 35, tweeted pictures of herself feeding her 12-week-old baby with a large napkin draped over them while having a Christmas tea treat at the hotel with her mother and sister.

"I started feeding her very discreetly when the waiter hurried over with a huge napkin, knelt down and said it was policy to cover up,” she told the Guardian. "My initial reaction was to burst into tears. This was my third baby. I had trouble breastfeeding the first two but this was going well. I didn’t expect to be admonished in a central London hotel."

Farage's comments come as new research showed encouraging mothers to breastfeed for longer could improve their health and also save the NHS more than £40m a year.

A report by a team of researchers led by Brunel University said the savings would come from reducing common childhood illnesses and also cutting the risk of women developing breast cancer over their lifetime, which is said to be linked to low rates of breastfeeding.

The study, published online in Archive of Disease in Childhood, suggested £11m could be saved by cutting the occurrence of infections in babies if women who exclusively breastfed for one week were to keep going for four months.

And doubling the number of mothers who breastfeed for between seven and 18 months would save £31m due to the lower estimated number of those women developing breast cancer.