UK

Claridge's Protest Would Probably Be Classfied As 'Ostentatious' Breastfeeding

06/12/2014 16:39 GMT | Updated 07/12/2014 11:59 GMT

Mothers have staged a mass "nurse-in" outside Claridge's hotel in London to protest over an incident in which a woman was asked to cover herself up when she was breastfeeding in the restaurant.

The demonstration, organised by Free to Feed, is in protest at the Mayfair establishment's treatment of mother-of-three Louise Burns, 35, who was told to cover her baby's head with a napkin when she was breastfeeding during tea.

Claridge's has said it "embraces" breastfeeding, but requests that women are "discreet towards other guests".

The incident sparked debate about whether it is acceptable to breastfeed in public, with Ukip leader Nigel Farage being one of the political figures to wade in with their opinions, claiming mums should not to breastfeed "ostentatiously".

breastfeeding

The mass "nurse in" outside Claridge's in central London

He used his LBC phone-in show to suggest mothers could "sit in the corner" in restaurants to avoid offending people.

Around 40 mothers braved freezing conditions to sit outside the hotel's grand front doors and feed their infants.

Emily Slough, 28, founded the group in March after she was labelled a "tramp" on Facebook for breastfeeding in public.

She travelled from Staffordshire with her 18-month-old daughter Matilda to be at the protest.

She said: "I am here because someone broke the law by telling a woman to be unnecessarily discreet when she was breastfeeding in public.

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"Lou Burns was being discreet when she was feeding her baby.

"We are here to show Claridge's they are not above the law. But they have said nothing to us, they are pretending we're not here.

"I myself was labelled a tramp for feeding my daughter in public.

"Every time something like this happens, many women are put off for life from breastfeeding.

"We're here to challenge that stigma and show women it's normal and natural."

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Breastfeeding Protest

In reference to Mr Farage's comments, she said: "Not everyone agrees. I'm not bothered what people think. We're here to encourage women to breastfeed, regardless."

Emma Bullock, 25, who had helped organise the peaceful protest, arrived at the demo with her 11-month-old daughter Eleanor.

She said: "Breastfeeding is normal and natural. I might not like it if someone chews with their mouth open, but I won't object.

"The thing is, Lou Burns was being discreet and then they put that huge tent over her to cover her up, which made it very obvious.

"We want Claridge's to issue an apology and change their policy on breastfeeding, but they have done nothing yet."

Rachel Waller, 40, who was there with four-month-old Finch, said Mr Farage's comments were the reason why his party was unpopular in educated, metropolitan areas.

breastfeeding claridges

Louise Burns with and without the napkin over her baby's head

She said: "Women are advised to breastfeed for two years by the World Health Organisation, six months exclusively.

"Should women hide in the closet or cover themselves up for six months?

"I would refuse to wear the napkin if this happened to me."

Clare Mariscal, 36, carried a banner which read: "That's what breasts are for, stupid".

She said: "I think Farage should be made to eat in the toilet after what he has said.

"No-one has any problem with breasts when they're displayed in a dress. Boobs are everywhere - people only object when they are used for their normal and natural purpose."

Passers-by were supportive, with one man, who did not want to be named, clapping as he walked past.

He said: "Breastfeeding is normal and natural, people are too offended these days."

However, Lindsay Jardine, 35, said Claridge's had been perfectly right to tell Mrs Burns to cover up.

She said: "If I was eating there I wouldn't want to see someone feeding their baby in front of me. And it's cruel for the babies, being out in such weather."

Mrs Burns was left shocked and humiliated after she was presented with a large starched napkin in order to avoid "causing offence" to other guests when she tried to feed her three-month-old daughter Isadora on Monday.

She burst into tears and immediately wanted to leave but her mother and sister, who had been planning the get-together for three months, coaxed her into staying.

Pressed on whether it would be right for a hotel to ask mothers to use the "ladies' room" to feed, Mr Farage yesterday said: "Or perhaps sit in the corner, or whatever it might be. That is up to Claridge's."

He insisted it was "not too difficult" to feed a child in a way that was "not openly ostentatious".

The Ukip leader later denied he had any problems with women breastfeeding, but said it was up to Claridge's to maintain a policy that would avoid offence to guests who did not like the sight of a woman feeding her child.

Downing Street left no doubt that David Cameron disagreed with Mr Farage's comments, saying that it was "totally unacceptable" for mothers to be made to feel uncomfortable when feeding their babies in public.

A Number 10 spokeswoman said: "It's for Mr Farage to explain his views.

"The Prime Minister shares the view of the NHS, which is that breastfeeding is completely natural and it's totally unacceptable for any women to be made to feel uncomfortable when breastfeeding in public."