Breastfeeding in public: uncovering the issue in Leeds

By Ria Taylor

It’s a debate that has been ongoing for many years – is ‘breast’ really ‘best’?

Despite some campaigners arguing that breastfeeding actually poses health risks to both mother and baby, around 44% of women in the UK choose to breastfeed. For women who do make this choice, feeding baby at any time is an action which should be none too out of the ordinary.

But why should mothers who breastfeed their child outside of the home be made to feel like they’re in the wrong?

The NHS ‘pregnancy and baby guide’ advises women to remember their rights when breastfeeding on the go, and states that a survey conducted by Start4Life found that 72% of people actually support women who breastfeed in public.

Feeling uncomfortable

Although it is illegal to ask a breastfeeding mother to leave a public place, the stigma surrounding public nursing often leads to a lot of mums feeling uncomfortable when breastfeeding outside of their home or private space.

Comment made by The Sun reader where mother was asked to stop breastfeeding her son on an easyJet flight.

Comment left by The Sun reader on an online article. The article stated that a mother was asked to stop breastfeeding her son on an easyJet flight.

In a blog post for Unicef UK, breastfeeding counsellor Emma Pickett said “thank you” to women for breastfeeding in public, even though it can often be scary for them.

“Mothers and babies are not allowed to be discriminated against on the grounds of breastfeeding. Their access to businesses and services is not allowed to be restricted. You are not allowed to ask them to move on or to stop. It’s not complicated. It really isn’t. The Equality Act 2010 protects mums in England and Wales… But the law doesn’t automatically change how people feel.”

Felicia Jordan Newton, from Leeds, told Leeds Hacks that she is often made to feel uneasy when breast feeding in public. “There’s always people staring and it just makes me feel uncomfortable. That’s why I mix feed,” she said. “If I have a bottle ready, I always prefer using that rather than breast feeding in public.”

Calls for a Leeds scheme

Earlier this week, Sheffield City Council invited mums to attend the grand opening of the Town Hall’s first breastfeeding room. Located just off the reception area of the Town Hall, the room provides a breastfeeding chair and a baby station, as well as a comfortable, quiet environment for women to feed their babies – a winning solution for mums who feel the same as Felicia.

Leeds mum-of-two, Laurie Kitson, told us that it would be “incredible” to have a similar scheme set up through Leeds City Council.

“I was happy to breastfeed everywhere with my first child, who’s now four, but with my second child, it’s getting more uncomfortable. My daughter is 16 months and I am starting to get judging looks for breastfeeding a toddler.”

“I’ve never had a negative comment though,” Laurie added. “But having a scheme like this would make me feel more comfortable breastfeeding a toddler publicly. Nobody seems to bat an eyelid when breastfeeding a baby.”

Baby shown feeding from mother's breast - black and white image.

Breast is best! A mother naturally breastfeeding her baby.

Lynne Waddington, a peer supporter and local mum based in the south of Leeds, runs a group called Bosom Buddies –  offering help, support and a safe environment for mothers who choose to breastfeed.

“I’ve been running these groups for well over 10 years,” said Lynne. “I started training when my son was 17 months old – he’s 12 now.

“New mums who are in the early stages of pregnancy can come along and get the advice that they need from women who have been there before. Sometimes they just need a bit of support – if your friends or family have never breastfed, you find yourself isolated.”

“Breastfeeding must be normalised”

Lynne works tirelessly to tackle the issue head-on and believes that society’s attitude need to change.

“You see young girls all the time wearing low cut tops and skimpy outfits, exposing themselves. Put them next to a breastfeeding mother and see for yourself who is judged more; see who gets the most stares. I bet it’s not the young girl.”

She finished by saying: “Breastfeeding must become more normalised. If people are seeing it, they will start accepting it.”




About the Author

This article was produced by a student or students on the BA in Journalism at Leeds Beckett University.

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