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21.6.11

Breastfeeding Publicly. Knowing Your Rights.

When I started off breastfeeding I felt very confused and puzzled as to what would happen if I was asked to stop breastfeeding somewhere.
How would I just unlatch my baby beginning or mid feed and then find somewhere else to feed him without flashing a boob or spraying someone with milk or ending up with a screaming baby on my hands creating a lot more attention than me simply sitting there discreetly breastfeeding in the first place?
How would I stop myself from bursting into uncontrollable tears at someone telling me to stop? At feeling guilty that I had to stop and my baby not knowing why?

I didn't feed publicly until August 9th (Charles was born June 14th). Well, I fed publicly in July but no one was aware as I fed Charles whilst he was in the Moby sling. The feed on August 9th was the first one where people could see, if they really looked at me, that I was breastfeeding my baby.
It was a big thing for me and thankfully I had met up with a group of mums I met from a baby forum, 3 of which were also breastfeeding and had fed in public a few times previous, so were very encouraging and supportive.
I felt amazing feeding him for the first time.
More so because I had a piece of paper in my bag which protected me if I was asked to stop breastfeeding.
It happened that this week we had two birthday meals to go to so there would be more opportunities to feed publicly. I had my husbands support which helped immensley. We also made sure he had read up on our rights too and knew exactly where the paper was in the change bag.

I'd researched my rights online. Basically a company can be sued if asked to stop woman from breastfeeding. Knowing I had this behind me felt like I had a protective barrier around me. If I was asked to stop I would mention my rights, if they didn't believe me or disagreed I would show them this piece of paper.

Looking on the internet now it seems that in the time since I first breastfed to now the law has really tightened up to protect breastfeeding mothers further.

The following is taken from Maternity Action:

What does the law say?
The new Equality Act says that it is sex discrimination to treat a woman unfavourably because she is breastfeeding. It applies to anyone providing services, benefits, facilities and premises to the public, public bodies, further and higher education bodies and association. Service providers include most organisations that deal directly with the public. Service providers must not discriminate, harass or victimise a woman because she is breastfeeding. Discrimination includes refusing to provide a service, providing a lower standard of service or providing a service on different terms. Therefore, a cafe owner cannot ask you to stop breastfeeding or refuse to serve you.
How long does protection apply for?
There is no age restriction, the law protects you for as long as you wish to breastfeed your baby.
Where can a woman breastfeed?
You are protected in public places such as parks, sports and leisure facilities, public buildings and when using public transport such as buses, trains and planes. You are protected in shops, public, restaurants and hotels regardless of how big of small. You are also protected in places like hospitals, theatres, cinemas and petrol stations.
Which associations are included? 
An association must not discriminate, harass or victimise a person because she is breastfeeding by refusing membership or discriminating in provision of benefits, facilities or services.
An association includes clubs, such as golf clubs, that have rules of membership, with at least 25 members, where members have to apply to join. Private clubs, with less than 25 members, that have no formal rules of membership, such as a book club, would not be counted as an association. Clubs where you simply pay a membership fee to jioin are not counted as an association but would be considered to be providing public services.
Are there some places where I cannot breastfeed in public?
Yes, it is not against the law to prevent a woman breastfeeding in a service which is a single sex service for men. This single sex service must be justified, for example, where only one sex needs it or one sex needs the service more than the other. Voluntary groups or charities set up specifically to benefit one sex may be acting lawfully if they exclude women. Religious organisations may offer services to one sex if it is in line with the doctrines of that religion. In some cases, where single sex services are justified, it would be reasonable to object to members of the opposite sex being there.
It is not against the law to prevent a woman breastfeeding where there are legitimate health and safety risks, for example, near to certain chemicals or radiation.
What can I do if I am discriminated against because I am breastfeeding?
Firstly, you should make a complaint to the organisation that has discriminated against you. Most service providers, educational bodies and other groups should have a complaints procedure, if not, you should ask who to complain to.
If you cannot resolve the matter you can bring an action in a county court in England or Wales or a sheriffs court in Scotland but you should seek advice as these can be expensive cases to bring. You must start the case within 6 months of the date of the act you are complaining about. This time limit will only be extended where it is just and equitable. If you win your case the court can order compensation, an injunction or a declaration but if you lose you may be ordered to pay the other side’s legal costs. Compensation can include an amount for injury to feelings.