This weekend I was approached via Facebook messenger by the owner of the Blues Bar in Harrogate. I’ve been a regular there for 12 years. I even had my wedding reception there.
She told me that she’d received a call from someone who had complained about me breastfeeding in there and that I should cover up.
I explained that I struggled with keeping a good latch and that feeding under cover simply wouldn’t work for me.
She told me that it wasn’t up for discussion.
Now here’s where we disagreed. I think that the notion about how women who are breastfeeding in public should be covered up is very much a discussion, one which shouldn’t keep coming up over and over and yet sadly, here we were, having a discussion.
I explained to her that she was actually breaking the law and that I was allowed to breastfeed my three month old son anywhere that provides a service.
Despite the fact that I didn’t have to, I agreed to cover up using a scarf. I asked for details of who had complained but none were forthcoming, so I tried to find out myself.
The next day, I received another message telling me that I wasn’t to ask people about their feelings on the matter. That I was upsetting people and needed to stop or I wouldn’t be allowed in the venue again.
To me, this looked like a shady way to exclude me without having to admit that the real reason was me breastfeeding and I said so.
I then received a phone call from her husband.
He informed me that the law wasn’t important. Me making people uncomfortable was more important. That by feeding my exclusively breastfed child, I was being indecent. That he had me on video breastfeeding and when the baby came off, I deliberately left myself uncovered. That I was just being political, as proved by me knowing the law, because why would I unless I wanted to cause a fuss.
He signed off by telling me that I wasn’t allowed to post anything about it on the internet. I’d already shared two posts, one titled ‘What’s so hard about covering up to breastfeed in public?’ and a photograph of me feeding with the hashtag #normalisebreastfeeding. I didn’t mention the place by name. Well, now I am.
I refuse to be bullied. I’m standing up for my right to feed however I want. I’m standing up for my child’s right not to go hungry when he chews his hands and cries. I’m standing up for all the women who are too afraid to feed their babies in public for fear that some judgemental weirdo with attitudes more suited to Saudi Arabia might be offended by the sight of a nipple.
Breastfeeding is normal. No matter if publicans and BBC DJs seem to think breasts are rudey bits which should only be seen in porn and until recently, newspapers, it doesn’t change the fact that breasts’ purpose is for feeding infants.
A friend who works in Africa said to me that if we were there, people would be judgemental if I wasn’t feeding my baby in public. It’s really sad that it’s the other way round here in Harrogate.