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Mum told to face wall in The Mayflower to breastfeed baby

By Gloucestershire Echo  |  Posted: October 06, 2012

  • UPSET: Claire Knowles, 28, with her 11-week-old daughter Jessica. Below: The Mayflower in Cheltenham

  • Mayflower

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A MOTHER was left "embarrassed and indignant" after she was "discriminated" against in a town centre restaurant because she wanted to breastfeed her baby.

Claire Knowles, 28, says she was asked to move and sit facing the wall at The Mayflower restaurant in Clarence Street after she told staff she was going to feed her 11-week- old daughter Jessica.

Claire, who lives in Warrington and was visiting Cheltenham with her fiancé Gary, 41, said she was shocked by the September 28 incident, which took place at 6.30pm.

The Greater Manchester Police Special Constabulary Sergeant said: "We sat down at a table in the middle of the restaurant and ordered and the soups came and we ate those and then Jessica, who was in the push chair, woke up when the starters came out and I told the waitress I was going to feed the baby, out of courtesy.

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"She said 'just a minute' and me and my fiancé looked at each other and we could see her talking to the manager and there was a lot of nodding and shaking of heads going on. She came back and said 'maybe you would like to sit over here' and I said 'no, we are happy here' but she insisted and I said 'no' again and that I would like to eat with my fiancé. She then picked up our starters and drinks as my fiancé said he would move with me.

"So we went over to the other table that was at the back of the restaurant near to the toilet and when we got there she pulled out a chair that faced the wall and she said they had "had complaints before".

"I sat down and I was facing the wall with my back to the restaurant and the entrance. I fed Jessica and the waitress kind of left us alone and didn't come back to clean the plates."

She added: "We were made to feel like we had a dirty secret... we were both pretty embarrassed.

"We finished our meal in shock and indignation."

Claire said they complained to the restaurant's manager and paid the bill although she didn't feel like they should have to. She said: "We were made to feel like we were doing something wrong. We were moved to the corner specifically because I was breastfeeding.

"The manager said that if we ever came back that it wouldn't happen again, but we said that we were visitors to Cheltenham and that we definitely wouldn't be coming back." Chun Kong, owner of The Mayflower, said he apologised "unreservedly" for the incident. He said it was a "genuine misunderstanding".

He said: "I apologise for the misunderstanding and the misunderstanding of the choice of words used in the conversation between the customer and the member of staff."

■ Do you think mums should be free to breastfeed in restaurants? Join our online poll at thisisgloucestershire.co.uk

OPINION, P8

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  • Ultimate Proof  |  December 10 2012, 12:42PM

    I breastfed all my three children, although I felt somewhat uncomfortable and self-conscious doing so in direct public view and I wouldn't feel happy about other diners seeing me do so in a restaurant (even with a shawl on). I still had to do it though or they would have to put up with a screaming baby! I don't particularly want to see it either, not blatently in any case, but it certainly wouldn't put me off my food if I did. But some people are squeamish and it's all about respecting their space too - just like I wouldn't blow a full snotty nose into a hankie whilst sat at the table as it would be unpleasant to those around me. We (British) don't do these things out of consideration to others' comfort. The thing with breastfeeding, while it's convenient, it can be quite messy - leaking (spraying!) milk, or the baby winding (trying to juggle a boob out and a wiggly baby isn't always easy to do discreatly). With my first two children (just over 10 years ago) facilities weren't great and I hated having to use public toilets to feed - that did feel unfair; however, I didn't also feel confident feeding in public. I often used to go back to the car if it was nearby to feed in privacy, but with my third child I had become more confident using shawls etc and I noticed a few more shops had more decent feeding rooms so I would tend to use those. Just like I wouldn't change my baby's dirty nappy at the dining table (well think about it, what's the point taking it to the toilet as it can't use those!), I felt having a clean and calm space to go to feed was much easier, all round! I only wish more companies provided such facilities - that's the problem here. Mothercare has a lovely, dimmed room with proper feeding chairs and I remember enjoying going into town knowing that was close by.

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  • LMN111  |  November 07 2012, 10:39AM

    Women are giving breasts to feed their baby (depite popular belief that they are best placed on page 3 of the Sun), if a baby is hungry then he/she needs to be fed - if this happens to be in a restaurant, in a park or wherever the baby still needs feeding! How many of you who object to breastfeeding in public, also object to topless sunbathing, and would complain that women should be suitably dressed? There is NOTHING more natural than a mother feeding her baby, and you see this day in day out - calfs, lambs, pigs all feeding from their mothers - but there is never an objection to this - if people understood just how natural it is then there wouldnt be any debate, and unfortunately as a mother you cannot choose or often anticipate when or where your baby will need feeding. Its definitely an education issue - once you are a parent of a breastfed baby Im sure your opinions will change significantly because at the end of the day its your childs health and wellbeing that matters more than the slight glimpse of a womens breast.

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  • Lulabella1925  |  October 12 2012, 11:29PM

    I am Claire Knowles, the mum featured in the above article. I'd just like to point out, because it seems to be one of the points being commented on most consistently; I was, as always, feeding discreetly using a blanket to cover us, and with the minimum amount on show, which was very little. I'm not one of those "challenge me if you dare" mums with a chip on my shoulder about it, I just thought the reaction of the restaurant was against current legislation, and more importantly, outdated. To be fair, very few people would have even noticed I was feeding, 99% of people would think I was just cuddling my daughter to sleep. Thanks for your support those who have given it.

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  • Faire_La_Moue  |  October 10 2012, 12:30AM

    I used to take a shawl with me when I was breastfeeding, easy to drape over the shoulder and cover my baby creating a bit of security and peace while she fed and allowing other patrons to enjoy their coffee without choking themselves into a frenzy of disgust. This was 19 years ago, so pleased to see times have moved on!

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  • Peter_Parker  |  October 09 2012, 2:55PM

    I love breasts. That is all.

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  • eyeopener  |  October 09 2012, 2:55PM

    @disco2disco Regardless of sentiment your post seems to be based on a wrong understanding of the facts. The article states that women are by law protected in public places such as parks, shops, restaurants, cinemas, sports and leisure facilities, public buildings and when using public transport. Overlooking the fact that this case occurred in a restaurant; a department store is a public building for the purpose of the law. You are entitled to your opinion and even though I disagree with it, I would defend your right to have it. However even if in your opinion a department store has every right to ask the women not to breast feed, the law says different. When the Breathalyser and drink driving laws were first introduced people were outraged. 'Big Brother' was invading their cars, forcing them to give medical samples, and seeking to bankrupt rural pubs to the detriment of 'Olde Englands' established culture. There would be a greater fuss now if any government sought to abolish that legislation. Likewise in time this law will be accepted as only right and proper, and people will wonder what all the fuss was about.

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  • IsitJimKerr  |  October 09 2012, 2:35PM

    adrian2010............it's taken 117 comments for you to come up with the most balanced comment so far....well done. Don't know if you're a Mum or Dad, but it matters not, a really balanced view. The 'breast is best' fascists have pushed it too far in some cases. Yes, it's natural, but as I said many comments ago, it's mostly about intimacy between mother and child, not for the raucous atmosphere of a restaurant in the evening. Yes, on a quiet park bench in the warm sunshine, etc. Well done again.

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  • adrian2010  |  October 09 2012, 1:34PM

    I watched a program once about breast feeding in public. I cant remember what channel but this woman had a huge chip on her shoulder about people with rights of their own allowing them speaking out against breast feeding in public. just like she has rights. Well she pushed it to the limits everywhere provoking an opinion from people and usually she was right. She was just horrid though and then finally she met her match in one of London's art galleries!!!! QUALITY!!! She sat in the middle of the gallery feeding her baby with her usual face of thunder of just you say something and I'll rip your head off. Then this WOMAN security guard approached her and asked if she could use the facilities supplied to feed her child. Well I never the cheek! The mother replied quickly, well you have art showing naked bodies. Her match even quicker replied yeah we also have art showing war, murder and suffering we don't want this in here also so please use the facilities supplied. karma the mother went straight out with her tail between her legs. I have children of my own and breast feeding in public was always done with discretion, as people have stated in a quiet part of the restaurant allowing others with rights and views of their own to enjoy their meals and we also could feed with our rights too and without being the highlight of the restaurant. It comes down to peoples manners at the end, not rights, some people need to except that the world doesn't revolve around them and there are others to think of! In most shopping malls in the US and Australia they have feeding and changing facilities in one and they are great! All mums get together and chat, all the facilities are in there and TV as well for the children its fab.

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  • honslknjklyt  |  October 09 2012, 1:25PM

    Good point disco 2 disco. All the nonesense we hear about be your own boss when someone starts a business, there is so much waffle to go through I wouldn't bother. How do they get on in pubs with smelly old drunkerds letching at the gobbling jellies? Are they supposed to start throwing their regulars out because a woman insists on her rights and has no regard for the embarrassment of others. Embarrassment can make people act nasty too.

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  • disco2disco  |  October 09 2012, 11:55AM

    Why should a business not dictate what its customers can and cannot do in its premises? Its not a public place its a private building that allows the general public to enter on the condition that these people agree to its terms and conditions. So in the case of the department store they have every right in my opinion to ask the women not to breast feed their just as I'm sure the department store would tell myself not to eat in their store either. I certainly did not know that there was legislation regarding this and am now wondering what other laws I could be breaking unbeknown to me!

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