For something that’s one of the most natural things in the world, breastfeeding is causing quite a lot of controversy and debate these days. Most recently, it was actress Olivia Wilde, who appeared in US Glamour magazine breastfeeding her son Otis. Cue lots of headlines, newspaper articles and social media debate (the horror, imagine, a mother using her breasts for what they were designed for and NOT just to titillate men!?)
The latest story involves clothing brand Anthropologie. Los Angelian Ingrid Wiese Hesson was escorted off the shop floor of a Beverly Hills branch of Anthropologie into a bathroom in order to breastfeed her child. Having just spent $700 in the store on Breastfeeding friendly clothing, Hesson sat down on a chair at the back of the store to feed her six week old son. Moments later, a manager approached her and said;
“I’m here to escort you to the ladies room where you can finish feeding your baby. I thought you and the other customers would be more comfortable off the sales floor; we must be fair to all the customers, not just moms”
Not only has Anthropologie experienced a social media backlash with customers stating they’ll be boycotting the shop, it also appears to have infringed Hesson’s legal rights. The California Civil Code provides;
“Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a mother may breastfeed her child in any location, public or private, except the private home or residence of another, where the mother and the child are otherwise authorized to be present.”
Here in the UK, we have a similar provision. The Equality Act , which came into force in 2010, states 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. 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, neither a shop assistant, a restaurant owner nor anybody else, can ask you to stop breastfeeding or refuse to serve you because of it.