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Breastfeeding in public – what’s the law and what rights do new mothers have?

Breastfeeding in public – what’s the law and what rights do new mothers have?

Breastfeeding is one of the most natural processes in the world, and mothers should be able to feel comfortable feeding their babies whenever - and wherever they want.

But are there any laws when it comes to breastfeeding in public? What rights do mothers have - and are there any restrictions?



What's the law on breastfeeding in public?

In fact, it's protected under the Equality Act 2010 for as long as you wish to breastfeed (there is no age restriction) and covers all public places from parks and leisure facilities, to public transport, shops, restaurants, hotels and cinemas.

Director of Maternity Action, Rosalind Bragg told BT: "...Some women cover up while breastfeeding, some don’t...The law protects women’s rights to breastfeed in public places, but this is not widely known. Maternity Action continues to hear from women asked to move on or cover up when they are breastfeeding in public places, often from shops and cafes providing services to families.

"There shouldn’t be a debate whether women should be covered while breastfeeding. People who are uncomfortable with the sight of breastfeeding should just look away. Their discomfort is their problem."


Are there any exceptions?

According to Citizen's Advice, it is lawful for a service provider (e.g. a restaurant owner) to treat you differently if there are valid health and safety concerns.

They state: "The service provider must reasonably believe there’s a risk to your health and safety if the service was provided to you. And it’s only lawful if they would also treat someone with other physical conditions - for example, someone with a back condition - differently for health and safety reasons."


What rights do new mothers have?

A survey by Start4Life revealed 72 per cent of people support women breastfeeding in public, and the Equality Act 2010 states that it is discrimination to treat breastfeeding mothers differently.

In fact, it's illegal for anyone to ask a mother to leave a public place because she's breastfeeding.

Discrimination includes refusing a service, providing a lower standard of service, or providing a service differently.

If you are discriminated against, Maternity Action recommends first making a complaint to the organisation or service provider.

They advise: "If you cannot resolve the matter you can bring an action in a county court in England or Wales or a Sheriff 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."

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