Breast-feeding British mother 'told to leave council headquarters because she would offend Muslim visitors'
By JR on Thursday, July 14, 2011
A mother was ordered not to breastfeed her baby in public because she was in a ‘multicultural building’. Emma Mitchell, 32, was about to feed 19-week-old son Aaron when a receptionist at a town hall warned her to stop.
Last night Mrs Mitchell condemned council staff, saying it was time people recognised the law which allows nursing mothers to breastfeed in public.
‘It was just awful. I felt humiliated, intimidated and guilty through the whole thing,’ she said. ‘What I was doing was one of the most natural things a mother can do. You hear everywhere that breast is best for your baby, so why wouldn’t I be allowed to do that?’
The incident occurred when Mrs Mitchell, from Oldham, was in the Citizens’ Advice Bureau in Oldham Civic Centre. The mother of two was asking about hiring a babysitter for her two boys when Aaron became hungry and started crying. She then asked the receptionist if she could use a corner of the room to feed him, but she refused, saying it was a ‘multicultural building’.
Mrs Mitchell, who is married to Neil, 43, a lorry driver, said: ‘She then rang the manager who told me that I couldn’t breastfeed here and to go into the shopping centre’s public toilets instead.
‘A member of the complaints department came down and spoke to the receptionist. ‘But she then told me that I had caused an uproar. I just asked to be allowed a place to feed my crying baby.’
Michelle Booth, 38, a friend who was at the civic centre, said: ‘I don’t understand. It’s political correctness gone mad when they’re worried about offending people of other cultures over something so natural.’
Under UK law, mothers can breastfeed in public under the provision of goods, services and facilities section of the Sexual Discrimination Act, whatever the age of the baby, in places such as council buildings, cafes, restaurants, libraries and doctors’ surgeries.
Last night councillor Shoab Akhtar, of Oldham Council, said: ‘We fully support the right of mothers to breastfeed their children and actively encourage it due to the long-term health benefits it provides. ‘Mrs Mitchell’s disappointing experience has highlighted the need to make all our staff fully aware of our policy and our legal requirements.
‘Staff will be trained in the coming days to ensure this never happens again, and we will be contacting Mrs Mitchell to apologise. ‘Staff should make every reasonable effort to assist a mother’s need to breastfeed, whether she requests the use of a private room or otherwise.’