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Asked to stop BFing in Debenhams!!!!

(63 Posts)
hopedance Sun 09-Oct-11 18:19:13

Yesterday a manager in Debenhams, Oxford, asked me to stop breastfeeding, because "this is a public place". Apparently it is inappropriate for me to breastfeed in public.

I explained to her that I wasn't going anywhere until my baby was quite finished feeding, that it is against the law for her to ask me to stop or move, and for details to make a written complaint.

She then called in her manager, who also asked me to stop breastfeeding or move, as it was not an appropriate place for me to breastfeed my baby. I sat and finished the feed, then insisted I was given the address to send a complaint to before leaving.

I was sat in a shoe shop in there (Dune), quietly in a corner out of the way being discreet while my friend tried on shoes. At the suggestion of several people on facebook, I thought it would be quite funny (and make a very good point) if we all descended on Dune and held a breastfeeding sit in.

I've invited anyone with little ones who they are breastfeeding, and anyone who might know others who are breastfeeding so please pass the invite on!

I've suggested next saturday morning as a time (11am), but if nobody can make it, I'll change it.

So who is in?? Check out the face book event page:¬if_t=event_wall

buttonmoon78 Sun 09-Oct-11 18:24:20

I'm not bf anymore (or in Oxford!) but good for you!

Booooooyhoo Sun 09-Oct-11 18:26:45

have you written the compalint aswell? i would be interested to hear their response to it.

TheCornishPickle Sun 09-Oct-11 18:27:18

Unfortunately I don't live in your area but have been tempted to return to Debenhams Metrocentre with a black marker pen - the sign in their parent and baby room/feeding dungeon promotes the baby friendliness of their restaurant saying they even sell 'baby food' (jars presumably) and formula! No mention of breastfeeding being welcomed. So I guess you'd be more than welcome to sit there and publicly feed your baby from a bottle? confused

BelleEnd Sun 09-Oct-11 18:29:10

Bloody shocking attitude. Am lightyears away from Oxford but good luck to you. Invite a few journos too.

fuckityfuckfuckfuck Sun 09-Oct-11 18:29:56

Were you asked to stop or were they simply trying to tell you they had a feeding room and that you might be more comfortable there? I bf in public all over, but tbh I think 'feed ins' do more harm than good for the bfing in public cause. You'll cause a scene, and the wrong kind of one. Just my opinion.

bagelmonkey Sun 09-Oct-11 18:33:50

I'm surprised. I BFd in debenhans in Oxford multiple times this year without any problems. Mind you, I did it in the cafe.

Bucharest Sun 09-Oct-11 18:33:56

Hope you are going to make a formal written complaint.

Hungrydragon Sun 09-Oct-11 18:34:18

I've fed in the Oxford one and the Banbury one, they were both listed on the hospital literature for breast feeding as breast feeding friendly.

The manager was a twat.

Hungrydragon Sun 09-Oct-11 18:34:54

The manager should be aware the store promotes itself as bf friendly.

TastyMuffins Sun 09-Oct-11 18:35:14

Perhaps just inform that according to the 2010 discrimination law it is illegal to ask a mother to stop breastfeeding her child anywhere.

drappel Sun 09-Oct-11 19:39:53

Its the Equality Act 2010 and the relevant page is found here:

Print it out and send it along with a letter of complaint demanding a formal apology from the two managers concerned, threatening to contact head office should this not happen.

PLEASE do not do a sit in, it will alienate breastfeeders and harm your cause further.
Education is far better than being spiteful.

theboobmeister Sun 09-Oct-11 19:41:37


Make sure they get a copy of this leaflet - they were breaking the law and you have the right to sue them in civil court, if you were so minded ...

MustControlFistOfDeath Sun 09-Oct-11 19:45:52

That is shocking, well done you for not being intimidated by them and finishing the feed.

I would definitely make a complaint, the tossers.

theboobmeister Sun 09-Oct-11 19:50:16

Actually, this leaflet is better - it's actually aimed at businesses so spells out what Debenhams duties are - see p.4.

Personally I don't think you should do the sit-in - that's what people do when the law isn't on their side, it sends all the wrong messages (victimhood etc). You are not a victim, you are in the right and the law is behind you! But calling the local media is totally appropriate, given a big local business is blatantly breaking the law. Hit them where it hurts!

Emzar Sun 09-Oct-11 20:01:04

I live in Oxford, and it makes me angry what happened to you. But I tend to think that a sit-in in a situation like this is not the best approach to get a result. What you want is for the staff involved to be told that what they did was wrong, and not to do it again, but with a sit-in I think you risk creating an us-and-them situation, getting yourselves labelled as "those bloody breast-feeding women", and laughed off by the management at Debenhams, rather than bringing about a change.

I think a more effective approach would be to get as many people as possible to write a letter or email, either to Oxford Debenhams, or to head office, repeating what happened, the law on breastfeeding discrimination, and asking for clarification on their policy and possibly for staff training on the issue. I'd certainly be happy to contact them.

hopedance Sun 09-Oct-11 23:53:10

It's really interesting, I've posted this on here,,,, and here is the only site that doesn't think a nurse-in is appropriate! BFing mums all over the country are thinking about having their own Debenhams nurse in from the other forums!

Regardless, there is no way they can laugh us off, because, they have broken the law. I do think the public need to get used to seeing breastfeeding mamas though!

At any rate, I have handed a letter of complaint into the store for the store manager, and sent a copy to the Debenhams head office. If anyone is interested, this is what I wrote:

Dear Sir or Madam,

As a long standing customer of Debenhams, I am very disappointed to have reason to bring a serious complaint to your attention.

On the afternoon of Saturday, 8th October 2011, I was shopping with a friend in the Oxford branch of Debenhams. I was in the shoe shop, Dune, while my friend was trying on boots, when my 4 week old baby required feeding. My baby was born 6 weeks prematurely, and requires very regular breastfeeding with no delays, so I sat out of the way on a couch and discreetly breastfed him.

After some time, I was approached by the manager of Dune, who asked me to stop breastfeeding. She stated that it was not appropriate for me to be breastfeeding my baby in a public place. I explained to her that I would not stop feeding him, as my right to breastfeed in public was protected by law, and she was committing an offence by asking me to stop. I also requested details for making a written complaint. This manager refused to give me the details, and insisted that I did need to stop feeding him or move somewhere else, and that her manager was going to be coming to speak to me about it.

I continued to feed my son, and a few members of the public who had overheard the conversation expressed their disgust that I had been asked to stop breastfeeding.

I was then approached by another member of staff, who identified herself as the floor manager. She told me that because a room was provided on the top floor for breastfeeding, it was not appropriate for me to be feeding in this public place. I explained to her that the room provided is also a nappy changing space, with a nappy bin in, and is often strong smelling and an unpleasant space to be. Regardless of this - provision of this service for mothers who wish to use it does not negate my right to breastfeed in public. She said that if the room on the top floor was not satisfactory, she would find me somewhere else to feed my baby, but that it was not appropriate for me to be breastfeeding sat in my current location. She maintained this opinion, despite my explaining to her that I was completely comfortable feeding there, and pointing out that if I was bottle feeding my baby she would not be treating me in this unfavourable way. She did not dispute this. I reiterated that I was not going to be moving until my baby had finished feeding, and asked again for details to make a written complaint. This address was provided, along with the name 'supervisor', which I can only assume was either her name, or that of the original manager ? it is not clear which.

I am sure you are already aware that my right to breastfeed in public is protected under the Equality Act (2010), and also under the Sex Discrimination Act (1975). I feel that both sexual and maternity discrimination have taken place. I have been offended and upset by this incident, and my confidence in publicly breastfeeding my baby has been undermined.

I have notified and sought support from several mothering and breastfeeding groups in the area, and some nationally via online networking. As a result you may be contacted by other mothers, who are also very offended and let down by the behaviour of Debenhams in regards to this issue. I have been encouraged to notify national and local press about this incident, although I am still undecided as to whether I should do this.

I have identified some steps that you could take to start to resolve this issue. The first would be to issue a written apology to myself, and additionally to all the other mothers who are now nervous to breastfeed in your stores. Furthermore, you could re-educate the managers and other staff in your stores on the law regarding breastfeeding. It would be beneficial to make certain that all those in positions of authority are extremely clear that mothers are protected by law while breastfeeding in public places, and that challenging breastfeeding mothers leaves Debenhams open to proceedings being brought against them in the civil courts.

I look forward to receiving your prompt response,

CointreauVersial Sun 09-Oct-11 23:56:53

Ooooh that makes my blood boil. Good luck, hope you get a grovelling apology.

MollyintheMoon Mon 10-Oct-11 00:10:37

Well done for your letter. I'd be very interested to hear what their reply is.

I agree that a sit-in might negatively reinforce the image of bf mothers as lentil weavers but it's probably worth it just to get up the nose of that manager. grin

Good luck and let us know how it goes.

toobreathless Mon 10-Oct-11 00:24:25

Where you not just in the way of customers trying on shoes? If so then I can see why Debenhams might feel it was inappropriate for you to feed there.

If it was simply because you were breastfeeding (rather than FF) then that is wrong.

However a 'nurse in' is a terrible idea. Breastfeeding is a way of feeding your children, a precious act between mum & baby & should not be degraded to a publicity stunt.

You would be far better to arrange a meeting with the head of the Oxford Debenhams branch & discuss the problems you faced like adults.

josephinebonaparte Mon 10-Oct-11 00:26:51

Perfect letter! Bastards

ChippingIn Mon 10-Oct-11 00:29:03

I can't wait to see what the reply is!

TheBluthCompany Mon 10-Oct-11 07:56:06

If a sit in reinforces negative stereotypes of breastfeeders as 'lentil weavers' then it is these prejudices that are wrong, not the sit in. That's the same argument people use against gay pride marches.

And I dont think it's a 'publicity stunt', surely a sit in is a fairly standard form of protest. It's not wrong to protest just because your view might offend some people. smile

cory Mon 10-Oct-11 08:50:23

Excellent letter!

tiktok Mon 10-Oct-11 09:14:44

I think sit-ins have their place, but not before a letter has been sent with a chance for someone in authority to make a response.

If Debenhams have a policy then their training is at fault and the employee concerned may need to be informed so the same error is not made again.

Why not give them a chance to respond and assure you that this was a mistake which won't happen again?

IMO, sit ins should be reserved for places that have made it clear their official position is to stop mothers bf - it's a tactic that works best when used sparingly.

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