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Breast feeding in public...

(36 Posts)
rhio78 Sun 01-Dec-13 14:44:03

Right, so I was just in John Lewis Cardiff with my family in the food hall where I was breast feeding my 11 day old baby. I know they have breast feeding rooms but to be honest who wants to be sat in a dull, tiny little room on their own staring at the wall for 40 minutes when you can discreetly (under a muslin cloth) feed the baby as part of a sociable atmosphere whilst enjoying a coffee with your family. I am not the most comfortable with breast feeding in public and of course would much rather be in the privacy of my own home. I am having some difficulty with feeding my baby at the moment as I have inverted nipples. For this reason I am always sure to be well covered as I am very self conscious about people seeing my breasts.
So, imagine my horror when I notice one of the young male waiters staring at me whilst I'm trying to latch my daughter on to feed. Not only that but he then quickly went over to another young male waiter and gave him a nudge and told him to have a look too. If that wasn't enough he then called over a third boy and said something along the lines of 'there's a woman over there with her tits out' along with an air punching fist gesture and an exaggerated 'YES!' This staring a whispering went on for some time with lots of slow walking up and down past my table whilst trying to have a good old look. The first waiter then went into the kitchen and then shortly after a manager appeared in the doorway and looked straight over at me so I can only imagine he'd told his manager there was a breast feeding woman in the food hall. It was at this point I started wondering whether I was actually doing something wrong.
When I had finished feeling my baby I decided to ask to speak to the manager. I started with 'As you're aware I was just feeding my baby at that table' to which he said 'Yes I am'. I told him what had happened and that I felt very uncomfortable to which he replied 'Well, I think the staff were concerned as we do have a breast feeding room that you can use and people do tend to complain when you choose to do it in here'. I told him I didn't want to use the room and I wanted to be in a sociable environment to which he replied 'Well, it does make people feel very uncomfortable'. I told him I thought it may be a training issue and that his staff should be taught to expect it to which he said 'Well I can have a word with the staff but I can't do anything about the customers staring I'm afraid'. The funny thing is that none of the other customers batted an eyelid, just his staff. I was quite shocked and upset and his response and still am. He didn't even apologise on behalf of them. Not what I expected from a family store and a company such as John Lewis. I love John Lewis and have always thought the staff there to be amazing on customer service and customer care. I feel annoyed and to be honest put off breast feeding there in future. As far as I'm aware it's not against the law is it? What sort of people complain about this?? Funny that no one would have pointed or stared or complained if I'd been feeding my baby powdered cows milk from a plastic bottle but the most nourishing, healthy and natural breast milk from a....SHOCK HORROR...naked boob well that's another matter!! Maybe if there wasn't a room where you had to hide this dirty act away that more women would have to feed in public and then people could get more used to it? Maybe if John Lewis spent more money on staff training instead of bear/hare cartoons I wouldn't have been made to feel so uncomfortable. I bet that bear was breast fed at some point in his life anyway and I bet his bear mum got her big hairy, milky bear nipples out and did it right in the middle of the forest where everyone could see!
Not quite sure what to do about this next. Obviously want to contact the store to complain. I'm so angry...grrrr...

DollyShouldHaveDumpedStiva Sun 01-Dec-13 14:45:35

Definitely complain, that is not on.

Jenijena Sun 01-Dec-13 14:48:03

Please complain. I know bfing groups who have met in JL so definitely odd!

dyslexicdespot Sun 01-Dec-13 14:48:24

Please complain!

PacificDogwood Sun 01-Dec-13 14:48:55

I hope you complained.

It's v unusual for that to happen - I have BF 4 of mine in public over the years and have never been stared at. I've seen people notice and then v quickly avert their gaze, but that's it.
I would've thought that teenaged boys would have been more likely to be mortified at the thought of somebody BFing grin.

JL has good customer service - it'd be worth making contact with them.

PacificDogwood Sun 01-Dec-13 14:50:10

It's a shame that an unpleasant experience like that has brought you to MN. Welcome!

TarkaTheOtter Sun 01-Dec-13 14:51:27

I would write to jl hea office customer services team with exactly what you described in your post as you have explained it very articulately. I think all of them including the manager require retraining on this issue. It is a massive customer sevice failing. I expect they'll give you a massive apology.

AuditAngel Sun 01-Dec-13 14:53:58

I understand why you are angry. I made a decision when I had DS that I would feed him where he needed to be fed (in restaurants, the pub, on a train, walking down the road...... You get the picture) I didn't use a muslin as DS hated it covering him.

I would contact John Lewis, tell them what you have told us, especially the manger's attitude and see what they have to say. (I had an issue a couple of years ago with a JL driver and they were very apologetic and dealt with it swiftly)

I was once feeding DS in the park on a bench, while 2 little old ladies were on the next bench. As they left one came over to me I thought I'm in for a lecture now and said how lovely it was for hrs now to ave the freedom to feed out in the sunshine rather than hidden away.

I would write or email.

lilyaldrin Sun 01-Dec-13 14:56:54


The young waiters' behaviour was completely unacceptable and obviously the manager encourages it.

nickelbabe Sun 01-Dec-13 15:01:59

oh most definitely complain.
his staff need training, but the manager himself not only needs training but also needs to be pointed to the law, whicvh clearly says you're not allowed to tell a breastfeeding woman that she mayn't breastfeed anywhere that is practicable.
and so what if customers stared? (which they didn't) it's your right to breastfeed and if they'd moaned, his role would ne to get rid of them not you!

complain comlain complain

nickelbabe Sun 01-Dec-13 15:06:19

some useful information

lanbro Sun 01-Dec-13 15:18:26

That's awful! Write a strongly worded email.

I bf anywhere and everywhere! I even feed sitting at the bar in our local otherwise I would have to sit on my own and miss all the conversation! The clientele are mainly men and they often don't even realise I'm feeding. Anyone who is bothered by bf in public is an idiot!

worsestershiresauce Sun 01-Dec-13 15:18:37

Complain. It sounds like you were unfortunate enough to have experienced young weekend staff who are still in the phnar phnar stage of life. I am sure JL head office would be horrified and will apologise to you and address the staff problem. I have always found JL customer services extremely good, and I am sure their central policy is to treat bf-ing mothers with respect.

I hope it hasn't put you off.

muddylettuce Sun 01-Dec-13 15:24:28

Oh my god. Complain please! This is AWFUL. I go into John Lewis just to use their feeding room if I'm shopping and have been quite impressed but you are by no means limited to breastfeeding there, you can and should be able to feed anywhere. X

rhio78 Sun 01-Dec-13 15:34:41

Thanks for the support. Just sent an email to JL's saying pretty much what I said in my post. I'll let you all know their response. Yes, I did find it strange as I breastfed my first for 13 months and never experienced anything like this!

ILoveCwtches Sun 01-Dec-13 15:48:52

I'm appalled. I regularly visit that store but usually use the feeding area as dd is so easily distracted that feeding her in a cafe is getting more and more difficult. Glad you have complained. If I was to choose to feed in their cafe, I would hate to think that to add to trying to latch a wriggly, nosy baby, that I would also have to watch out for ignorant staff!

Will be watching out for their response.

AnythingNotEverything Sun 01-Dec-13 15:54:26

What a disgraceful occurance. I look forward to their response - please do post back.

I had almost the opposite experience in our local M&S recently. The cafe has been refurbished and now has a maître d' and they were brilliant, even finding me a seat right by the queue to feed while we we're waiting for a table, and the taking my pram to the table for us. Polar opposite!

steeking Sun 01-Dec-13 16:01:58
send them this . Its about time we left the Victorian age.

Felyne Sun 01-Dec-13 16:09:57

Definitely complain. You were in the right, and you handled it brilliantly.
Don't let that one bad experience put you off feeding in public (not that you've hinted it would), there more women who do it the more normal it becomes.

clairikins Sun 01-Dec-13 18:45:55

It's not against the law. But according to the Equality Act (2000) they are not entitled to treat you differently for NIP. Complain. The manager is an arsehole. Yes they have rooms to use if YOU want to use them and if YOU would feel more comfortable doing so. How YOU feed your child is your concern, not theirs.

tracypenisbeaker Sun 01-Dec-13 18:56:48

Just wanted to give you my support and a sneaky placemark to see what the response is

I'm truly shocked, I can't believe this backward attitude exists. Strike that, actually- it's not really backward as I'm sure when cave-women breastfed their neanderthal kiddies noone batted an eyelid...

PacificDogwood Sun 01-Dec-13 20:15:19

Love the poem, steeking, thanks.

happydaze77 Sun 01-Dec-13 21:41:50

That's so sad OP. I was going to post a link to Hollie's poem too. Do complain.

jane1995 Sun 01-Dec-13 23:44:13

thats absolutely ridiculous! there seems to be all of a sudden people taking a dislike to breast feeding, im a young mother most of my friends are around the ages 19-23 and when I told them I was breast feeding there would often be awkward silences, its ridiculously immature surely youd want to give the best form of protection for your baby! my mother in law even baught me a big box of baby bottles, sterilizer and formula when I told her I was pregnant with out even asking what method of feeding I was doing, seems just less and less people are breastfeeding as time goes on.

MistressofPemberley Mon 02-Dec-13 10:25:58

That is tragic. I've always maintained that if people's lives really are that sad that a breastfeeding woman is worth perving over, I feel very sorry for them!
Looking forward to hearing the response.
FWIW I rarely feed in family rooms. It's much more sociable in the cafe/bar/restaurant. No bloody wonder BF rates are so low if people are made to feel so humiliated.

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