Your rights while breastfeeding in public

Breastfeeding woman cafe

Have you ever felt uncomfortable breastfeeding in public? You're not alone – but here's why there's no need

The UK has some of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world – and many women report being made to feel uncomfortable about breastfeeding in public. This is despite it being against the law to treat a woman any differently or unfavourably while she is breastfeeding.

A new survey has just asked women which public spaces they feel most comfortable breastfeeding in. Most say the great outdoors – but 17% say they still felt uncomfortable breastfeeding at the park, and 16% say the felt uncomfortable at the beach.

The survey, conducted by Lansinoh, also found that the over 65s are the age group most accepting of breastfeeding in public – and men are more comfortable than women.

In 2015, 776,950 babies were born in the UK. Yet just 0.5% of UK mums are breastfeeding their newborn at 12 months, despite recommendations from the World Health Organisation to continue breastfeeding into the baby's second year. When Mumsnet surveyed over 1000 women earlier this year, “difficulty” was one of the main reasons women had stopped by six weeks.

Is it illegal to force women to stop breastfeeding in public?

If you do continue to breastfeed, remember that the Equality Act passed in 2010 states that it is against the law to treat a woman differently or unfavourably if she is breastfeeding. This law applies to anyone who is providing “services, benefits, facilities and premises to the public, public bodies, further and higher education bodies and association”. Therefore, if a mother is breastfeeding in a cafe, she cannot be asked to stop or cover up.