Where are the most breastfeeding-friendly locations in the UK?
When it comes to newborns, breastfeeding is one of the best ways to keep the little one healthy and ensure they get all the necessary nutrients to protect against diseases, infections and even allergies. Over lockdown, 600,000 babies were born in the UK, and yet, despite this joyous and momentous occasion, many new mothers still face discrimination when breastfeeding in public.
Breastfeeding in public is a popular topic of debate. Of course, the need to feed your child in public is vital but plenty of new mothers often feel worried and uncomfortable doing so. Because of this, we decided to research where the most breastfeeding-friendly locations are in the UK, as well as the most breastfeeding-friendly counties. We’ve also included tips and advice on how to feel more comfortable breastfeeding in public, what your rights are and what to do if you are discriminated against.
According to our research, we found that the top three most breastfeeding-friendly locations are Middlesborough, Southampton and Redcar.
How we defined the most breastfeeding-friendly locations?
To find out where the most breastfeeding-friendly locations in the UK are, we scraped breastfeeding welcome scheme.org, analysing 1,048 venues and restaurants across the UK to determine which were the most welcoming to breastfeeding mothers. This was based on the number of accommodating venues that take active steps to ensure mothers are comfortable and respected when breastfeeding out of their home.
Where are the most breastfeeding-friendly counties?
North Yorkshire takes the top spot as the most breastfeeding-friendly county, with 300 accommodating locations. Wiltshire followed this closely, with 222 breastfeeding-friendly locations, and Hampshire with 172 locations. London and Greater Manchester also made the list in the 4th and 5th position.
Where are the most breastfeeding-friendly London Boroughs?
In London, the most breastfeeding-friendly boroughs include Wandsworth as the number one spot with 64 welcoming locations, Southwark with 40 locations and Lambeth with 16 locations. Interestingly, Kensington and Chelsea, a highly-visited and desired London Borough, had only two accommodating locations for new mothers.
What makes a place breastfeeding-friendly?
With only 39% of mothers with babies aged 4-6 months old feeling comfortable enough to breastfeed when out, what exactly makes an area breastfeeding-friendly and how can cities or establishments make their facility a more welcoming place for new mothers? Firstly, any cafe, restaurant, or venue which displays the ‘breastfeeding welcome’ pink and white sticker is a clear indicator that you are free to breastfeed your baby without worrying what others will think.
Emma Pickett, Lactation Consultant and Breastfeeding Counsellor with the Association Breastfeeding Mothers also says “the most important thing is that your staff are trained. Staff need to know what a breastfeeding family might need and understand the value of breastfeeding and why it’s something that’s worth being supported. If staff have any cultural or religious issues around nudity, then talk that through with them and make them aware of why that isn’t incompatible with breastfeeding or support. You may also find that younger staff aren’t very confident around breastfeeding so giving them an opportunity to have training would be ideal.”
Training around breastfeeding in any workplace is vital and, as Emma says “there should also be a workplace policy that talks through your approach to breastfeeding. This is particularly important if another member of the public was to challenge the parents and how the staff member can react in the situation. Do they understand what their requirements are and that they are supposed to support the breastfeeding family, not the customer making the complaint. Training will give employees confidence to deal with any issues that may arrive.”
What does the law say about breastfeeding in public?As of 2010, The Equality Act says that it is discrimination to treat a woman unfairly because she is breastfeeding. This means that any service provider, which includes most organisations that deal directly with the public, as well as higher education facilities, must not discriminate, harass or victimise a woman because she is breastfeeding.
According to the law, an act of discrimination includes refusing to provide a service, providing a lower standard service or providing a service on different terms. So, for example, a cafe owner or worker cannot legally ask you to stop breastfeeding or ask you to move or cover up. They also can’t refuse to serve you either. For as long as you wish to breastfeed your child, the law protects you from this discrimination.
According to Emma, it’s important that “cities and councils do what they can to make people aware of the law. Everywhere has to be breastfeeding friendly. And, anywhere a mum or a breastfeeding parent can be with their baby, you are required to support breastfeeding.”
Where can women breastfeed, according to an expert?
It may come as a surprise to some to learn that women can safely and freely breastfeed in many places. This includes protection against discrimination in public places, such as parks, sports and leisure facilities, public buildings, and public transport. You’re also protected in shops, restaurants, hotels, theatres, cinemas and, of course, hospitals.
However, there are also a few places where it is not against the law to prevent a woman from breastfeeding. Single-sex spaces and services for men, for example, where only one sex is either allowed or needs the service more than the other, can exclude women and breastfeeding. It’s also not against the law to prevent a woman from breastfeeding where there are health and safety risks, such as being near to certain chemicals or radiation.
What can the public do to help breastfeeding mothers feel more comfortable?
When it comes to the public doing what they can to help breastfeeding mothers feel more comfortable feeding their baby in public, Emma suggests that “sometimes the best way to help is by not reacting, it doesn’t need to be a thing. They’re there feeding their baby just like you’re there having a cup of coffee. Half the time, people don’t even know someone is breastfeeding a baby.”
New mothers, especially those who have become parents during Covid-19, are likely to feel vulnerable to mental health problems. Emma says that “reaching out to others and connecting with friends is a very important part of surviving the postnatal period”. And, if you’re wanting to visit a coffee shop and breastfeed in public, here are some expert tips to help you feel more confident.
“Sometimes, it’s a good idea to do a bit of practice before going straight to a cafe:
- Feed in front of a mirror.
- Ask a friend to record you breastfeeding.
Ask yourself what you actually see when you’re feeding your baby. Not much.
- If you want to use a scarf or cover, you can practice using that at home if it makes you more comfortable.
- If you want to look at the type of clothing you use, sometimes it can also be helpful to wear a hoodie and two loose vest tops - one to pull up and the other to pull down.”
Knowing your rights and what to do if you are discriminated against breastfeeding?
If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of being discriminated against while breastfeeding in public, there are several things you can do to remedy the situation and raise awareness. First of all, if you’ve been asked to stop breastfeeding, to cover up or refused service, you can make a formal complaint to the company. You can also complain about how you may have been treated by any other customers or members of staff. In your complaint, state what happened, when and who was involved. Then, outline what you would like to happen next, either an apology or a commitment to providing staff training in breastfeeding rights to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
If you are unhappy with your complaint response, you can take your case to a county court. Of course, this is the more expensive option, and you must start the case within six months of the day the discrimination happened. If you win the case, you can be offered compensation.
To show your support for breastfeeding in public and represent the intimacy shared between you and your child take a look at Magenta Flowers breast milk jewellery as the ultimate baby keepsake.