What Happens When You Try To Breastfeed In Posh London Establishments?
Unleashing a nipple in public can trigger a wide range of reactions. From Harrods to the Apple Store, how cool are the capital's swanky establishments with breastfeeding on their premises?
When mother of three Lou Burns was ordered by Claridge's staff to conceal her breastfeeding, it ignited a national debate.
But beyond the polarised rhetoric, how do people really respond when you whip out a nipple in public?
Equipped with a baby doll purchased from Mothercare, my friend Estefania Hageman and I went all over town from the British Museum to the Savoy, via the Apple Store in Covent Garden, to see how businesses and the public view breastfeeding in 2014.
1. The British Museum
No one seemed that bothered.
We went to the security desk to ask what the policy was. They said they didn't have one: mothers were free to behave as they pleased. We went back to look at a few exhibits. We received a few glances and stares as the day went on. There was an awkward vibe, but no one seemed shocked or overly troubled.
Verdict: The British Museum is cool with breastfeeding!
2. In the back of a black cab.
Verdict: Individual cab drivers are allowed their own opinions on breastfeeding. There's no rule within the organisation saying they have to allow it.
3. Apple Store
It turned out the manager was a member of the Breastfeeding Network, a volunteer organisation that advises mothers on how to safely and happily breastfeed their babies.
Rather than act on the complaint and telling Estefania to clear off, she stood up for her, telling the customer – i.e. me – that if breastfeeding made him felt uncomfortable, he could leave.
Verdict: The Apple Store is very cool with breastfeeding!
4. The Savoy Hotel
A press officer was dispatched, who compared Estefania to an antisocial, drunken guest.
Verdict: The Savoy will tolerate breastfeeding, but apparently regards it with some distaste.
We reached out to Harrods, asking them if this was in line with their official policy.
This was a spokesperson's response: "Harrods does not seek to prevent women breastfeeding their babies nor ask them to cover themselves while doing so. The issue raised by BuzzFeed we believe was an isolated incident and we are investigating this internally."
It's true that the staff member didn't ask Estefania not to breastfeed. But by asking her to do it in the toilets, he wasn't exactly making her feel relaxed about doing it either. And if this claim on a Mumsnet thread is to be believed, she is not the first person to be told to breastfeed discreetly, in a designated area, by Harrods staff.