Mothers and Babies are not allowed to be discriminated against on the grounds of breastfeeding. Their access to businesses and services is not allowed to be restricted. It's not complicated. It really isn't.
The vast majority of the British public don't wrinkle an eyebrow when a baby is breastfed out of the home. But it's the small minority who grab the headlines and give new mothers the wrong impression they will face discrimination. In my 7 years of breastfeeding, I have fed all around the world - on planes ,trains, mountain-sides, cafes, doorsteps, bus stops - and not ONCE have I ever received a negative comment or glance or been asked to stop. The response has either been warm and supportive or indifferent.
Some mums find breastfeeding in public uncomfortable whether or not they might have to deal with an unfriendly comment. They may be struggling with latch and positioning, be feeding an older wriggly child, or feel self-conscious about any glimpses of their post-partum body they might flash to others. For these mums, the offer of a feeding room can make all the difference. It's really not hard for a business to provide one simple room with the right kind of chair and a door. It doesn't need fancy Winnie the Pooh murals or even nappy changing facilities (toilets work for that). A small cafe or business almost always has an office with a chair somewhere even if a separate room cannot be created. We don't mind a bit of stock sitting in the corner of the room and we don't need it fancy. Just clean and the space to sit down. All businesses need is a warm smile and a bit of imagination and THEY will benefit.
To put it simply, mothers have money to spend. We are a powerful consumer force. The Guardian reported this week that the average family spend £5,213 during the baby's first 12 months. This is a vulnerable time for the British High Street. With a tiny bit of effort - the purchase of a couple of Ikea chairs and a bit of paint - that £5,213 is there for the taking. If retailers fail to use a bit of imagination, fail to educate their workforce about the legal rights of mothers and babies, THEY will lose out. Because online shopping with a cup of tea, bit of daytime telly and baby snoozing nearby is an attractive proposition. The postman brings the parcel and noone has to faff around looking for somewhere comfortable to breastfeed.
Breastfeeding rates continue to rise. If UK retailers and businesses don't understand how to harness this powerful consumer market, they will be the ones to suffer.