Mother in plea for breastfeeding law

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The Independent Online

Margaret Mikkelsen, 30, said England should follow the example of Scotland which introduced a law last November making it a criminal offence to deliberately obstruct breast or bottle feeding in a public place where children are allowed.

She was on a tour of the palace in south-west London with her family and relatives, who were visiting from the US, when her six-month-old daughter, Stella Faulkner, became hungry.

She sat down and was feeding the child discreetly when a female warder came over and directed her to the mother-and-baby room. "She suggested quite strongly that I should move. I didn't want to leave the tour and my family so I had sat down where I was so I could catch up with them quickly."

Ms Mikkelsen complained to Historic Royal Palaces, which runs Hampton Court, pointing out that no other visitors had objected.

Historic Royal Palacesreplied: "All visitors should have their chests covered when inside and although the policy is more usually applied to men on hot summer days, it is a general rule.

"We have many visitors of all ages and nationalities who find women breast-feeding either offensive or an unwelcome distraction.

"The mother-and-baby room is the only area of the palace where we can guarantee privacy for the mother and child and where they will not disturb any visitors."

But yesterday, however, a spokeswoman said staff had misinterpreted a policy that nursing mothers should be shown where they could breastfeed in privacy as a ban on doing it in public. "It appears this warder was a little over zealous. The incident has highlighted a practice that has grown up but it is not our policy."

Mary Newburn, of the National Childbirth Trust, said a recent poll showed 84 per cent of the public had no objection to women breastfeeding in public.

The Scots law preventing harassment of mothers who breastfeed in public was introduced as a public health measure to promote breastfeeding. Ms Mikkelsen said a similar law was needed in England.