'Humiliated' mother forced off bus for breastfeeding

By James Woodward,Press Association
Thursday 25 February 2010 13:21

A bus company apologised today after a "humiliated" young mother was told to get off a bus in the rain because she was breastfeeding.

Amy Wootten, 25, was travelling home from Bristol city centre on the busy bus when her six-week-old daughter Emily needed a feed.

The driver pulled up the number 54 First Bristol bus and asked her to stop, saying that a passenger had complained.

When Ms Wootten refused, he instructed her to step off the vehicle, despite the weather.

Ms Wootten, a learning support assistant, took an £8 taxi for the rest of her journey home to the Stockwood area of the city.

The driver told her she was "indecently exposing" herself and a fellow passenger had objected, but Ms Wootten insists the feed was discreet.

First Bristol, which operates the bus, offered its "sincere apologies" today for any distress caused and accepted it was sometimes necessary to feed onboard.

The company has since sent flowers and a gift to Ms Wootten, who had to leave the bus at 4.30pm on Tuesday in Wells Road.

Ms Wootten, who does not drive, said she only plucked up the courage to feed Emily in public in the last fortnight.

She told the Bristol Evening Post: "I felt completely and utterly humiliated, because it was a packed bus - if I hadn't fed her, Emily would have screamed and we would probably have had more complaints from people on the bus.

"I was showing a tiny bit of breast, but is it any different to showing your arm or your foot?

"I have really struggled breastfeeding Emily and had so many problems but was determined to do the right thing for her. It just makes you really reluctant to feed in public."

She has fed Emily on buses before and while another passenger passed comment, there had not been the same reaction from the driver.

NHS guidelines encourage women to breastfeed because of the health benefits.

Nicki Symes, breastfeeding development manager for NHS Bristol, said there were around 200 venues in the city that welcome breastfeeding. Participating places ask complainers to move, not the mother.

Ms Symes said today: "We have not yet approached public transport companies but in the light of this awful incident, it is something we will do.

"Often it is just one person within a large organisation that thinks it is OK and acts unilaterally. Most breastfeeding is done very discreetly and just looks like cuddling. From what I hear, this sounds very shocking. It is a view in a very small part of our society."

First spokeswoman Karen Baxter said the incident was a mistake by one driver. Staff would be given guidance to prevent similar incidents happening.

She said today: "We deeply regret the incident which was caused by one individual driver's actions and we have already expressed our sincere apologies to Ms Wootten for the distress caused as a result of it.

"We have launched an investigation into exactly what happened.

"As a company, we fully support a woman's right to breastfeed in public and understand that when travelling with a small child it may be neccessary to do this on the bus.

"We have already taken steps to ensure that this message is communicated to all of our staff."

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