Breastfeeding In Public and that Sports Direct Debacle

April 26, 2014



I don’t often get on my soapbox about things – I really don’t. I like to give people and situations the benefit of the doubt, waiting for them to play out before I form opinions or get ranty. Which is what I was doing with a story I read in The Independent yesterday morning.

In a nutshell, a breastfeeding mother was at Sports Direct’s Nottingham store and sat down to feed her son while her husband shopped. Totally innocuous, until a member of staff forced her to leave the store because she was breastfeeding. According to news reports she was left crying on the busy shopping street outside, I imagine feeling embarrassed and trying to feed her hungry baby in the rain.

This is NOT ON in so many different ways.

Firstly, it is illegal for businesses to discriminate breastfeeding mothers under The Equality Act of 2010, so Sports Direct have broken the law. Secondly, the incident was in January and the mother concerned has contacted the store five times with no comment or apology. The story broke in local and national press on Thursday… still nothing.

I loved that I was able to breastfeed Hux, which is exactly what I’m doing in both these photos so Sports Direct might like to AVERT THEIR EYES OMG. I took him everywhere with me, feeding him at the local rugby club, in restaurants, in cafe’s, in shops. It was my right to: if the guy next to me on the bench at Euston station could eat his Gregg’s sausage roll then my baby was going to take a minute to enjoy his lunch, too. Though let’s be honest, my baby’s lunch would have been a whole lot more nutritious.

2b317458bc4b11e1a8761231381b4856_7 But I was always aware that I was breastfeeding defiantly. I kept in mind that there could be some jackass who might challenge what I was doing and I would never have put my breast away without a fight. Actually, I would never have put my breast away: I knew that as a woman feeding her child it was my legal right to do it wherever I wanted at whatever age they were. It’s not a provocative business, every breastfeeding woman I know is fully capable of feeding her child without titillating (excuse the pun) or exposing anything untoward. Lest us forget this is what our breasts are there for, after all. We are mammals and breasts were there long before bottles.

We as a society will never move forward with our collective attitude towards breastfeeding – that it’s wrong to do it in public, it should be kept behind closed doors – until attitudes change. And if one of the biggest clothing retailers in the UK are going so wrong with this then how will the rest of the public learn? It was wrong of Sports Direct to discharge the breastfeeding mother from their shop but it is unforgivable that they have not given an apology or an explanation. As a society that has embraced public urination – I dined opposite a public urinal on Hoxton Square a few weeks ago – how is this show of defiance from Sports Direct still acceptable?

They need to man up, apologise for the embarrassment caused and take a good look at their staff training. And I wonder what will happen the next time a member of their PR team gets challenged breastfeeding a baby in public?

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  • Reply Steph April 26, 2014 at 10:50 am

    I completely agree and so glad you wrote this post as I read that article too and was absolutely disgusted with Sports Direct. Even worse so many commenters actually agreed with them, including some BF mothers, which just shows how it’s becoming the norm to feel ostracised if you choose to BF and to know you shouldn’t feed your baby in public.

    I bet if she had been bottle feeding there would have been no issue – It’s so sad and no wonder so many mum’s don’t feel comfortable bf when you’re forced to feel alienated like this and told to go do “it” in the car or a toilet. It’s a joke. I’ve never had a problem, touch wood, but it does upset me reading these stories as I know how discreetly bf mothers try to be when they’re feeding and to be targeted like that when you’re doing your best and taking care of your baby just makes me so mad. Sorry for the rant haha. Thanks for sharing xx

  • Reply Lizzi April 26, 2014 at 11:18 am

    This completely infuriated me too. I also BF for months but it took me a good few weeks to feel confident enough to feed under a muzzie and months to just whip ’em out and get cracking.
    The reason is irritates me so is that no mother BF in public solely to annoy or offend someone else – I would far rather be enjoying my coffee in Starbucks than be concentrating on latch etc. Being driven inside a shop (and Sports Direct does not rank highly on my happy place list on the best of days) due to rain and screaming, starving infant is one of the most stressful ways to spend your day (especially after what was inevitably a sleepless night involving several hours of feeding and winding). Why would anyone think you would be BF in a less than ideal situation unless you had no other choice? RAH

  • Reply sophie April 26, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    I had no idea it was such a taboo. I haven’t got a child so not sure what I would do, but I most certainly wouldn’t bat an eyelid if I saw a woman breastfeeding, what’s the biggie?!

    Sophie x

  • Reply Hayley Goleniowska April 26, 2014 at 7:28 pm

    Are things getting worse? I never once had a glimpse or disapproving look or tut from anyone when I fed my two in public places, including a fisherman’s pub one lunch time, a wedding reception, public transport, the BMW hospitality tent at a trade show…. I can only assume a childless ignoramus asked her to leave. Of course they might instead have simply offered her a soft chair in a quiet corner to feed in.

  • Reply Liz Burton April 26, 2014 at 9:05 pm

    It’s absolutely disgraceful what this store did.

    I too was a very defiant feeder, always ready for a fight or an argument. However I only met encouraging people, lovely cafe owners who’d magically bring me glasses of water without being asked, people offering me straws so I could drink no-handed and even once had someone offer to cut my food up for me!

  • Reply Steph (@imcountingufoz) April 26, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    Preach it, sister! I breastfed both mine, wherever and whenever the hell they wanted for months.

    Sports Direct, which I affectionately call the Vile Emporium of Doom, should absolutely apologise, quake in their Lonsdales a little bit, and try and put things right. Unfortunately, I suspect the employee in question was barely more than a child themselves and completely unaware of the equality act.

    You know what though, If I worked in a shop, I really can’t imagine asking anyone to leave if I saw them feeding… it just would not occur to me. The gall of some people, honestly.

  • Reply Emilie April 27, 2014 at 12:47 am

    I love this post. I think it has a lot to do with the sexualisation of breasts; we have elevated them to this level where when we see them being used for what they are actually designed for, the world stares open mouthed and horrified. It’s alright for a guy to cum on them in a porn film, it’s totally fine for them to be hoiked up to around your cheekbones in a wonderbra ad but HEAVEN FORBID we see someone feeding their child with one. That’s the real scandal.
    So many women I speak to won’t consider breast feeding because they don’t want to ‘ruin their boobs.’ One 16 year old said, with a straight face, ‘that’s not what they’re there for though.’

  • Reply Susanna April 27, 2014 at 10:13 am

    Some people just don’t get it. That article really made me mad too. x

  • Reply Katie @mummydaddyme April 27, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I must have missed the Sports Direct debacle (head in the clouds anyone?) but having read it via here the actions of their staff and the lack of an apology is downright disgusting. I breastfed both my babies for nearly a year and just over a year and I breastfed in public all the time and never once got even so much as a disapproving glance. Had I done I am probably the type who would have cried and then gone back to give them a piece of my mind. In my eyes if half naked fat hairy men with moobs can walk down the street with no top on, or girls with midriff tops and mini skirts can (Jesus christ how old do I sound?) then surely to god a woman can feed her baby discreetly. People need to get a life and to be honest I think a lot of people have, it’s just the uneducated morons who seem to care.

  • Reply Louise April 27, 2014 at 6:39 pm

    I still feel tearful 21 years thinking about
    having to feed my son in a public toilet in a shopping mall , not having the courage to feed in public . Now working as a breast cancer specialist nurse I am incensed by the comment of above 16 yr old ‘that’s not what they’re there for’ , unbelievable !!

  • Reply Bethanie April 27, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    As a modern society we are constantly bombarded with sexual messages and images. Apparently women have been liberated. It’s totally acceptable to view an airbrushed lingerie model posted across huge billboards or along the side of a double decker bus. But to feed our children in a public place in the way that nature intended – no? The injustice of stories like this one make me so mad!!! I’m not a mum but I do intend to breastfeed when I start a family. Will I have courage to feed my baby in a public place? I truly hope so!

  • Reply Katie April 28, 2014 at 9:01 pm

    A hungry baby is a hungry baby! No one would be snubbed for getting a bottle out! Children are expected to starve because some people are prudish??

  • Reply Molly April 29, 2014 at 11:24 am

    I couldn’t believe it when I read this story. I remember vividly some of the panicked situations I faced when trying to feed F in public. I felt self-conscious and embarrassed, but I think that’s because I was aware of stories like this where mums had been asked to “move on” like they were doing something illegal. As a mum who breastfed until her daughter was 1, I do think there needs to be more acceptance of public breastfeeding, but also more facilities for mums who may not feel breastfeeding in public. When F got to around 5 months she’d regularly bob her head on and off the boob to see what was going on, leaving me trying not to flash to every passing stranger. I found she fed better in quieter, private places (like the breastfeeding rooms at Mothercare) but there aren’t many of these around.

  • Reply Lauranne April 29, 2014 at 2:02 pm

    Shocking, and you’re so right that this is a society thing as a young(ish) who hasn’t had children (yet) i feel like I would have to hide if I am able to go down the breast feeding route and need to feed a child in public.

  • Reply Jade April 29, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    We are still bf at 18 months. Not entirely by choice but I am still happy to be needed :-) Not required when out & about anymore but more of a comfort when at home, bedtime and during the night! I wasn’t afraid to bf in public but I would try to find a room if I wasn’t already sat down in a restaurant /coffee shop etc. I remember having to ask for a chair in BHS from their restaurant as the feeding room (it had a picture of a bottle on the door for pity sake) had nowhere for a bf mother to sit. I had to wedge us in between the door & row of sinks! It really shocks me that it is still so frowned upon. There is no way M would have waited for a bottle to be warmed up so I would rather whip my boobie out then have her screaming the place down which is surely kinder to the other customers & staff?!

  • Reply Honest Mum April 29, 2014 at 7:01 pm

    So sad, what is wrong with people and when will breastfeeding become naturalised. I made this film for Best Beginnings in 2008 as a way to help things get better-you can watch it here:

  • Reply Jenny May 10, 2014 at 8:46 pm

    OMG I can’t imagine what that poor poor mother felt in that moment. I would have made them call the police to remove me and tuck my breast back away. This makes me so angry to hear that in today’s society you still have IDIOTS that can’t handle someone breastfeeding. I mean really it’s just a boob! Get over it and like you said all breastfeeding mothers can pretty much hide their boob with the baby’s mouth if it’s latched on. I fed everywhere all the time. I always prepared myself if anyone even looked at me disgustingly about it while I was feeding I would have something very BIG to say about it. I fed Buba for a year so I got looks all the time in public because he was HUGE for his age he looked like I was feeding a three year old (and some people do) but that’s their choice. My mouth is left open on this one. Good for you to speak out about it. I can’t imagine it was another mother who kicked her out either? Was it a male? I would love to know or a woman that never had kids? Doesn’t really matter thats such BS!!!! My heart really does go out to that woman as then her child was probably hungry and cold and distraught because she had to stop feeding to move outside. Society is pathetic sometimes! Ok sorry rant over. I am with you sista!

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