Breastfeeding in Public's New Champion

Marlyn Glen

12 December 2014

Princess Michael of Kent, a grandmother, has recently followed the example of Nigel Farage and passed comment on an everyday practice in motherhood .

She was reported in the media recommending that mothers should not breastfeed in public, that it was “a dreadful practice”,  and that  “ my nanny said it was disgusting”

The leader of UKIP declared his support for the position taken by posh Claridge’s Hotel (where at the moment they are offering a Festive Afternoon Tea menu  at £75 per person.)

Claridge’s had advised a  breastfeeding mother she should “cover up” and that she could “perhaps sit in the corner”

Mr Farage said that while he was “not particularly bothered” about breastfeeding in public , that it was “up to Claridge’s, and I very much take the view that if you’re running an establishment you should have rules.”

He has aspirations to be an MP and must be aware that others before him who became MPs  will swiftly dismiss his view that rules could oblige mothers to “perhaps sit in the corner”

Harriet Harman, the deputy leader of the Labour Party, breastfed in Parliament, and according to the “Daily Mail” of the day, “caused a stir by breast-feeding in the Commons, before going into the division lobby to vote while still cuddling her baby. “

She was not the first either.

Helene Hayman was the first MP to do so as far back as the 1970s, breastfeeding her child  between votes.

Through the Breastfeeding Manifesto, Harriet Harman, has emphasised the benefits that breastfeeding can bring  to mother and child.

Breastfeeding isn’t new.

It has been around as long as there have been women.

Artists in former eras regarded it as a signature expression of motherhood, and for the religious, the paintings of the Madonna depicted breastfeeding were to be seen as divine approval of the act.

But attitudes changed - and then in recent years they have changed again.

In 2010 the story behind the headline :

“Vatican calls for more artwork showing Mary breastfeeding Jesus”

revealed that the Vatican were asking artists to help restore pictures of the Virgin Mary breastfeeding because, in the past, many paintings showing a bare-breasted Madonna had been  considered objectionable 

The Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano reported that since the 17th century, artists started covering up the Virgin because of complaints about  “carnality and unbecoming nature of many sacred images”

Then, earlier this  year, the present Pope Francis  broke new ground by encouraging women to breastfeed in Church , saying :

“If they are hungry, mothers, feed them, without thinking twice, because they are the most important people here.”

So today breastfeeding in public has a new champion.

The benefits of breastfeeding are many, and the promotion of breastfeeding in public helps to spread that message.

It helps both mother and child and so has a public health benefit.

It means that breastfeeding is a normal event, and so mothers should not be made to feel degraded by doing so.

One person’s “disgust” or “embarrassment” is another small person’s necessity.


*As an MSP, Marlyn was a supporter of the Breastfeeding etc. (Scotland) Act  passed in 2005 which makes it illegal to try to prevent a mother feeding a child ( up to two years old) in a place accessible to the public.

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