Boobs, tatas, norks. Grown-ups do come up with some childish nicknames.
Whatever you like to call them, to your baby they are simply Comfort. Mummy. And most importantly, Food.
Not long ago, I received an email asking if I knew the best places to breastfeed a baby in Westfield shopping centre. I was happy to report from personal experience that Westfield is breastfeeding kosher, with dedicated areas for milk maidens to unleash the good stuff without reproach.
It’s been a while, but I still recall that first flush of panic about leaving the house with my breast-no-bottle baby. How would I get him to latch on without people staring?
I remember being directed to the loos in Brent Cross at feeding time. Who wants to dine next to the toilet?!
After the first awkward attempts, I became a dab hand at public feeding simply because I had no choice: I had a very large and very hungry baby. I breastfed sitting on chairs in Boots (apparently it’s company policy to offer you a chair if the manager’s office isn’t available!), in pubs, at theme parks, squashed between strangers on planes, even standing on a crowded bus.
Overall I would describe London as a breast friendly city (xxxx million Sun readers would agree!) although just last month a pub in Hampstead actually evicted a breastfeeding mother because, and I quote, ‘people are eating’.
Read all about it in the Evening Standard and gawp at some of the comments.
Frankly, I never really gave two squirts about the occasional odd reaction. I had more flutters over how to nurse my baby when visiting my father-in-law, than I did about what some stranger thought.
Turns out we managed fine because like most mamas, I’d learned to nurse discreetly and my babies’ grandfather respected their need to feed.
Key word: Respect.
A Guide to Breastfeeding in the City
Parent & Baby Rooms
You’ll find these in most of the major department stores along Oxford Street and in large shopping centres. These rooms usually offer a discreet space with cosy seating, although sometimes they’re uncomfortably close to the toilet. Top marks go to Westfield Shopping Centre, Peter Jones, John Lewis, Selfridges and Ikea.
You might not find a dedicated feeding area but at least the staff are likely to be welcoming. Mamas & Papas has a breastfeeding room although I found it stuffy and much preferred to nurse in their Cibo cafe while filling up on smoothies. Mothercare is an obvious choice but not a personal favourite, too busy and way too close to the nappy bins.
Child-friendly Restaurants and Cafes
Thanks to the smoking ban, pubs in the daytime have become a haven for families with many gastropubs offering a kids’ menu and baby-changing. You and your little sucker will be in good company at Islington spots like The Canonbury, the Albion, the Regent, the Draper’s Arms or the Cloudesley. Other popular choices are chains like Starbucks and Costa Coffee, Cafe Rouge or Giraffe. Special mentions go out to That Place on the Corner kids’ cafe in Stoke Newington and brand new mummy/baby club at The Alice House in Queen’s Park.
Parks and Public Spaces
I have fond memories of breastfeeding alfresco on picnic blankets and park benches around town. Most of the big parks also offer cafes where you can relax with a cuppa as baby feeds. Shout out to Highbury Fields, Clissold Park, Regent’s Park, Hampstead Heath, Richmond Park and Kew Gardens. The trick is to act like what you’re doing is perfectly normal (clue: IT IS!) and to wear loose, accessible clothing. I found the majority of passersby didn’t even notice what was happening under my shirt.
Attractions and Museums
In their efforts to be more welcoming to families, a number of top museums and galleries (e.g. Tate, National Gallery, Natural History Museum) have private areas for breastfeeding. If not, you can usually find a quiet corner to nurse undisturbed. You’ll be in fine company as nursing mums are popular subjects in works of art. Barbican Centre is a family favourite and at lunchtime the Clore Ballroom sofa area at Royal Festival Hall is babe-on-booby central.
Do you/did you feel comfortable breastfeeding in public?
What are/were your favourite spots to feed?
Visit Breastfeeding Welcome Scheme for a growing list of public breastfeeding spots around town
Know your rights: read what the law says on Breastfeeding in Public Places
Support the Breastfeeding Manifesto Coalition plan to help mothers exercise their rights to nurse their babies when out and about.
Local campaign: Breastfeeding Welcome in Islington