Women have the legal right to breastfeed in public. Discrimination against breastfeeding mothers, particularly in the workplace, is against EU law. Nevertheless, stories of women being kicked out of cafes and other public places for breastfeeding persist. Likewise, laws protecting breastfeeding mothers are not necessarily applied uniformly across the European Union.

What do our readers think? In several EU countries, breastfeeding in public is still controversial and women may face harassment for it. Kicki blames this type of harassment on patriarchal attitudes in those countries. Is that right?

To get a response, we put Kicki’s comment to Amy Brown, Professor of Public Health, Policy and Social Sciences at Swansea University. How would she respond?

I’d agree with her. There’s research that shows the more patriarchal a country is and the more someone holds views that are quite misogynistic or sexist towards women, the less they like the idea of women having the freedom to breastfeed in public.

If we think about breastfeeding babies, yes, it’s about feeding them, but I would say it’s also about women having rights and women having the power to feed their baby whenever they want, and that’s what some people will disagree with. They don’t like the fact that women are protected by law to do this, and they have an issue with that, rather than necessarily the breastfeeding.

What do legal protections for mothers breastfeeding in public or the workplace look like across Europe? Are they strong enough? What does Professor Amy Brown think?

I think in terms of the legal perspective, the protection is there. I mean, it’s illegal to discriminate against breastfeeding mothers – so it’s illegal to ask them to stop breastfeeding, it’s illegal to ask them to go and feed somewhere else, so you can’t tell them to go and feed in a toilet (because, after all, we wouldn’t eat our dinner in a toilet). The problem we have is that perhaps the law isn’t necessarily accepted or taken seriously, so people still seem to think they can criticise a mother without realising that they’re actually breaking a law; it’s not a recommendation, it’s not a suggestion, it is a law. But there is never really any follow-up for that, so if somebody does discriminate against a mother in public then it’s very unlikely to turn into some kind of court case. There’s no on-the-spot fine, for example, for criticising a breastfeeding mother like there would be for dropping litter or something like that.

I also think we need greater strength around it – so we need greater understanding about why the law is in place (because it’s important for us as a population – it’s not just about the mother) but also greater comeback if it’s broken. I mean, some women are told that they can’t breastfeed in the workplace, and then they have a case for discrimination against their employer, but for just simply breastfeeding in public, it doesn’t seem to be strong enough. It’s there, but it’s not carried through.

How do you feel about breastfeeding in public? Are strong enough measures in place to prevent the harassment of women breastfeeding in the workplace or in public? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: (c) BigStock – vverve

29 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar

    normal the baby is hungry and should be feeding

  2. avatar

    I am sure no men will object to seeing a topless women ..its the women who object the most ..

    • avatar

      Rajesh most men aren’t desperately waiting for a woman to feed her child to see a breast… It’s a beautiful act…and deserves respect

    • avatar

      I feel pity of any person ,male or female, that must be around someone who sees “a topless woman” when a mother breastfeeds.

    • avatar

      dont get m e wrong nothing can be more beautiful sight than a mother feeding her child..i think i am misunderstood here i meant was i have seen and witnessed women objecting when they see other women breastfeeding in public.

    • avatar

      Your anecdotal experience might not be representative of the average. Just because you are a man and are not bother does mean other men would not. Just because you saw women shocked at the act doesn’t mean majority of us are.

    • avatar

      @Rajesh Your language rather betrays your reaction to breastfeeding. Mrs M

  3. avatar

    it should be considered normal.
    breastfeeding mothers must not be harressed.
    It’s rather sad, that this actually needs discussion.

  4. avatar

    I don’t feel anything about it. If people are being harassed or threatened for breastfeeding, the perpetrators should be prosecuted. I think measures should be taken against street harassment in general.

  5. avatar

    It is not a legal right yet but should be and a human right too.
    However feels bothered that is their problem not the child nor the mother.

  6. avatar

    I disagree that it’s “patriarchal values.” It’s prudishness, plain and simple.

    • avatar

      Excuse me what? And why we all have to be prude? Not that I agree that is the matter but, if it’s why would one have to follow prude moral of sorts instead of feeding a baby? Why is the human body such an taboo? Like what is the problem to show whatever body part?

  7. avatar

    It is a natural thing for human beings. I don’t even know why this question or controversy arises … How can someone be offended or shocked by a natural act … only a perverse or perverse person can draw such conclusions. We are in the European Union where family values ​​still exist and where tolerance and understanding must be a normal thing for Europeans.

  8. avatar

    Fewer things are more normal than a mother breastfeeding… How can anyone question it?

  9. avatar

    How do you think demagoguing in public?

  10. avatar

    Just allow the child to feed and respect the mother. Simple.

  11. avatar

    Normal and a good for the baby and the mother

  12. avatar

    My thoughts : “Let’s all mind our own f#*#*@ business”

  13. avatar

    How do you feel about breathing in public?

  14. avatar

    It’s the most natural thing a mother can do…

  15. avatar

    i dont feel nothing because it does nothing to harm anyones life.

  16. avatar

    The same as changing a diaper/nappy in public….

  17. avatar

    Who are these people, I wonder? Why even the question? This may be an issue in the UK and the US, but not in ‘Europe’. Stop polluting the debate!

  18. avatar
    EU Reform-Proactive

    Sorry, but every time the DE/EU comes up with rather political irrelevant issues, different questions arise:

    • Why select issues which are no issues, but individual & private choices of needs, taste & habits? The precarious Covid-19 period requires many restrictions & adaption of how to behave in public- why endanger babies?

    • In 3rd world countries such sight is no issue but born out by circumstances, simple needs & traditions. Although modernity changes even old practices. Progression vs regression?

    • A stage-managed show of young white women breastfeeding in public looks rather ridiculous, unnatural and controversial. Was there a need?

    However- letting the EU MM team (Merkel-Macron) compel & force all taxpayers to state borrow over 390 billion euros in grants & ~250+ billion in loans on their behalf- without a detailed plan or our consent- seem to be no issue for the Eurocrats, but breastfeeding in public is made an issue.

    The consequences of both are diametrically opposite. The one is to create an EU banking union which favours big banks & the elites by over-borrowing- the other a return to rather tribal but harmless traditions.

    Sorry again, but I have no desire to be publicly breastfed by “Princess Europe” to agree with such concept some EU politicians concocted over the last decades. The fist banging Macron is comparable to a shoe banging Nikita Khrushchev.

    Doesn’t the latest EU decision condemn everyone to ever tighter political & banker’s debt & dependency?

    • avatar
      Catherine Benning

      @ EU Reform-Proactive

      I am amazed you were able to get this perspective accepted. Sensible and good thinking as it is. It is very hard to give alternative views on here regarding social issues.

      And getting harder by the day. The fear of alternative opinion is astounding. Globalism is getting uglier, especially against the female.

    • avatar
      EU Reform-Proactive

      Hi Catherine, guess it’s the “AI moderating robots” to deserve acclamation.

      Don’t think they still do it manually. Have you ever noticed the message: “you are posting too quickly- slow down”? Isn’t that an indication the AI program may be unable to decide quickly enough to red flag our comment or not?

      Further- they always ask at the end: “How do you feel? “Let us know your thoughts and comments?” Since they are eager to know- they have to digest our answers somehow. Either adopt them or defend themselves from us- one would never know- would we?

    • avatar
      Catherine Benning

      EU Reform-Proactive

      I have replied a couple of time.

  19. avatar
    Catherine Benning

    How do you feel about breastfeeding in public?

    Good, healthy manners was raised in Europe so as to avoid offending others in their act of privacy. I find it grossly offensive, as to me it is degrading for women to lump out their private parts for social viewing. It shows a lack of self esteem or importance of being a mysterious female. The ladylike thing so despised presently because of political persuasion. This is globalised subjugation, pushing off third world behaviour on Europeans, and I flatly reject it. Both child and mother deserve better than this.



    The most important part of mothering is, teaching a child independence, not teaching him/her dependence. Why would anyone want to submit to this?

    Be careful when an organisation refuses or outlaws an opposing view. If that is done it is because they fear they are losing the discussion not winning it. Otherwise the opposite view would not be seen as so threatening it has to be concealed.

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