Burnley mum’s breast-feeding’ humiliation’

Abbie Stockwell with her 10-week-old son Eric who is campaigning for breastfeeding to be normalised.
Abbie Stockwell with her 10-week-old son Eric who is campaigning for breastfeeding to be normalised.

A young mum is claiming that hospital staff made her feel “humiliated” and tried to remove her from a waiting room when she breastfed her newborn son while attending an appointment.

Now Mrs Abbie Stocker is calling for breastfeeding in public to be “normalised” and for people to accept it as something natural but also essential.

She said: “It is time attitudes changed towards something that is completely natural and what we are designed to do. And also for people to realise it is against the law to stop a woman from breastfeeding in public.

“This is not the first time I have experienced discrimination like this but to face it in a hospital that prides itself on promoting breastfeeding and where I had a fantastic experience in the newborn centre is unbelievable.”

Abbie said she felt disgusted and upset after staff asked her if she would like to move to a private area while she fed 10-week-old Eric during the Saturday morning appointment at the eye clinic at Burnley General Hospital.

Abbie (25)said: “I was feeding Eric in the waiting room and a nurse asked me if I wanted to move to a private room. I politely declined as I am more than happy to feed my son in public. There were about five other people in the waiting room at the time with children and none seemed concerned or made any comment.”

Abbie, who was at the hospital with her baby son to check if he had a genetic eye condition, says that after seeing the consultant a nurse made her wait outside the consulting room in an empty corridor while she continued to feed Eric.

Abbie, who is also still breastfeeding her 27-month-old daughter, Millie, said: “I felt humiliated, like a naughty schoolgirl who had been made to wait outside the headteacher’s office. I was only offered the chance to return to the waiting room once Eric had finished his feed. It was clear the staff were not happy with me breastfeeding in public.”

Abbie and her husband Chris, a paleontologist, live in Oak Street, Burnley. She wrote about her experience on the Birth in Lancashire Facebook page and people have posted comments of support.

Abbie said: “Not only was it humiliating what I experienced but it is against the Equality Act of 2010 which states it is sex discriminiation to prevent a woman from breastfeeding in public.”

She pointed out that statistics from the World Health Organisation show that if every child was given only breast milk for the first six months of their life, and continued to breastfeed up to the age of two, 800,000 lives would be saved every year. “Breast feeding reduces the mother’s risk of contracting ovarian and breast cancer and it also helps to protect the child from illnesses such as asthma and cancer. “This is something that will save the NHS billions of pounds year on year, it is a major issue that affects every single one of us.”

Mums staged a public breastfeed outside London hotel Claridges after a guest was asked to cover up while feeding her baby in the restaurant. Abbie said: “I hope this will not discourage other mums from breastfeeding in public because it is one of the best things you can do for your child.”

Anita Fleming, Head of Midwifery at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “The Trust is a Baby Friendly organisation, having recently reached the 15-year milestone of being Baby Friendly, and we welcome breastfeeding on any of our sites. It’s disappointing to hear our offer of a room to allow Miss Stocker privacy and comfort was misinterpreted on this occasion and we are sorry for any upset that may have been caused. As a Trust we will continue to be supportive of visitors to any of our sites and strive to meet their individual needs.”