Wednesday 21 February 2018

'She’s turning me off my dinner' - Mum describes shock at verbal abuse for breastfeeding in restaurant

The mother-of-one was 'shocked' by the incident

Liz and her daughter Evie
Liz and her daughter Evie
Amy Molloy

Amy Molloy

A woman who was breastfeeding her 11-week-old baby in a city centre restaurant says she was verbally abused by three other women.

Liz Skelcher (31) was feeding her daughter Evie when a group of women sitting opposite her commented loudly.

“There were a few swear words which I won’t repeat, but one of them loudly said ‘I don’t want to look at her t*ts when I’m eating my dinner – that’s disgusting,’” Liz told Independent.ie.

Ms Skelcher was out for dinner last Thursday in Nandos in Victoria Square in Belfast with her mother-in-law and her partner, Clare.

She says she was shocked by the incident, particularly as Nandos is a ‘breastfeeding friendly’ restaurant and the women were aged in their mid-twenties.

Liz’s partner questioned whether there was an issue and claims one of the ladies became quite aggressive, stating “she’s turning me off my dinner”.

“I told them that my baby was just having her dinner in the same way as I was, so she didn’t take kindly to that.

“She became aggressive and started swearing, saying it was disgusting and that there was a time and a place and we were putting her off her dinner.

“I had just taken a load of verbal abuse off this woman and asked the manager could they find them another table,” she added.

Liz says the group refused to move, which resulted in a bit of a “stand-off”.

“I’ve never had that kind of reaction before. I have felt slightly wary about breastfeeding in certain places, but I’m always discreet when I do it. There are special types of bras and tops that you can use without overly exposing yourself.”

Explaining her decision to speak out about the incident, Liz says there is no specific legislation which protects women who breastfeed in Northern Ireland and that needs to be highlighted.

Belfast Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA), Claire Hanna, is calling for legislation to be implemented.

"Breastfeeding mothers and their babies are protected by legislation in the UK and Ireland, but there is no specific protective legislation in Northern Ireland," she told BBC’s Talkback.

"Part of the problem is that those young women aren't seeing other women breastfeeding in public enough in Northern Ireland. There's a cultural and attitudinal problem that needs to be addressed."

In the Republic of Ireland, protection for mothers’ breastfeeding in public is provided under two of the nine discriminatory grounds covered by the Equal Status Act (2000).

Also, Section 9 of the Maternity Protection (Amendment) Act 2004 says women in employment who are breastfeeding are entitled to take time off work each day in order to breastfeed.

When asked if the experience will deter her from breastfeeding in future, Liz says it has had the opposite effect.

“It has actually made me more defiant. The next day I went to a café and asked would it be okay to breastfeed, and the woman looked at me like I was crazy for thinking that I couldn’t.”

A spokesperson for Nandos says the company is currently compiling an official statement in response to the incident.

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