Haringey mother told to “face the wall” after breastfeeding in children’s library

Breastfeeding campaign group expresses concerns and calls on council for support for mothers

A BOROUGH-wide movement supporting breastfeeding has expressed concerns after one of its members was asked to face the wall when nursing her child in a Haringey library.

The Haringey Breastfeeding Campaign first launched after it was revealed NHS Haringey was axing the post of breastfeeding specialist midwife – leaving the service with just one employee.

Ever since that decision, the group has united to demand better education and funding for nursing services across the borough.

Members were shocked to hear the story of Ayala Ochert, pictured with baby Nina, who was told to be “more discreet” by a staff member at St Ann’s library after breastfeeding her eight-week-old daughter while reading to her three-year-old son in the children’s library.

The group says the story is proof of the lack of understanding and tolerance of breastfeeding and illustrates why better funding is needed.

Ms Ochert was feeding Nina on Monday September 13, with only one other pregnant woman and her young child in the library, and she was using a breastfeeding top at the time.

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She said: “I had finished feeding her and she was asleep when a male member of staff came over to me and asked me if I could be a bit more discreet next time.

“I told him it was against the law to ask me not to breastfeed, but he said, ‘I’m just asking you to be a bit more discreet, perhaps next time you could turn and face the wall’.

“He said Kumon – a child’s tutoring company – would be using the library soon, so could I make a special effort if I wanted to feed her again, to be discreet. I was a bit alarmed at the thought that children should not see breastfeeding.

“Fortunately I am quite experienced in breastfeeding, but I was concerned about what if that had happened for someone who was doing it in public for the first time. It was quite insulting, the implication that you are not being discreet.”

Health campaigner and Haringey Green Party member Sarah Cope, who is part of the campaign, said: “It just serves to highlight why we need to make the Primary Care Trust take notice of the situation, take it seriously and put a budget aside.

“There’s a big problem in Haringey in that there is not a budget for breastfeeding – we’re not campaigning against cuts, there is nothing to cut.

“We are trying to make the business case for breastfeeding – the fact is breastfed babies have better outcomes later in life – and that’s not a controversial idea.”

The Highgate mother continued: “This particular situation really worried me as Ayala was asked to stop breastfeeding by an employee of Haringey Council – if they have not got their act together enough to get the message to their own employees then I’m quite worried.

“Someone who was not as informed might have thought they had done something wrong.

“Nine out of 10 women who stop breastfeeding in the first six weeks say they would have carried on with more support, and part of that support is being able to do it anywhere you want.

A Haringey Council spokesperson said: “We want all our libraries to be places where parents and their children feel comfortable, including mothers who wish to breast feed.

“For mothers who would like private space to breast feed, we will always try to accommodate their request.”