Mass 'nurse-in' targets Claridge's
Mothers are to stage a mass "nurse-in" outside Claridge's hotel today to protest over an incident in which a woman was asked to cover herself up when she was breast-feeding in the restaurant.
The demonstration is being organised by Free to Feed, which campaigns for the 'normalising' of public breast-feeding.
Mother-of-three Louise Burns complained that the Mayfair hotel asked her to put a napkin over her baby's head.
Claridge's has said it "embraces" breastfeeding, but requests that women are "discreet towards other guests".
Ukip leader Nigel Farage became embroiled in the row yesterday, suggesting mothers could "sit in the corner" in restaurants to avoid offending people.
He insisted it was "not too difficult" to feed a child in a way that was "not openly ostentatious".
Setting out his views on the subject on his regular LBC radio phone-in, Mr Farage said: "I am not particularly bothered about it, but I know a lot of people do feel very uncomfortable.
"This is just a matter of common sense, isn't it? Given that some people feel very embarrassed by it, it isn't too difficult to breastfeed a baby in a way that is not openly ostentatious."
He argued it was "up to Claridge's" what rules it wanted to operate.
Pressed on whether it would be right for a hotel to ask mothers to use the "ladies' room" to feed, the MEP replied: "Or perhaps sit in the corner, or whatever it might be. That is up to Claridge's.
"It's not an issue I get terribly hung up about but I know particularly people of the older generation feel awkward and embarrassed by it."
Mumsnet chief executive Justine Roberts said: "It's bemusing that some people have a problem seeing mums breastfeeding.
"It is of course a natural, essential human process and those with an issue simply need to get over themselves - babies need to be fed when they're hungry and there's nothing ostentatious about a mother responding to that need."
Downing Street left no doubt that David Cameron disagreed with Mr Farage's comments, saying that it was "totally unacceptable" for mothers to be made to feel uncomfortable when feeding their babies in public.
A Number 10 spokeswoman said: "It's for Mr Farage to explain his views.
"The Prime Minister shares the view of the NHS, which is that breastfeeding is completely natural and it's totally unacceptable for any women to be made to feel uncomfortable when breast-feeding in public."
Posting on Twitter, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: "After 'that' interview, Nigel Farage should sit in a corner!"
Mr Farage later issued a statement to clarify his position: "As I said on the radio, and as I repeat now, I personally have no problem with mothers breastfeeding wherever they want.
"What I said was - and it is immensely frustrating that I have to explain this - that if the establishment in question, in this case Claridge's, wants to maintain rules about this stuff, then that is up to them, as it should be.
"I remarked that perhaps they might ask women to sit in a corner. Did I say I believe they should have to? No. Did I say I personally endorse this concept? No.
"We do however have to recognise that businesses have a responsibility to all of their customers, some of whom may well be made uncomfortable by public breastfeeding.
"It's a two-way street - breastfeeding women should never be embarrassed by staff asking them to stop and most mums will recognise the need to be discreet in certain, limited, circumstances. It is just a question of good manners."