Cafe owner sparks 'nasty' backlash after telling breastfeeding mother to 'cover up'

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A cafe owner at the centre of a "nasty" backlash after she told a breastfeeding mother to "cover up" has defended her actions.

Francesca Truss approached the unnamed mother, who was breastfeeding her three-week-old baby, and asked her to "cover up" as she was "embarrassing" an elderly customer.

Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

The mother, who does not wish to be named, said she was left "extremely embarrassed and mortified", and left the cafe soon after.

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But Ms Truss defended her actions, stating customers "needs to realise there are other people around".

Ms Truss, who runs The Kitchen on Silver Street in Ilminster, Somerset, said: "I wouldn't have gone out of my way to upset or hurt her, that wasn't my intention.

A mother breastfeeding her baby

A mother breastfeeding her baby

"I was trying to look after all of my customers. Just because someone feels uncomfortable it doesn't mean they are nasty."

The anonymous mother went to The Kitchen on Silver Street last Thursday and took to the cafe's Facebook page the following day to share her experience.

She wrote: "I was really shocked after the way I was treated when visiting this cafe yesterday.

"I met a friend for coffee and was breastfeeding my three-week-old baby when I was asked to cover up so as not to embarrass the other customers.

"It was made out that the old gentleman in the corner was embarrassed.

"But when he left and we questioned the owner this wasn't the case at all, it was the owner that had the issue with me breastfeeding.

"I was told that I need to remember it's a 'generational thing'.

"I'd like to add I was being as discrete as possible and even wear layers to enable me to do this.

"I was the one that was left feeling extremely embarrassed and mortified. We promptly finished up and left."

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The mother added: "This is normally such a friendly welcoming place, so I was extremely disappointed with this attitude, especially in this day and age."

Since the incident, a number of people have taken to social media to condemn the cafe as "not child friendly".

Ms Truss claims she has been the subject of 'disgraceful' social media comments, including people threatening to come and "squirt milk on her" in protest.

She says she would never ask someone to stop breastfeeding, but admits asking her to cover up to prevent an elderly customer feeling embarrassed, despite the man not saying anything about it.

Under the Equality Act 2010, a business 'cannot discriminate against mothers who are breastfeeding a child of any age'.

A mother also does not have to cover up if she doesn't wish to.

But Ms Truss said: "I didn't know it was against the law.

"There was an elderly gentleman who looked uncomfortable, so I asked her if she would mind covering up.

"They asked me why, then she pulled her top down and it was fine.

"I did tell her it was a 'generational thing', but that doesn't make it right.

"Now I have been called every name under the sun. They have been so nasty.

"I didn't mean to upset her, that wasn't my intention."

Ms Truss says she has a lot of elderly customers to cater for and that young mothers don't often come in.

She said: "They need to realise there are other people around."

Across Somerset, efforts are being made to make the county a welcoming place for breastfeeding, as it has been made a public health priority by Somerset County Council.

A scheme called Positive About Breastfeeding has been set up to help promote the benefits of feeding a baby in the 'most natural' way.

The group feels progress will be made not by shaming people or businesses, but by working to tackle the misinformation surrounding the subject.

Emily Hutt, health promotion manager, advocates that "breastfeeding improves health".

She said: "By supporting the increase in breastfeeding prevalence, we are going some way to reduce inequalities experienced by some groups within the population.

"It is the right of the mother to choose how, and where to feed their baby.

"We would encourage everyone in Somerset to respect the choice of the mother/family and to be sensitive to the challenges they may be facing as a parent.

"This may be with regards to infant feeding or anything that could present itself when transitioning into parenthood."

Businesses across Somerset can join the scheme to show they are 'positive' about breastfeeding by signing up to the Positive About Breastfeeding scheme.

The scheme promotes families rights, aims to increase the awareness of the population and encourages informed choice.