After the recent news regarding Louise Burns’ experience whilst enjoying afternoon tea in the Luxury hotel in Mayfair, Claridge’s have experienced a backlash, with mums net, and various people taking to twitter and the internet to express their distaste at the situation.
How can people possibly reach the conclusion that this experience is about anti-breastfeeding? The NHS states that ‘breast is best’ and no one is arguing with this fact. Ms Burns was not asked to stop, just politely asked to be discreet. Claridge’s have a duty of care to all their guests to ensure that everyone has a pleasant experience in their hotel. Many people, like Ms Burns have come to Claridge’s to enjoy afternoon tea, and being in a five star hotel, this is likely to have come at some cost. They merely asked Ms Burns to be discreet, not to stop. Claridge’s have ultimately done the best thing for their customers who are enjoying a treat with family and friends and don’t want to see a woman with her breasts out. A beautiful process as it may be, it does make some people feel slightly uncomfortable, and Claridge’s are just looking out for the majority of their customers.
The seating in Claridge’s is quite close and compact, so if a woman was breastfeeding at the next table from you, you couldn’t help but notice it. British people are used to keeping their heads down, so although many people may have felt uncomfortable, they may have chosen to keep themselves to themselves and not to make a fuss in order to avoid any confrontation.
There is a time and a place for these things. Ms Burns was in a very formal place and knew that her baby would need feeding, so why would she not bring a shawl or blanket to cover up? Do women in the twenty-first century really feel totally at ease breastfeeding in front of everyone in a public place? It was not as if her baby needed feeding on public transport, in which case it would have been hard to be discreet. But in this case, could Ms Burns not have asked to use the cloakroom or go to another area for a few minutes? She was not asked to do this but only asked to cover up. Claridge’s were simply following their policy in regards to breastfeeding.
Many people believe only what they want to hear, and jump on the bandwagon, but let me reiterate that Claridge’s did not ask Ms Burns to stop, or even to go elsewhere. Breastfeeding is a beautiful process but people can be made to feel slightly squeamish and uncomfortable, and many people who have paid a lot of money to enjoy afternoon tea do not want to see this taking place.
Breastfeeding is bonding time between mother and baby and so wouldn’t the mother want a quiet and private place to breastfeed? Staff at Claridge’s are very accommodating and would have happily taken Ms Burns to a private area. The fact is, they didn’t ask her to do this, nor did she feel the need to. Therefore when the staff asked her to be discreet, Ms Burns should have happily obliged.
Ms Burns has been described by certain people as being an exhibitionist. She was happy breastfeeding in public but when asked to be discreet she suddenly becomes distraught? She claims that she was made to feel uncomfortable. But what about the majority of other people, who although probably wouldn’t have said anything because they understood the situation, may still have been squirming in their seat and made to feel slightly uncomfortable? Claridge’s have a duty of care to the rest of their customers and simply implemented their policy.
There was a time when hotels had different rooms for men and women. In the twenty-first century, we look back at these times with disgust and a touch of amazement. The fact is, Ms Burns was not asked to leave or to sit in a separate room; she was merely asked to cover up in a more discreet way and that too, in a polite and courteous manner by the waiter, as stated by Ms Burns herself.
Claridge’s drew further attention to Ms Burn by covering up the area with a napkin; but isn’t a five star establishment that has a policy of discretion when it comes to things like breastfeeding entitled to follow it? Many people, women but men in particular would not feel comfortable seeing a women breastfeeding in open view whilst they are having afternoon tea with friends or family so for the good of the many, she should have obliged.
Most rational people have no problem with a woman breastfeeding in public. Neither did this establishment which asked Ms Burns very politely to cover up and be discreet. Those who are critical of Claridge’s may be unaware of the full story and may just be reacting to the news about a women breastfeeding in public being made to feel uncomfortable.
It has been argued that Ms Burns is looking for her five minutes of fame. Such a big deal has been made about such a little issue, and many people have taken to saying that Ms Burns was wrong for creating so much drama, and should have just adhered to the hotel’s policy and covered up. After all, how could Ms Burn get so sensitive about the issue? Claridge’s staff were well within their rights to have a word with Ms Burns as they felt that this was for the benefit of the majority of their customers. They were wrong though, to give her a £75 voucher as they did not do anything improper, however it can be understood that they did this to gain good press and to show that they value every one of their customers’ experience at the hotel. But is this issue really worth making the British news? It’s not as if Ms Burns was prevented from breastfeeding and no discrimination took place.
Clearly it is worth it, as people have expressed their differing views on the matter on a variety of social platforms and the incident is evoking strong debate from everyone who feels strongly about the issue. The thoughts and questions raised in this article are those that have been put forward on these platforms, social media sites etc., and have been written with the aim of provoking some lively, well-mannered debate on the matter, so please feel free to respond and add your comments in the section below.