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If you don't like it, don't market to mothers, says Lisa Williams

Shame on businesses that shame breastfeeding

A couple of months ago I was asked to do a round-up of the best travel gadgets for family travel. While researching it, I came across an app called Feedfinder. It uses GPS and user reviews to let mothers find friendly places to breastfeed wherever they are. Steph88 says of Gymboree Surbiton, for example, ‘This is the perfect place to go and feed your baby. Baby changing facilities are fantastic and their site is so comfortable and clean.’

How marvellous, I thought, and I duly contacted the developers – researchers at Newcastle University – to ask for more information for my story: specifically, if they had any plans to expand into Europe.

Then, I stopped myself.

It dawned on me that, of course it’s not going to expand into Europe because there’s no need to expand into Europe. Because people in Europe aren’t so uptight about breastfeeding that mothers need A SPECIAL APP to work out where to go so they can feed without offending people.

I thought of this app today, when I read about how the Marriott Hotel Regents Park had attempted to ban women taking their children to Water Babies swimming classes from feeding them on the poolside. Quite rightly, when told by Water Babies that they needed to change and feed their babies somewhere more discreet ‘to ease congestion poolside’, they kicked up a stink, rallying support on Facebook mums’ groups, and taking their story to local newspaper the Ham & High.

I wonder whether, if these mothers had checked Feedfinder before they’d so shamelessly fed their babies before or after class, they would have found the entry, ‘Better not, girls, they find breastfeeding a bit gross and indecorous here and, when they try to ban you from doing it and are called out for it, they’ll mumble, try to pass the buck, and ultimately try to blame the decision on crowd control.’

Shame on the hotel for making money from hiring out the pool to Water Babies but stopping short of letting the women attend to their babies’ needs while they are there. And shame on Water Babies for making money from selling swimming lessons to mothers but allowing the Marriot to impose such a silly rule.

Babies are dependent little beings who poo and vomit and need feeding. If these things are not palatable to you or your business then you shouldn’t attempt to make money from them. If there was a specific issue, such as dirty nappies being left around, then complain about that – of course – but banning breastfeeding and changing nappies is so prudish it’s embarrassing.