Young Mother Accused of 'Indecent Exposure' for Breastfeeding 6 Week Old Baby on a Bus
Posted Feb 25 2010 12:00am
Here we go again - yet another disgraceful example showing how breastfeeding women are often (mis)treated in the UK:
A young mother was thrown off a bus and accused of indent exposure after breastfeeding her hungry six-week-old daughter.
Amy Wootten was travelling home with Emily when the driver threatened to call the police if she didn’t get off at the next stop.
The 25-year-old was left ‘humiliated’ after being forced out into the rain with her baby and made to pay for a taxi to complete her journey.
She was ordered off the Bristol First bus after the driver said a complaint had been made on the busy 4.30pm route.
Ms Wootten, who was on her way home to Stockport from Bristol city centre on Tuesday when the incident happened, said: ‘The bus driver told me someone had said I was indecently exposing myself and said stop or get off my bus.
‘It was like he was suggesting I was doing horrendous things. But I was being quite discreet about it.
‘I couldn't believe it. I explained that I was only feeding my baby and not exposing myself and the driver said “can you get off my bus please”.
‘We were told to get off the bus, in the rain, at a stop without a shelter and I was still a 20-minute bus ride away and couldn't have walked home.
‘I felt completely and utterly humiliated because it was a packed bus.’
Miss Wootten, who relies on bus travel as she cannot drive, said no passenger raised concerns directly with her.
‘If I hadn't fed her, Emily would have screamed and we would probably have had more complaints from people on the bus,’ she said.
‘I was showing a tiny bit of breast, but is it any different to showing your arm or your foot?
‘I was absolutely horrified but more cross for my baby girl.’
The learning support assistant said she has breastfed Emily on buses before and although another passenger had made a comment there had been no reaction from the driver.
It comes despite a national campaign encouraging mums to breastfeed because of the protective effects on them and their children.
An initiative in Bristol sees restaurants, cafes and other public places signing up to show they welcome breastfeeding mums.
It was also the first city in the country to complete one of the stages for the Unicef Baby Friendly award.
After complaining to First, Miss Wootten received an apology and was sent flowers and gift vouchers.
She said: ‘I would like them to have a bit of tact and compassion.
‘I have really struggled breastfeeding Emily and had so many problems but was determined to do the right thing for her.
‘It just makes you really reluctant to feed in public.
‘Emily is my first baby and it is only in the last two weeks I have had the confidence to feed her in public rather than sitting in a feeding room.’
First spokesman Karen Baxter said drivers would be given guidance to prevent similar incidents happening.
She said: ‘We are aware of the incident that occurred on Tuesday evening and have already expressed our sincere apologies to Miss Wootten for the distress caused as a result of it.
‘We have launched an investigation into exactly what happened.
‘As a company we accept that breastfeeding mothers have the right to feed their children when they are hungry, and understand that from time to time it may be necessary to do this while travelling on the bus.
‘We have already taken steps to ensure that this message is communicated to all our staff, so that similar issues do not arise in future.’
The breastfeeding development manager for NHS Bristol, Nicki Symes, said: ‘There are about 200 venues around the city that welcome breastfeeding.
‘We have not approached transport providers as part of the scheme but it is something we will need to do.
‘I feel very sorry for this mother, as we support a woman's right to breast-feed in public.
‘It is really disappointing that this has happened and I would be happy to speak to the bus company about their policy.’