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Mum forced to wear "ridiculous shroud" while breastfeeding in Claridge's

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Claridge's hotel is under fire after it told a mother breastfeeding her 12-week-old baby in their restaurant to cover up.

Louise Burns, 35, burst into tears after staff at the luxury Mayfair hotel ordered her to hide her daughter Isadora beneath a giant napkin.

The mum-of-three, who was having an afternoon Christmas tea with her mother and sister, said she was left feeling shocked and humiliated after waiters dashed over and told her it was hotel policy to use a "ridiculous shroud" to disguise the fact that she was breastfeeding.

She tweeted a picture of her without the napkin and with one, saying: "SO much more obvious with it than without! Such a shame I can never go back."

"Very discreetly, I started to feed her," recalled Louise, in an interview with the BBC. "Almost straight away the waiter came over and he knelt down beside me and said very politely, 'Excuse me, but policy at Claridge's is that we ask breastfeeding mothers to cover up.'

"My initial reaction was to burst into tears, I felt completely humiliated. I felt I was doing something right and natural and the best thing for my baby. I was being discreet and considerate of other guests at the hotel. I felt like it was quite an upsetting thing to ask me to do."

"I have three children and this is the first time I have been able to breastfeed properly," she added. "Women are under so much pressure to breastfeed and it is not always easy. I did not expect to be made to feel I have done something wrong.

"My first reaction was to walk out, but my mum had organised it especially and it had been planned for three months. But I was appalled and told the staff I really did not feel I would ever be able to go back there."

The incident happened on Monday in the tea room of Claridge's. After seeing how upset Louise was, the restaurant manager came over and apologised but "did not back down", despite there being no complaints from any other diners in the room.

Finally, after the baby became distressed underneath the napkin, staff agreed that she could breastfeed without it, as long as there were no complaints from other guests.

Louise is married to actor Nick Burns, best known for the comic character Nathan Barley in the Channel 4 sitcom.

He re-tweeted her original message on Monday and the complaint was quickly picked up, as Louise was inundated with messages of support and outrage:  



In a statement, Claridge's said that it "embraced" breastfeeding.

"We are saddened to see what is being discussed and we feel we need to clarify that breastfeeding is of course embraced at Claridge's," a spokeswoman said.

"All we ask is that mothers are discreet towards other guests."

The 2010 Equality Act makes it unlawful for a business to discriminate against a breastfeeding woman. It means women can't be asked to stop breastfeeding or service be refused. 

Louise said the team had been polite and apologetic throughout - she suspected they felt bad about it - and she's since been overwhelmed by the support she's received on social media. But she said the "Victorian" policy meant she would not return to the hotel.

 "I felt so awkward," she said. "They said they were very sorry and wanted to see me back there, but I was so appalled by my treatment. I was not out there with my boobs out. I was so discreet one of the waiters did not even realise I was breastfeeding.

"It was supposed to be a lovely day but it was set off on such a bad note. It was so upsetting."

What do you think? Should mums be able to breastfeed wherever or whenever they please? Or is discretion required in certain circumstances? Let us know your thoughts on the issue in the comments section below

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