Nigel Farage has sparked anger among Portsmouth mums by suggesting women should be prepared to ‘sit in a corner’ if breastfeeding in public causes offences.
But others have rallied behind the Ukip leader in the row over his controversial views.
Asked to comment on a mother’s protest that she was asked to cover herself up when she started breastfeeding her baby in the restaurant of the top London hotel Claridge’s, Mr Farage suggested mothers could “sit in the corner” in restaurants to avoid offending people.
He insisted it was “not too difficult” to feed a child in a way that was “not openly ostentatious”.
Setting out his views on the subject on his regular LBC radio phone-in yesterday, Mr Farage said: “I am not particularly bothered about it, but I know a lot of people do feel very uncomfortable.
“This is just a matter of common sense, isn’t it? Given that some people feel very embarrassed by it, it isn’t too difficult to breastfeed a baby in a way that is not openly ostentatious.”
He argued it was “up to Claridge’s” what rules it wanted to operate.
Pressed on whether it would be right for a hotel to ask mothers to use the “ladies’ room” to feed, the MEP replied: “Or perhaps sit in the corner, or whatever it might be. That is up to Claridge’s.
“It’s not an issue I get terribly hung up about but I know particularly people of the older generation feel awkward and embarrassed by it.”
But his views were criticised by some visitors to The News’ Facebook page.
Kirsty Bennett said: ‘There is more to be said about the person who has the issue than the mother who chooses to breastfeed.
‘Should you be unfortunate enough to have been brought up so sheltered that the sight of a feeding breast leads you to a level of uncomfortableness that renders your corneas more important than a hungry infant, then you have my pity.
‘I have yet to see a sight more beautiful than a mother innocently nurturing her young.’
Sarah Buckland said: ‘I’ll feed my child wherever they are hungry. You just need to look at top shelves in shops to see boobs. What’s the difference with them being used for what they are meant for?!’
Emma Sautereau asked: ‘Why doesn’t he go and get banished to eating his lunch in the corner?
‘The mother’s choice of where and how she feeds her baby is exactly that - hers.
‘Bottle or breast, shopping centre or her living room, it’s her right to do so. We wouldn’t dream of telling her where she can and can’t bottle feed, why should this be any different?’
Other readers defended Mr Farage’s views, some saying that his remarks had been taken out of context or misreported.
Amy Hopton-Smith said: ‘I totally disagree with the breast feeding should be done anytime, any place, anywhere - I (proudly) breast fed both my children for 11 months.
‘I managed to do this without once sitting in public with my boobs out. I am very comfortable with the whole process, others may not be, so as always it’s about having a little bit of courtesy (& class) & not inflicting your life style choices onto others.’
Elaine Good Johnson said: ‘He said that establishments should have the right to ask a mother breastfeeding to cover up or sit in a corner so as not to offend other customers.
‘I totally agree with him and I am sick and tired of hearing that it is the most natural thing in the world.’
And Dean Bamford added: ‘I personally don’t have a problem with a mother breast feeding in public however some people do therefore I agree that breast feeding mothers should be more discreet.
‘Mothers can also put breast milk into a bottle for when they go out so their babies don’t ‘starve’ as some of you believe they will unless they are breast fed then and there.’
Today mothers planned a mass “nurse-in” outside Claridge’s after mother-of-three Louise Burns complained that the Mayfair hotel asked her to put a napkin over her baby’s head. The demonstration was called for by Free to Feed, which campaigns for the ‘normalising’ of public breast-feeding.
Claridge’s has said it “embraces” breastfeeding, but requests that women are “discreet towards other guests”.
Mumsnet chief executive Justine Roberts said: “It’s bemusing that some people have a problem seeing mums breastfeeding.
“It is of course a natural, essential human process and those with an issue simply need to get over themselves - babies need to be fed when they’re hungry and there’s nothing ostentatious about a mother responding to that need.”
Downing Street left no doubt that David Cameron disagreed with Mr Farage’s comments, saying that it was “totally unacceptable” for mothers to be made to feel uncomfortable when feeding their babies in public.
A Number 10 spokeswoman said: “It’s for Mr Farage to explain his views.
“The Prime Minister shares the view of the NHS, which is that breastfeeding is completely natural and it’s totally unacceptable for any women to be made to feel uncomfortable when breast-feeding in public.”
Posting on Twitter, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “After ‘that’ interview, Nigel Farage should sit in a corner!”
Mr Farage later issued a statement to clarify his position: “As I said on the radio, and as I repeat now, I personally have no problem with mothers breastfeeding wherever they want.
“What I said was - and it is immensely frustrating that I have to explain this - that if the establishment in question, in this case Claridge’s, wants to maintain rules about this stuff, then that is up to them, as it should be.
“I remarked that perhaps they might ask women to sit in a corner. Did I say I believe they should have to? No. Did I say I personally endorse this concept? No.
“We do however have to recognise that businesses have a responsibility to all of their customers, some of whom may well be made uncomfortable by public breastfeeding.
“It’s a two-way street - breastfeeding women should never be embarrassed by staff asking them to stop and most mums will recognise the need to be discreet in certain, limited, circumstances. It is just a question of good manners.”