Row after breastfeeding mum told to cover up in Harrogate bar

Jem Henderson with her baby boy
Jem Henderson with her baby boy

A Harrogate mum was left ‘in tears’ after a row erupted over her breastfeeding in a town centre bar.

Jem Henderson, 30, was approached on Facebook by the owner of the Blues Bar on Montpellier Square and told to ‘cover up’ when breastfeeding her three-month-old son at the bar.

The Blues Bar in Harrogate. (Picture by Chris Berry)

The Blues Bar in Harrogate. (Picture by Chris Berry)

Mrs Henderson claims bar owner Sharon Colgan threatened that she would be asked to stop visiting the bar, where she has been a regular for 12 years and even held her wedding reception there, if she failed to adhere to the request to cover her breasts because it was offending customers.

In a message Ms Colgan said: “Jem, I have been meaning to chat with you. Was going to wait until tomorrow but this evening had a call to ask us to have a quiet word.

“I am asking you politely to have some discretion whilst feeding. I have myself breastfed my four children so I know how important this is for your child. We have no problem with you feeding but we are asking you politely to cover your breasts while feeding.”

Mrs Henderson replied: “It is actually illegal for you to ask me that. I struggle with breastfeeding enough and getting a good latch. I don’t need the added trouble of doing it under a cover. Sorry.”

Harrogate mother and writer Jem Henderson and her three-month-old baby daughter.

Harrogate mother and writer Jem Henderson and her three-month-old baby daughter.

The row escalated and resulted in Mrs Henderson telling the bar owner she was ‘in tears’ over the situation.

After the messages were posted on Mrs Henderson’s blog, the story went viral with hundreds of people commenting on Facebook.

Mrs Henderson told the Advertiser: “I am not after a witch hunt. I’m sorry that this couldn’t have been resolved with a simple apology from the Blues Bar after they were made aware of the law.

“I agreed with their request to be covered with a scarf and they then continued to make me feel wholly unwelcome.”

She added: “Breastfeeding is normal. Breastfeeding is healthy. There needs to be a realisation that the people complaining about it are the issue, not the mothers and not the hungry babies trying to get fed.”

A spokesperson for the Blues Bar said: “We don’t have any problem with breastfeeding, we just ask people to be discreet that is all.”

Owner Simon Colgan said: “We tried to handle the situation delicatly, we had over 25 complaints from customers and staff about her not covering up after the baby was fed in the last week before we approached her about it.

“She is a crusade against authority. We’ve never had to ask anyone to be discreet but her and we have had a lot of women breastfeeding in the bar before.”

The NHS says that surveys show the majority of people don’t mind women breastfeeding in public and that the Equality Act 2010 has made it illegal for anyone to ask a breastfeeding woman to leave a public place.