A CAFE has come under fire after the owner asked a breastfeeding mother to ‘cover up’ for fears it was making an elderly customer ‘uncomfortable’.

A mother and her three-week-old baby visited The Kitchen on Silver Street, in Ilminster, to meet a friend for coffee.

The mum, who does not wish to be named, began to breastfeed when she claims she was asked to cover up.

She said: “It was made out the old gentleman in the corner was embarrassed but when he left and we questioned the owner this wasn’t the case at all, it was the owner that had the issue with me breastfeeding.

“I was told I need to remember it’s a ‘generational thing’.

“I was being as discreet as possible and even wear layers to enable me to do this.

“I was the one that was left feeling extremely embarrassed and mortified. We promptly finished and left.

“This is normally such a friendly welcoming place so I was extremely disappointed with this attitude, especially in this day and age.”

Since the incident occurred, many people have taken to social media to condemn the cafe owner’s actions, leaving Facebook reviews the cafe is not ‘child friendly’.

But owner, Francesca Truss, has defended her actions, saying she needs to look out for the comfort of all of her customers.

She claims she has been the subject of ‘disgraceful’ social media comments, in which she says people have threatened to come and ‘squirt milk on her’ and protest.

She says she would never ask someone to stop breastfeeding, but she admits asking her to cover up to prevent an elderly customer feeling embarrassed, despite the man not saying anything about it.

Under the Equality Act 2010, a business ‘cannot discriminate against mothers who are breastfeeding a child of any age’. A mother also does not have to cover up if she doesn’t wish to.

“I didn’t know it was against the law,” Ms Truss said.

“There was an elderly gentleman who looked uncomfortable, so I asked her if she would mind covering up, they asked me why, then she pulled her top down and it was fine.

“I did tell her it was a ‘generational thing’, but that doesn’t make it right.

“Now I have been called every name under the sun. They have been so nasty.

“I didn’t mean to upset her, that wasn’t my intention.”

Ms Truss says she has a lot of elderly customers to cater for, and that young mums don’t often come in.

She added: “They need to realise there are other people around. Just because someone feels uncomfortable it doesn’t mean they are nasty.

“I wouldn’t have gone out of my way to upset or hurt her.

“I was trying to look after all of my customers.”

Across the county, efforts are being made to make Somerset a welcoming place for breastfeeding, as it has been made a public health priority by Somerset County Council.

A scheme called Positive About Breastfeeding has been set up to help promote the benefits of feeding a baby in the ‘most natural’ way.

The group feels progress will be made not by shaming people or businesses, but by working to tackle the misinformation surrounding the subject.

Emily Hutt, health promotion manager, said: “Breastfeeding improves health and by supporting the increase in breastfeeding prevalence, we are going some way to reduce inequalities experienced by some groups within the population.

“It is the right of the mother to choose how, and where to feed their baby and we would encourage everyone in Somerset to respect the choice of the mother/family and to be sensitive to the challenges they may be facing as a parent, regarding infant feeding or anything that could present itself when transitioning into parenthood.”

Businesses across Somerset can join the scheme to show they are ‘positive’ about breastfeeding.

Ms Hutt added: “Positive about Breastfeeding is a sign up scheme which promotes families rights, aims to improve health through addressing social norms and increases the awareness of the population and encourages informed choice.

“The scheme criteria is straightforward; implement the policy, display your welcome sticker advertising your sign up to the scheme and provide a breastfeeding welcoming environment. In return, SCC will publicise the setting on its website and through family health and social services.

“SCC is proud to be positive about breastfeeding.”

For more information on joining the scheme visit healthysomerset.co.uk/breastfeeding/.