Page last updated at 23:18 GMT, Saturday, 5 July 2008 00:18 UK

A chair to aid breastfeeding in public

By Jane Elliott
Health reporter, BBC News

Nicola Hart
Nicola's chair is designed to make breastfeeding more comfortable

Mothers are always being told that breastfeeding is best, but many complain that they are not really encouraged to feed their baby in public.

Some shops and cafes have designated feeding areas, but others banish feeding mothers to the toilet areas, claiming other diners might be offended or embarrassed by them feeding their babies.

Now a student believes she might have the answer to the problem - a specially designed and discreet breastfeeding chair.

Her design, due to be showcased at a "New Designers" exhibition in London, coincides with the news that when the Equality Bill becomes law it will state that women have the right to breastfeed their babies in bars, restaurants and cafes.

This will ensure that no-one is allowed to stop women breastfeeding their children in these places.

Gaining privacy

Nicola Hart, aged 22, from Orpington, Kent, and a student at De Montfort University (DMU), came up with her design after watching a programme about the problems faced by breastfeeding mothers.

Usually the 'breastfeeding room' is a baby changing room with dirty nappies and a chair that isn't comfortable or practical
Claire Hadjipetrou

"Although breastfeeding is encouraged by medical professionals, many women decide against it for a variety of reasons and one of the deciding factors is they believe they can't breastfeed in public places, often due to poor facilities, lack of confidence and other people's negative reactions.

"It [the chair] not only provides a good breastfeeding posture which is comfortable and supporting, it also takes into consideration other people's attitudes in relation to breastfeeding in public and helps keep it discreet using privacy wings.

"The chair's high back provides good back and neck support while providing an ergonomically sound posture. The low-cushioned arm rests and wide seat provide plenty of room for the mother and baby," she said.

The chair also has a foot rest for shorter users and an in-built table.

'Subtle differences'

Nicola canvassed a number of women at a local breastfeeding group and said mothers told her they had received shoddy treatment at some cafes.

Claire Hadjipetrou, co-leader of La Leche League Leicester, said she thought Nicola's idea was very innovative.

Breastfeeding mum. Photo Credit: Bsip, Astier, SPL
Breastfeeding mothers want privacy

"Usually the 'breastfeeding room' is a baby changing room with dirty nappies and a chair that isn't comfortable or practical.

"This looks like a chair that is designed to be seen in public - where breastfeeding mothers should be! All around us, discreetly feeding their hungry babies," she said.

"It is a great idea - it caters for the breastfeeding mother in several ways - a table for the essential drink the mother needs whilst feeding during early days; it offers the opportunity to feed discreetly with the 'wings' shielding mother from passers by; and has somewhere for the mother to rest weary feet.

"The colour is great too - a bright cheery pink.

"Breastfeeding can be fun too," she said.

Stuart Lawson, senior lecturer in product and furniture design at DMU said Nicola's product was an "intelligent piece of work" based on good practical research.

"She has ended up with a chair where the differences from ordinary chairs are very subtle, but very important," he said.

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