Mall says 'sorry' to breast-feeding mum

Anjula Manga with her 6-week-old baby who is yet to be named. Photo: NZ Herald/Dean Purcell
Anjula Manga with her 6-week-old baby who is yet to be named. Photo: NZ Herald/Dean Purcell
The managers of a mall where a woman was told she could not breastfeed have apologised to the mother-of-three, saying it was an error of judgment.

Anjula Manga was shocked when she was approached by a cleaner at Hamilton's Te Awa at The Base and told she could not breastfeed her 6-week-old daughter in the foodcourt.

But after a Facebook post on the incident went viral Miss Manga received an apology, both online and over the phone.

Miss Manga was having lunch at the mall foodcourt on Sunday with her daughters Naketah, 8, Lita, 18 months, and her un-named infant when a cleaner asked her to stop breastfeeding.

"I said to her 'Are you for real?'."

She said she was breastfeeding as discreetly as possible, using a blanket to cover her breast while her baby latched on.

However, the cleaner directed Miss Manga to a parents' room in the toilets opposite the foodcourt.

"I said to her, 'I'm not packing my kids away and making them eat in the toilet'."

The 31-year-old Aucklander said she was so embarrassed she pulled her baby from the breast and tried to calm her with a pacifier when she began crying.

When her mother, Sue Manga, returned from shopping Miss Manga explained what had happened.

"She said 'No, that's illegal'."

Mrs Manga told the cleaner it was her daughter's right to breastfeed in public and the pair were told the rule was in the Te Awa "handbook". The two women took their concerns to the information desk in the mall before Miss Manga posted details of the incident on her mother's Facebook page on Monday.

The post attracted hundreds of comments and was shared more than 2100 times.

On Tuesday Te Awa marketing manager Angela Young rang Miss Manga to apologise and posted a response on the mall's Facebook page.

It said The Base Centre management did not have a policy restricting mothers from breast or bottlefeeding their children in any part of the mall.

"We recognise our customers' human rights to raise their children in the best practice they see fit.

"We provide excellent facilities for breastfeeding mothers. However, we do not restrict them to one particular area."

Mike Pohio, chief executive of Tainui Group Holdings - which owns The Base - said there was no policy banning breastfeeding in the mall's handbook.

He said the contracted staff member made a mistake and the incident had been an error of judgment.

"We've apologised and that shouldn't have happened."

But Miss Manga felt the issue was unresolved. "My 8-year-old doesn't want to go anywhere with me in the holidays because she's scared that her baby sister is going to need to be fed ... and she doesn't want that shame and humiliation again."

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