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A young mum was thrown off a Bristol First bus – for breast-feeding her baby.
The driver stopped the bus and told her to stop feeding her six-week-old daughter or get off. And when she refused he threatened to call the police.
Amy Wootten, of Stockwood, was on her way home from the city centre on Tuesday when she was forced off the 54 bus in the rain.
She was ordered off the bus in Wells Road and took an £8 taxi for the rest of her journey home.
The 25-year-old said the driver told her a complaint had been made about her “indecent exposure”
Miss Wootten was feeding Emily at about 4.30pm on a packed bus when the driver threatened to call the police if she did not do as he asked.
She said: “The bus driver told me someone had said I was indecently exposing myself and said stop or get off my bus.
“It was like he was suggesting I was doing horrendous things. But I was being quite discreet about it.
“I couldn’t believe it. I explained that I was only feeding my baby and not exposing myself and the driver said ‘can you get off my bus please’.
“We were told to get off the bus, in the rain, at a stop without a shelter and I was still a 20-minute bus ride away and couldn’t have walked home. I felt completely and utterly humiliated, because it was a packed bus.”
The learning support assistant said no one raised concerns with her about the breast-feeding and the first she knew that anyone was concerned was when the driver spoke to her.
Miss Wootten said: “If I hadn’t fed her, Emily would have screamed and we would probably have had more complaints from people on the bus.
“I was showing a tiny bit of breast, but is it any different to showing your arm or your foot?
“I was absolutely horrified but more cross for my baby girl.”
Miss Wootten said she has fed Emily on buses before and although another passenger had made a comment there had not been such a reaction from the driver.
She relies on bus travel because she cannot drive.
Women are encouraged to breast-feed by the NHS because it has protective effects on them and their children.
There is an initiative in Bristol to encourage women to breast-feed and restaurants, cafes and other public places have signed up to show they welcome breast-feeding mums. Bristol was also the first city in the country to complete one of the stages for the Unicef Baby Friendly award.
The breast-feeding development manager for NHS Bristol, Nicki Symes, said: “There are about 200 venues around the city that welcome breast-feeding.
“We have not approached transport providers as part of the scheme but it is something we will need to do.
“I feel very sorry for this mother, as we support a woman’s right to breast-feed in public.
“It is really disappointing that this has happened and I would be happy to speak to the bus company about their policy.”
Miss Wootten complained to First yesterday and the company apologised for the incident and sent her flowers and gift vouchers.
She said: “I would like them to have a bit of tact and compassion.
“I have really struggled breast-feeding Emily and had so many problems but was determined to do the right thing for her.
“It just makes you really reluctant to feed in public.
“Emily is my first baby and it is only in the last two weeks I have had the confidence to feed her in public rather than sitting in a feeding room.”
First spokeswoman Karen Baxter said drivers would be given guidance to prevent similar incidents happening.
She said: “We are aware of the incident that occurred on Tuesday evening and have already expressed our sincere apologies to Miss Wootten for the distress caused as a result of it.
“We have launched an investigation into exactly what happened.
“As a company we accept that breast-feeding mothers have the right to feed their children when they are hungry, and understand that from time to time it may be necessary to do this while travelling on the bus.