Cape Town - A top hotel has defended itself against allegations that a breastfeeding mother was told to cover up at a restaurant on the premises.
The incident happened last Saturday when Kim Copeland, from Kent in England, and her family intended to finish off their South African holiday with a luxury day at the Mount Nelson Hotel.
While they were enjoying lunch at the hotel’s bistro, Copeland’s five-month-old daughter Leah began to cry. That was when the mother decided to breastfeed her baby.
“I discreetly started to feed her and, within minutes, an employee approached me with a linen serviette and asked me whether I would cover my child as ‘other guests were eating’. I responded by saying I would not and that my daughter was eating,” Copeland said.
The upset mother then sought to speak to the bistro manager, Daniel Britz, who did not seem to be co-operative during a first conversation, the complainant said.
“The manager did return and he apologised to me for feeling uncomfortable and said he had ‘sent an e-mail’.
“He would not answer my question about whether this is hotel policy or not. And when I asked whether the lady in question would apologise to me, he merely said sorry and walked away.
“I felt like my distress was ignored and that nothing was in fact done about this situation. He did not ask me my name or take down any details to follow this up.”
Leisl Thompson, the employee who came to Copeland’s table, has a different version of events.
She told the Cape Times that she intended to offer the guest a linen serviette in case the breast-feeding mother wanted to cover herself and her baby.
“I said ‘Good day, madam, may I…’, then Mrs Copeland turned around and interrupted me before I got to the point of my visit at the table,” Thompson said.
She emphasised that she had approached Copeland with the best of intentions, wanted to offer a good service and immediately apologised after the incident.
Gaby Palmer, spokesperson for the Mount Nelson Hotel, added: “Breastfeeding is freely allowed at our hotel.”
Copeland said: “I have had a response from the hotel manager, who again said it was her (Thompson’s) good intentions, but I feel they are backtracking. If it was such a simple explanation and a misunderstanding, why was this not cleared up on Saturday?”