A mum-of-two from Blackpool today told of her shock after a warden issued her with a parking ticket – as she sat in her car breastfeeding her baby daughter.
Antonia Charlesworth, 27, was on her way home from a shopping trip with five-month-old Anaya and two-year-old Safina when her youngest daughter began screaming to be fed.
Feeling distracted, she pulled over in Queen Street and began breastfeeding her daughter, but says she had not realised that she had parked on a taxi rank.
Ms Charlesworth said she was shocked to suddenly see the warden hovering in front of her windscreen scanning her tax disc and asked him if there was a problem.
When he pointed out her mistake she says she apologised and offered to move her car immediately. But instead of accepting her apology or asking her to move on, he insisted that he would still be issuing her with a ticket – and even began taking pictures of her car.
Today, council bosses agreed to rip up the £35 ticket after The Gazette drew their attention to the incident.
But Ms Charlesworth says she has been left feeling “humiliated” by the incident.
And despite waiving the fine, the council insist the warden behaved correctly.
“I asked him if he could do the decent thing and allow me to finish feeding my baby in the circumstances or at least allow me to move my car but he refused and instead started taking photographs of my vehicle, which I think would have included me,” she said.
“While this was going on I was tearful, Safina was upset in the back and I was still trying to feed Anaya, who was screaming because her feed had been interrupted, all with my breast exposed and in front of passers-by.
“It was a humiliating experience and I felt really vulnerable - and I couldn’t believe it when I saw him return to a van which was parked on double yellow lines.”
Ms Charlesworth, who lives with her partner Ricky Stack on Royal Avenue, Blackpool, wrote to Blackpool Council to appeal against the ticket and complain about the behaviour of the warden.
“When I asked him where his human decency was he shrugged,” she said.
“I accept I was parked illegally, but the NHS says you should feed your baby on demand and I had not realised I had pulled into a taxi rank. He could have showed some discretion.
“It’s exactly this kind of thing that puts women off breastfeeding.”
Ms Charlesworth said the incident, which happened at around 3.20pm on Tuesday, was even more hard to believe, because the council itself runs a Breastfeeding Welcome scheme to encourage new mums to feel confident about breastfeeding away from home.
And following the birth of Prince George last year, Arif Rajpura, the council’s director of public health, wrote: “Breastfeeding mothers often worry about breastfeeding outside of their home as there can sometimes be an unsympathetic attitude which can lead to women choosing not to breastfeed, or not to continue breastfeeding beyond the first couple of weeks.
“We want to encourage mums to breastfeed when they’re out and about and let them know that they can feed in comfort, safe in the knowledge that they will not be asked to leave, or be made to feel unwelcome.”
A council spokesman said: “We are very sorry to hear that this unfortunate situation has arisen.
“Blackpool Council strongly supports breastfeeding and to signal our support and as a gesture of goodwill we agree to waive the penalty notice.
“We do, however, have an important role to play to prevent obstructions on the highway and in this case, our officers have reviewed CCTV evidence of the incident and are content the penalty notice was issued correctly.
“Furthermore, we disagree with the contention that our officer acted in anything other than an a professional and courteous manner.
“We would also point out there is ample parking on Queen St including a car park and areas where free on-street parking is available as well as other parking areas nearby.”
The parking warden also carried a pass which allowed him to park on yellow lines.
A spokesman for the Breastfeeding Netowrk said: “As breastfeeding is a normal part of life it affects all sorts of social situations. We hope that breastfeeding mothers and their babies will be treated with the same respect as everyone else.”
Research by Unicef says breastfeeding can reduce the risks of ill health in babies and provide them with better nutrition.
But official figures show that the proportion of Blackpool mums breastfeeding is lower than the national average. Between October and December 2013, 116 of the 445 mothers - or those 26 per cent of those due a 6-8 week check on their baby in the Blackpool Clincial Commissioning Group area had been wholly or partially breastfeeding.
In England, for the third quarter of the previous financial year, 2012/13, 65,880 of 143,917 mums had been wholly or partially breastfeeding - 45 per cent.