A YOUNG mother has spoken of her distress at being called a "slut" while breast-feeding her infant son in a cafe.
Rhea Holley, 27, says she was in "floods of tears" after the verbal abuse from a couple sitting nearby in Costa Coffee in High Street, Purley.
But the mother of one has praised and thanked the coffee shop staff, who supported her over the incident on Tuesday.
Mrs Holley, of Faversham in Kent, was visiting a friend and fellow mother in Purley with her son Arthur, 11 months, and the pair decided to take their babies to the cafe.
She said: "We had chosen Costa especially because we know it is breast-feeding friendly.
"Arthur was asleep at the time so I went in and ordered us some drinks and cake.
"While we sat there Arthur woke up and he was quite upset and so I started to breast-feed him.
"A couple were on a table that was facing in such a way that they did not have to look at me.
"I heard one of them say 'it is disgusting', that I know what time babies should be fed and should stay at home then, and that I was a 'slut'."
Mrs Holley said her friend spoke to the couple, thought to be in their sixties, who reiterated that they found it 'very offensive'.
The stay-at-home mum added she was "pretty distressed" by that point and went to talk to the one of the staff members making coffee. The barista immediately consoled her and also spoke to managers, who advised her to remind the offended couple that the cafe was breast-feeding friendly in line with company policy.
"It was so good of them," added Mrs Holley, "not only to stand by the law [on breast-feeding] but also to be so supportive of someone feeling so upset."
The Equality Act 2010 bans anyone asking a breast-feeding woman to leave a public place such as a cafe, shop or public transport.
Mrs Holley stressed it was important women were not made to feel uncomfortable.
She said: "Arthur is 11 months old so I can shrug this off but if there was somebody with a newborn it would be really damaging.
"Babies don't have a schedule – any normal person that goes out is not going to know when they will want a glass of water – why should a baby be any different?
"Women should not be made to feel like they have to stay in."
A spokesman for Costa confirmed the incident had taken place, adding: "Mothers bring in children of all ages to Costa and they are always warmly welcomed by us.
"We have always been very happy for mothers to breast-feed in our stores offering a family-friendly environment that is the perfect place for mums to relax with their children."