Picasso Museum overturns ‘art risk’ breastfeeding ban

A mother who started to breastfeed while viewing an exhibit at the Picasso Museum in Málaga was asked to leave the gallery, prompting a chorus of complaints.

Picasso Museum overturns 'art risk' breastfeeding ban
Archive image of a woman in Spain breastfeeding. Photo: Jaime Reina/AFP.

The Picasso Museum in Málaga insisted that breastfeeding was not allowed  under regulations banning food and drink inside the gallerys to avoid damage to the exhibits.

A mother was viewing an exhibit at the Picasso Museum of Málaga on January 5th with her one-year-old baby son in tow. 

While looking at the artwork, the woman said her baby started to signal that he wanted to be fed, so she sat down and started to nurse him, she explained to group Lactancia en Libertad – Breastfeeding in Freedom.

A museum security guard went to the woman and told her that breastfeeding was not allowed within exhibition rooms and that she would have to move to the cafeteria to continue to nurse her child. The museum had a sign at the entrance that explained this.

The mother said that after leaving the gallery room, her baby started to get restless so she decided to leave the museum without seeing all of the displays.

The woman filed a complaint to the museum and a chorus of pro-public breastfeeding groups jumped in to support her effort.

“It seems wrong that in these times there is still controversy over breastfeeding in public places,” wrote Lactancia en Libertad in a post on February 2nd, who said they had recieved at least one other complaint about the museum.

“It's hard to believe, but that is why our association was created, in order to have a place complaints from mothers who are reprimanded and expelled from places, and so that society see that these incidents happen relatively often and are not isolated events.”

The group later published what they said was an initial response letter from the museum to the mother of the one-year-old, explaining that the museum had “rigorous policy of conservation” of their artwork.

“These guidelines try to avoid all possible risks, and therefore we do not permit eating or drinking in exposition rooms, including for babies and small children,” states the letter, signed by manager Guillermo Peiró.

Lactancia en Libertad created a Facebook page opposing the museum's policy, gathering more than 400 members within about a week. 

But on Monday, the museum seemed to have had a change of heart as artistic director José Lebrero announced that women would be allowed to breastfeed in exhibit halls “when it is necessary”, according to El Pais.

Lebrero said that have reviewing the case, he decided that there was no written protocol on breastfeeding and therefore they would allow mothers to nurse freely when they choose to.

Other breastfeeding groups praised the decision, including the Association to Breastfeed in Córdoba, which wrote on Twitter that “we give a congratulations to Lactancia in Freedom and gratitude to the Picasso Museum which has come to its senses and rectified itself”.

Supporters of the free breastfeeding policy had also pointed out that other museums like London's National Gallery allow women to nurse “anywhere”.

Maternity groups filed a complaint last year in Granada when a mother was expelled from a historic tourist site because she was breastfeeding. Authorities in charge of the site later apologized for the incident.

And left-wing Podemos party representative Carolina Bescansa made headlines when she brought her baby son and nursed him openly at the opening session of the new parliament in January.


Readers reveal: These are the best bilingual baby names in Spain

Choosing a name for your child is always difficult but it's an extra challenge if you want it to work in more than one language.

Readers reveal: These are the best bilingual baby names in Spain
The Local's readers reveal their favourite bilingual baby names. Photo: RuthBlack/Depositphotos

Parents who decide to bring up their child bilingually in English and Spanish generally want to choose a name that works equally well in both English and Spanish. 

Some people like to choose names that are commonly used in both languages and are not only pronounced the same but have the exact same spelling, names such as Maria, Lucia, Isabel and Olivia for girls and Martin, Oscar, and Bruno for boys.

Then there are the names that are recognisable but either pronounced slightly differently or have a different spelling, such as Sofia/Sophia, Cristina/Christina, Ana/Anna or Paola/Paula for girls.

And for boys, Simon, Gabriel, David or Adrian are all names that are spelled the same but pronounced with a slightly different emphasis. Then there are names such as Hugo, which is spelled the same but sounds very different in both languages: Hewgo in English and Oogoh in Castellano.

Likewise, Isla is having a resurgence in the UK with its silent 's' but will always be pronounced as 'Izla' – the Castellano word for island – when in Spain. 

Typical Spanish names may be easy to pronounce for English-speakers despite not being traditional anglo names.

Names such as Pablo, Diego and Rafael are common enough that they won’t pose a problem, but although the name Jesus is pretty normal in Spain, it will certainly raise a few eyebrows among English speakers.

Photo: AFP

Some names though prove very challenging to Spanish speakers.

Spanish tongues struggle with Craig and Graham and don’t even think about selecting Irish names such as Deirdre or Siobhan.


Kristin Tietz, an American who married a Spaniard, explained their process: “Our approach was to try out names orally (since hubby's a Spaniard) to try to choose names pronounced the same internationally.

“It worked like a charm until they enrolled in school (British), leading to a startling array of odd versions of the name Borja, which Americans and other nationalities seem to find easy to say. Sadly, many of his teachers could not, with “Borgo” one of our faves.”

For Mary Reid, an English teacher in Madrid and her Spanish partner Raul, it was important to have names that could be pronounced easily in both languages.

“We settled on Dani and Oscar for our two boys,” explains Mary, originally from Nottingham.

“I wanted the English grandparents to be able to say their grandsons’ names correctly,” she said.

“The spelling was also important too. Although in the UK I’m constantly having to say that it’s Dani with an “I” not “y”.  And that’s interesting seeing as British names have a big variety of spellings these days.”

Spelling was also top consideration for Tania Garcia Miñan, an English teacher who lives in Galicia with her Spanish husband.

“There are loads of Galician names that we automatically scrapped due to having an x in. Names with a J too were ruled out. I personally didn't want an equivalent, I wanted it to be as easy to pronounce and spell as possible in both languages.”

She chose Lucas for her son.

It was something her parents had also considered when choosing her and her sister’s name as they had moved from their native Galicia to London in the 1980s and brought up their two girls, Deborah and Tania.

“My name is pronounced the same in Spanish and English but I used to get annoyed in England when they spelt Tania with a ‘y’,” she said.

She also said it’s worth checking if that name has a certain stigma in one language.

“Lucas is the name they give Daffy Duck in Spain and the catch phrase is 'hasta luego, Lucas', so we hear that a lot.”

For Londoner Graham Keeley, who now lives near Barcelona with his French partner and their three boys, it was even more of a challenge.

“Most importantly was we wanted names that worked in English and French and that weren’t too weird in Spanish or Catalan,” he explains.

They picked Thomas for the firstborn and Max and Jack for their twin boys, born 18 months later.

“We nailed it with Max, which is pronounced and spelled the same in whatever language we come across,” he admitted. “But the other two are both easy in all four languages although pronounced slightly differently.”

“People pronounce it Tomas (Spanish), Toma (French), or Thomas (English) but we don’t really mind that, and Jack is either Jacques in French or Jack to everyone else,” he said.

“The most important thing was not to have a name that stood out as either being 'too French' or 'too English' or was just  plain unpronounceable in Spanish.

“Having a name like Graham – which no one can pronounce in Spanish – made us acutely aware of the importance of an easy name that wouldn’t single you out,” he said.

When it comes to girls' names, Sofia, Isabel, Lucia and Olivia are among the most popular suggestions but Spanish names such as Alma, Alba and Lola are gaining ground.

“We named my daughter Alba. In Gaelic it means Scotland (I’m Scottish) and works in English and Spanish with the same pronunciation too,” said Eilidh Shankland on The Local Spain's Facebook page.

“Biblical names with the same spelling work perfectly (and the same in Catalan too, don't forget some people need to factor that in too!). Such as David or Daniel,” added Lyn Shepherd.

“My mom was Spanish, dad Dutch and I’m South African living in Spain,” recounts Teresa Leonie Krijger Hoffmann. “My name Teresa works well and so did my brother’s name, Anthony. My sister’s, not so much – Maria de las Mercedes!”

One reader suggested trying it out for a while before registering it.

“I wanted my eldest to have my grandfather's name or a variation of it as his middle name – Donald (not a popular option I know!!),” said Natalie Abbott Tobias. “So to begin with we had just Don. The confusion it caused!! Don Lorenzo Don Tobias? People looked at us like we were simple! Luckily we hadn't registered it at that point.”