Carnival of nursing in public
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Alas my days of breastfeeding Little Miss Green are long over. She was breastfed until she was 2, which I felt immensely proud of.
I felt a great sense of achievement because it wasn’t easy. She was a very hungry baby and I practically did nothing else for the first 5 months of her life. At one point I was charting how much I fed her – it amounted to 15 hours a day.
So, it’s safe to say my life was dedicated to breastfeeding because I felt so absolutely strongly it was the right thing for us. I’ve never felt so sure about anything in my life.
Breastfeeding was a curious thing for me. I felt pretty much alone as my mother hadn’t tried, so there was no advice to pass on. There was no one to turn to when things got really tough, when I was sleep deprived, when I was unsure. There was no sister to share my journey with, no aunty, cousin or friend … My husband was wonderful, but there are certain times in your life when a woman needs another woman to share with. So I dug my heels in, refused to give up through the mastitis, through the constant crying (both her and me!) and through the utter, utter exhaustion that engulfed me.
However those feelings paled into insignificance when I looked at my beautiful girl who was happy, healthy, growing (oh my how she grew!), loving and fun to be with.
I developed the art of discreet feeding without even thinking about it. I remember when she was a few weeks old being at my friend’s house. Her husband walked in and asked to hold my daughter. “She’s feeding.” I replied – he hadn’t even noticed – he simply thought I was cuddling her.
On another occasion a neighbour called in for a cuddle (it’s always the baby who gets the cuddles; please remember that new mamas really need them too!). Once again, I was holding my daughter across one arm while feeding her – my neighbour was most surprised when I said she would have to wait until my daughter had finished feeding.
I think discreet feeding is simple to do (and I’m not saying it’s the right thing, but it’s what many women strive after for the quiet life) – it’s about wearing the right clothes with easy access and not making an issue about what you are doing. Just continue with your conversation and get on with what you need to do; just as you would with anything else.
Breastfeeding in public
When it comes to nursing in public, we’re celebrating over here in the UK as we have just won the right to breastfeed in public.
Under the new Equality Act, mums cannot be discriminated against, asked to leave a venue or treated unfavourably because they are breastfeeding when out and about in England and Wales. This means mums who want to breastfeed in cafés, shopping centres, swimming pools or other public venues will be free to do so, without any bother or fear of harassment.
Although surveys have shown that two in three breastfeeding mums have faced unsupportive comments or behaviour, I was lucky enough not to endure this. Sure I had some strange looks, but I learned to ignore those.
Our biggest challenge is that breasts have become sexualised and I find it horrifying to read that women have been asked to feed their baby in a toilet. Would you eat your sandwich in there? I didn’t think so.
Breasts have now become associated with sex, not feeding babies, so whipping out your boobs in public to nurse your infant is greeted with embarrassment, resentment, humiliation, lust, shame and a host of other negative emotions. It’s ok to see a scantily clad woman on a TV ad, in a magazine, on a billboard, in a topless dance club, on page 3 of the Sun, walking down a beach or in a film, but we get uneasy when we see women using their breasts for nature’s intended purpose. Take a walk around a church, dear friends, and you’ll see pictures of the Madonna and child, breastfeeding; without the need for discretion! Maybe we should all take a leaf out of her book…
And if you fancy a bit of fun, why not order yourself a boobie beany?
What about you – have you had positive or negative reactions from nursing in public? And let me please stress, I am sharing my thoughts about what was right for us. Mothers get a hard enough time from society about the decisions they make, and there are people from all walks of life ready to criticise and make them feel guilty in an instant. If my stuff doesn’t feel right to you, don’t take it personally or think I’m telling you what to do. You’re a mother – you’re doing an awesome job. We ALL do an awesome job 😉
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