I am not from the ‘Breast is Best’ camp. I am from the ‘Do What is Right For You camp’. I breast-fed both my children for 5 weeks and I am proud of that. Breastfeeding for me was equally amazing as it was akward. It was something that felt very natural but was by no means easy. Everyone is different and should be allowed to feed their baby by whatever method works best for them without being judged.
It seems like every week there is a story in the press about a woman being shamed for breastfeeding in public. Next follows the protest of breastfeeding mums staging a ‘sit in’ and nursing their babies en mass. There’s usually lots of debate in online forums about breast verses bottle. Things get heated. Then a new debate will open up about whether or not it’s ok to co-sleep with your baby, and the breastfeeding debate will go away for another week.
I can’t help but feel all the publicity surrounding these negative stories isn’t helping the image of breastfeeding mums. It seems to me that the establishment concerned gets a whole load of publicity, yes it is negative, but it is till publicity. And they are getting it for FREE!
And what about all the new mums out there? The ones who have just gone through the biggest life change ever, and are trying to get to grips with their new life and their all consuming new responsibility. These stories can have a hugely negative impact on their breastfeeding intentions.
In the early days if you can get both yourself and the baby up, dressed, and ready to face the world, it’s a major achievement. But the last thing you want is to feel like if you breastfeed in public, you need to be prepared to wage a war for yourself and all other breastfeeding mum’s out there. Quite frankly you don’t have the energy for it! And for those of us that are struggling with feeding or maybe feel self-conscious we really don’t want the attention.
I didn’t breastfeed in public with my first child because I was terrified of being kicked out and having lots of attention drawn to what I was doing. It was a big factor in why I stopped. With my second child I knew I would have to face it. Like anything in life the first time you do something can be daunting. I actually planned an outing specifically to breastfeed in a cafe so when I did it for the first time I was in control of the situation. I did my research, I knew the laws and my rights. I had a speech prepared in my head. I took my husband with me for moral support for when people started tutting and shaking their heads. I wanted him there to back me up and fight my corner when we were asked to leave. I was terrified and convinced that it was going to be a negative experience.
After some calming and encouraging words from my moral support, and some tears from me, I did it. I sat in a cafe and breast-fed my son. And do you know what happened? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. No one took a blind bit of notice of us.
These negative stories are putting people off breastfeeding in public. They are reinforcing the view that it is wrong. Sometimes, someone, somewhere, gets it wrong. But for every establishment that gets it wrong there are hundreds out there getting it right. The one’s that get it wrong are in the minority, yet they are getting all the attention and making breastfeeding in public seem more unacceptable than it actually is. “I breast-fed in public and it was fine” isn’t very headline worthy or attention grabbing.
With every new story about an establishment asking a breastfeeding mother to leave or cover-up we are perpetuating the idea that breastfeeding isn’t acceptable in public It’s becoming a self for-filling prophecy.
Yes, the establishments that get it wrong should be accountable for their actions. Yes, we have the right to protest. But just maybe we should do so a little more quietly,
Instead we should use our voices to shout about the many establishments that do support us. Show them how it should be done rather than how it shouldn’t. Maybe then we will break down more barriers and creative a positive perception of breastfeeding in public, and encourage more people to do it.
Because if these stories stop one mother from not having the confidence to breastfeed in public, it’s one mother too many. That mother was me.
If you had positive breastfeeding experiences, please share.
I loved this video from Beside You.