Monday 29 December 2014

Breastfeeding Exposed

It has been in the news a lot recently about breastfeeding mothers doing so in public in restaurants etc, especially after a mother was told to cover up in Clarridges.

It has made me reflect on my time as a breastfeeding mum. Breastfeeding in public was something I never really got the hang of mainly because of the added pressures of worrying if other people were feeling disgusted by me. Was that table over there watching me? What's that expression on their faces? Oh god, that man hasn't stopped starting at me the whole time, is he hoping for a shot of boob? 

After the stressful time I had with Callum and on several occasions moving to the disabled loo to feed and then working it so it was always a bottle feed rather than the turn of the breast when I had to go out (with Callum I could only feed from one side and expressed from the other to feed in a bottle), I swore I was going to get over it with Millie and breastfeeding in public wouldn't be an issue. I was going to buy lovely feeding tops and beautiful feeding covers. However, when the time came, I didn't have the money for such items as they were so expensive and, although I tried harder not to let it bother me, I still worried what people thought of me. With Millie it wasn't as simple as to be the only reason but definitely played a part with the end to my breastfeeding her.

Stuart and I were on a weekend away to Devon when Millie started refusing the breast in favour of the bottle. We went out for lunch and I was trying to be all relaxed and feed Millie but she would fuss over the nipple. Because she was fussing and crying for milk I became anxious about drawing attention. I was struggling to maintain my modesty because Millie kept pulling at the covers which made me stress more. The more anxious and stressed I became the more Millie fussed. I told Stuart I couldn't handle the public display so we went back to the car but it was uncomfortable and no better. Millie was obviously hungry but wouldn't feed. In the end Stuart ran all over Torquay trying to buy ready made formula and bottles to feed her.

Keeping covered in public when breastfeeding is all good and well when you have a cooperating baby but when things aren't going to plan, thoughts about what others may or may not be saying aren't helpful. I know this is my problem as maybe noone was saying anything. Maybe they sympathised and had been there too. Maybe they thought it was beautiful but the opinions bestowed upon me by my mum (who didn't breastfeed), my non-maternal and childless friends and the articles I see in the media make it difficult not to worry that everyone in that cafe or restaurant isn't against you.

I battled on (and yes it was a battle) for about a month longer before Millie pulled the plug on it altogether.

Like I said, the mental fight I had was my own doing and I know that but I do ask that people spare a bit of empathethy for the struggling mummy who is trying her best to meet the basic feeding needs of her baby rather than judge or make unhelpful comments (or looks of disapproval) and instead he her to keep her discretion and modesty.  As for the media, perhaps we can have more positive stories about how welcome feeding mothers are rather than how unwelcome.

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