Thursday, 8 October 2009

Anti Breastfeeding Hate on Twitter

This is me. Breastfeeding my 2.5 year old son Seamus, and look! NO blanket. Because there is no way in hell he would wear one. And because well, honestly, how much flesh can you see? You might get a flash for a split second when I latch him on, but since he and my top cover most of it you'd have to be looking pretty hard to see anything.

I have breastfed two boys now, and this is my youngest. My oldest weaned at 21 months. I breastfed both of them everywhere right from early on. I used nursing rooms when I was first starting out because I was unsure of myself and inexperienced with it. Now, I really couldn't care less. I've never had a negative comment, several people have said that they didn't realise was I was doing until they looked closer. I've breastfed in doctors surgery and hospital waiting rooms, on park benches, in town, on the bus. I've never had so much as a dirty look.

Yet, get a bunch of people on a medium like Twitter, and some really nasty comments come out. I doubt they actually say this stuff to people to their face, I guess being behind a computer screen makes them feel somehow safe and protected from being called out on their bullshit. So for your pleasure, here's some tweets to myself and other nursing mamas. This is just in the last 24 hours. Names removed to protect the guilty.

@xxxx o my gosh what is youre fucking problem? get that creature off your nipple and put that shit away. WHAT THE FUCK

@xxxx is being a huge moron. its symbolic speach motherfucker. go put a bullet in your fucking head. #realfuckingtalk

@clairelouise2 i wanna see you cry a river of your own tears and have your baby drown in it. so u cannot do that in public ever again

@clairelouise2 today im fighting to make it against the law. FUCK LACTIVISTS. YOU JUST WANT ATTENTION. im the fucking MAN LETS GOO #realtalk

@xxxx @clairelouise2 are retarded cunts. @xxxx is right. they need to put their tits away before i take their babies away

Just saw a woman enjoy a breakfast sandwich while breastfeeding her baby. In starbucks. Eww go to the bathroom for that its disgusting

@xxxx @tbottv @xxxx @xxxx xxxx and clairelouise2..those were the fucking psycho bitch breatfeeding "lactavist"

@xxxx yeah... me and the majority of society has issues because we don't feel the need to see your tits

If your kid is old enough to say 'momma' clearly you shouldn't be breastfeeding!!

And the object of all this vitriol? A mother, breastfeeding her child, in a public place. And those that dare stand up and fight the ignorance of those who insist she do it out of sight, covered up, whatever.

So what is wrong with people insisting mothers go to the bathroom, stay at home, cover with a blanket? Well, I have noticed that most of these people are either childless, or have never breastfed a baby before. Breastfed babies have different feeding patterns to formula fed ones. They vary, but most eat VERY often. We're talking about hourly, sometimes even more especially at first. And the length of feeding also varies. My children both ate for 5-10 minutes at a time, about once an hour, but for some people it can take an hour or so to feed. It can feel in the first few weeks that nursing is ALL you do.

Nursing rooms are all very nice, but let's face it, how many of them are there, and how often are they taken by other people using the loo or preparing bottles, sitting around chatting etc. In my town there are *two* nursing rooms. Both have enough room for only one person/pushchair at a time, and they also have changing facilities in, so you can imagine they get queued up sometimes.
And then there's the option that one of our anonymous Twitter commenters mentioned above, which is using a public bathroom. Now I can't speak for all public toilets out there, but I can tell you now, the ones here are pretty disgusting. They stink of pee and shit, they're dirty, and I'm sorry, but I'm just not feeding my child in there. Would you want eat there? No, didn't think so.

So where does that leave the average nursing mother? Well, honestly, after messing about with nursing rooms as a new mama, once I'd got confident with nursing and babe and I were at ease with latching on and all, I just started to nurse wherever I was. This way, I dont have to let my baby yell while I find a convenient spot that isn't already taken. I don't have to deal with the smells from public loos. I don't have to let my meal get cold in restaurant while I sit in the loo for 20 minutes eating while my friends get to eat theirs while it's hot and fresh. And, as a mother, I'm sorry, but my child's needs to come first, if my child needs feeding right then and there, I'm going to do it, avoiding upsetting a random person in the street or at the next table really isn't on my radar.

And what about blankets. Well, especially once your baby gets older, they get quite fussy about such things, and many won't nurse with a blanket over them. And, really, having a blanket on just draws attention to what you're doing anyway. The next thing of course is bottles, because some people think you should "just" bring a bottle of breastmilk, or formula, with you in case the baby wants to feed. This is also usually said by people who have not breastfed before. I will say this - Pumping breastmilk is a huge pain in the arse. It is. Before I had kids I used to think you just attached the pump and an unlimited amount of milk just came out. Um, no. You have to pump at certain times of day, train your body to produce extra, just so you can get enough to fill a bottle. Then, if you feed your baby a bottle of your expressed milk, you have to pump again as soon as possible to replace the feeding you just missed, otherwise you risk your supply dropping. It's so much easier just to well, nurse the baby straight from the tap. As for formula, well, that stuff's ridiculously expensive, and very much inferior to what my body makes for free. Mothering is difficult enough especially if you have more than one child, without going through all that rigmarole just to avoid upsetting someone else's delicate sensibilities when you're out and about.

Isn't breastfeeding in public indecent exposure? Well, actually, no. In America, almost every state has laws in place to protect breastfeeding mothers. Similar laws exist in other countries as well.

Why is all this important anyway? Well, UNICEF states that worldwide, six million lives are lost as a result of not breastfeeding. Contrary to popular opinion as well, the risk does not just apply to developing countries either. There are risks to using infant formula no matter where you live.
Yet, breastfeeding rates are shockingly low. Let's take the US for example. In 2003, 62% of women were exclusively breastfeeding at 7 days old, reducing to 14.2% at 6 months. Rates in the UK, where I live, are even worse, with
only 35 per cent of UK babies are being exclusively breastfed at one week, 21 per cent at six weeks, 7 per cent at four months and 3 per cent at five months in 2005. This is especially sad when you consider that for optimum infant health is recommended that infants are exclusively breastfed up to 6 months before complementary foods are introduced. The vast majority still end up on formula, for a multitude of reasons, and societal pressures are just one of them. We should be encouraging women to breastfeed and removing social stigmas to breastfeeding, not putting up more barriers to them doing so.

So I ask. Please. If you see someone when you're out feeding their baby and it makes you feel awkward, which I understand, it's actually quite rare to see it especially around here (which is a shame, as breastfeeding has SO many benefits compared to feeding formula milk) Just look away. That is all. It really isn't hard. Thank you for reading.


  1. Holy smokes! The ignorance of these people is unbearable. I nursed both of my children until they weaned themselves. They weaned earlier than I had expected them to (at 1 and almost 1) but luckily they nursed until I didn't need to give them formula at all. I admit that I didn't nurse in public though - I don't know if my boobs are too big or I'm just a spazz (probably the latter) but I could never get my kids to nurse without half of my boob hanging out. I either nursed in a quiet room, my car, or gave them pumped milk. I suppose I didn't do much to help change the ignorance of these people. It's strange how people are obsessed with boobs as sex objects but loathe them as givers of life. Why can't they be both?

  2. I have no problem with women using covers if they want to, it's just those that insist we MUST use them that bug the hell out of me ;)

    And yes you're completely right, plenty of other body parts have dual functions, why not boobs?

  3. So sorry you had to deal with that abuse. That is truly pathetic that people think they can behave that way because it's the internet. That's part of going on in public - you are going to see many things that you don't like. It's just a fact & it's not even going to be just breastfeeding. People are able to exercise their neck muscles by turning their head to other things. They should try the same when it comes to seeing breastfeeding if they don't like that. There is absolutely no need for hateful comments.

  4. Thanks Krista. As I said to someone earlier on today, I don't like personally to see people feeding formula to tiny babies. It just makes me cringe somehow and seems so wrong. I'm aware that it is my personal hangup and really none of my business, so I keep it to myself and would never dream of giving anyone a dirty look or saying anything. It's a shame that some cannot afford the same respect to nursing mothers.

  5. Those twitter comments were both sad and funny. You know what they say:

    Normal Person + Internet + Anonymity = Total Fuckwit

    I've never experienced anybody breastfeeding in public. When my wife had her baby, she personally decided to only breastfeed after withdrawing to a private space, like a bathroom. That was more from modesty than shame.

    There IS a line though - like when we were at a restaurant and a women laid her baby on the table opposite and started changing his dirty diaper, in front of everybody. TIME AND A PLACE.

    I think a little bit of respect from both sides generally results in a happy medium.

  6. Roland, you can't compare a dirty diaper to breastfeeding.

    Yes, let's respect the baby. Since breastfeeding is what babies should receive and mothers are social people, breastfeeding will and must become the norm in public.

    Thanks for the aweseome post!

  7. Roland, you're getting dangerously close to the "breastfeeding in public = public defecating" argument!

    The problem with insisting that women go to bathrooms or other private spaces to nurse is it's not always practical and women that do this statistically wean earlier than women that don't. Especially with a young baby that eats often. I have plenty of respect for people that CHOOSE this - but it should not be forced on everyone. There is nothing immodest or shameful about breastfeeding a baby.

  8. I cant believe some of those comments! Well actually I can, because I've had some directed at me.

    My children were born prematurely, 30+1 weeks and 34+3 weeks. During our time in the NICU I have seen babies come close to death, in fact twice I was told that I should 'prepare for the worst' The difference in survival for such early babies is quite often one of how they are fed. After these experiences I am even more determined to breastfeed my baby. Even when I dont have the support of those around me, I still push through.

    Mr 6 months has been fed almost everywhere, when I get hungry I eat and I eat anywhere (EXCEPT in a toilet!) and so does he!

    I look forward to following your blog :)

  9. Well having breastfed a toddler I think it's an important thing to do in public, uncovered, and to talk about it and share your experience with it...breastmilk is for babies, toddlers & preschoolers until they are ready to wean. Mine was 2 1/2 and it's so far the best most amazing thing I've done in my life.

  10. Thank you for writing this! As a new mother in May (2009), I intially went and hid and covered up too. Once my little girl started ripping off the blanket I thought oh what the hell, at this point my breast is like a fork- it's her feeding utensil! Ignorance is rampant in this world and I think that it is really unfortunate. It makes me happy to know that there are women out there who are raising their children to be good people as we need more of them!!!

  11. Every time I read comments like those idiots on twitter it makes my blood boil. What the hell is wrong with people?!!?

    It's BABIES EATING. It's not gross or weird or... ugh!@@@ Why do they think they call the top of a bottle a NIPPLE?

  12. For some reason I never had a nasty comment or even a dirty look (that I noticed) while nursing my son in public. I always expected one some day, but it never happened. I did usually cover up one way or another, but that's just me. I did have people say nice things to me sometimes--one librarian told me she loved the sound of a nursing baby!