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.