When I think back to the first few days after Spud emerged into the world, I can still remember how fragile I felt and he seemed. Those first few weeks as a Mum were bewildering. No doubt I was sporting the ‘rabbit caught in the headlights’ look I still see when I meet new parents on the maternity ward. Having a baby is like nothing else you will ever experience. It is terrifying but extraordinary in equal measure.
Ordinarily I wouldn’t describe myself as a vulnerable person. I can be quiet and measured or loud and engaging depending on the circumstances but vulnerable just isn’t me. I did however feel very vulnerable when Spud was born.
It wasn’t during labour or when I held him for the first time.
It wasn’t as he suckled all night in the safety of the Mum’s sitting room on the ward.
It wasn’t when I returned home as a Mum and the Mother of my partner’s first born.
It wasn’t during the long,dark, sometimes lonely nights spent feeding.
The first time I felt truly vulnerable was the first few weeks I breastfed in public.
Spud was a good weight at birth but was long and scrawny and a snacker. There was no chance of getting out and about without him wanting to feed. He was fiddly to latch on at first so I dealt with this by latching him on in the loo (not a cubicle but the sink area) then popping a cellular blanket over him before emerging and relaxing. This was pre-2010 so there was actually no official protection for Mums breastfeeding in public in the UK.
Looking back I wish I had had the confidence to just latch him on wherever we were sitting. It wasn’t necessarily the opinions of others which bothered me but that I was aware of flashing more flesh than I was personally comfortable sharing with the great British public.
In the seven months I breastfed Spud I didn’t have one person look at me in a negative way or say anything to me about my breastfeeding him in public. In the two and a half years that I have been breastfeeding Pooh Bear and the eighteen months or so in which he would breastfeed in public (he’s too busy to bother nowadays) I also never had a negative experience when breastfeeding him in public.
Breastfeeding hit the news again this week and with the news comes the comments. Comments on social media, on TV, radio and the newspaper websites themselves.
I am tired of these uneducated comments…
Comments about how Mums should cover up if breastfeeding in public when it is socially acceptable to see naked breasts in shops selling tabloid newspapers, lad’s mags, DVDs, CDs, clothes, etc etc – Bare breasts are everywhere you look.
Comments likening breast milk to faeces, urine, semen and vomit – Breast milk is packed full of antibodies and actually kills germs. It is also a foodstuff made for the purpose of nourishing babies it just happens to be packaged in an organ society has wrongly labelled as solely sexual.
Comments saying Mums should feed before they dare to step out of their homes – Most Mums will feed just before leaving the house but why should they cut a journey short because baby wants a feed half an hour later?
Comments suggesting babies should take a bottle when out and about – Easier said than done for some babies and why would you go to the hassle of expressing and using bottles if it’s not necessary?
Have you ever seen a Mum breastfeeding in public? I can guarantee that nine times out of ten you will not have noticed a Mum breastfeeding right next to you. If you should notice, what’s the worst that could happen? You might catch the slightest glimpse of a nipple whilst baby latches on but after that, you will see more breast on show on a Summer’s day in the park or in five minutes watching a music channel.
If after reading this, you still think that breastfeeding in public is abhorrent then please promise me this…
Keep your opinion to yourself.
Don’t whack out a tweet, don’t dedicate your facebook status and more importantly, fight the need to insult a Mum publicly.
I am no longer that vulnerable first time Mum but it still saddens me when people feel that their right to say whatever they want stamps all over a babies right to eat.
Please don’t underestimate how much damage a throwaway status, tweet or comment as you walk past a Mum does. Breastfeeding in public is a real issue for some breastfeeding Mums and I know Mums who have stopped breastfeeding before they wanted to because they were just too nervous to feed outside of their home.
Breastfeeding has nothing to do with breasts, boobies, tits, bazookas, jugs, or whatever else you want to call them, it is simply about a baby eating. If it is acceptable for a baby to be bottle fed then it is acceptable for a baby to be breastfed in the same situation.
If you don’t already have children then perhaps when you do, you may be a little older and wiser and find yourself on the other side. A vulnerable Mum trying to do her best.