Since I wrote ‘If breastfeeding isn’t your bag, stop and think before you tweet‘, there have been far too many incidents where Mums have endured abuse online with regards to feeding their children.
Today, women and men are gathering at a number of locations in support of Emily Slough who was minding her own business, eating her lunch whilst her baby girl had hers. Emily’s photograph was taken without her knowledge then posted on a Facebook page which then branded her a ‘tramp’!
Within the last week or so, Ashley Nicole (the model girlfriend of Miami Dolphins’ Philip Wheeler) faced a Twitter backlash after posting a photo of her looking amazing whilst feeding her tiny baby and Heather Vaughan was told she would have to move and feed her baby in the toilet of a Museum in Portsmouth.
Each time these incidents come to light, social media, tv, newspapers etc are awash with polls asking ‘Should a Mum be allowed to breastfeed her baby in public’.
This question drives me insane and is quite possibly the most ridiculous question ever to be asked.
This question assumes that breastfeeding is all about the mother. That she chooses to breastfeed in public when she clearly has better options she should turn to…
Perhaps Mums should express milk and give it in a bottle in public?
No. Not all Mums respond well to expressing milk. Not all babies respond well to bottles.
Having to express and give bottles puts extra pressure on Mums and if everything is going well isn’t advised in the early days, so unless absolutely necessary there’s really no need to bother. Expressing breast milk gives most of the benefits but none of the convenience. I tried expressing for public outings but it always ended up being easier to just feed Spud normally and the milk was wasted. Second time around, I didn’t express once for outings with Pooh Bear because I didn’t have the time and I was more confident.
Why don’t mums wear nursing covers?
Would you eat with your head under a blanket?
Some babies hate having anything on their heads whilst eating and they can get all hot and bothered. I started off covering Spud when he was tiny but again, it was easier not to. If Mums want to wear covers then whatever makes you feel comfortable is more than acceptable but I would hate for Mums to feel like they have to cover up because of outside pressure.
If you look at past posts which show me breastfeeding, you will see how little breast you actually see when baby feeds. If it weren’t for the words telling you Emily Slough was breastfeeding her daughter, you would have no clue that’s what she was doing.
Even if you do accidentally catch a glimpse of a nipple, I think you’d survive. You wouldn’t instantly be rendered blind thankfully else we’d all be since you can walk into any newsagent right now and pick up a number of publications showing nipples aplenty.
OK, so you can’t express, baby won’t entertain a bottle or feed under a cover…
I know, why not feed before you go out.
Yep, I can guarantee, that most Mums DO feed before leaving the house but unless they are close enough to run home half an hour later then it’s just not practical. All babies should be fed on cue and should be aiming for about eight feeds in twenty-four hours. They can go three hours between one feed, one hour before the next then wait another two before needing another. They feed when they’re hungry and thirsty as we do and although they get into their own little routine eventually, teething, growth and developmental spurts and a whole host of other reasons mean that you can’t always work around their feeds (and why should you).
Ok so you’re out and baby wants feeding so why not feed in the changing room or loo…
Have you ever been into a public toilet or baby change? If the smell doesn’t put you off your lunch, then the thought of the number of people who have passed through and not washed their hands will. When was the last time you dined in a loo?
Also, I always wonder what anyone who needs to use disabled loos thinks of this suggestion since a lot of baby changes are located there. Babies can take anything between ten minutes and an hour to finish a feed. Ten minutes is long enough for the toilet to be engaged never mind an hour!
Right, so I think I’ve covered most of the usual counterarguments to breastfeeding in public but you can quite frankly forget about every single one. They mean diddly squat.
At the end of the day, babies have the right to be fed. Whether that be by breast or bottle, they have a basic human right to food.
Should a Mum be ‘allowed’ to breastfeed in public?
Of course she should and the law in the UK protects that right. Breasts weren’t invented to adorn Lads’ Mags, their primary function is to nourish and nurture. Breasts and nipples are socially acceptable until you latch a baby on and I for one am eternally sad that this is the level society has dragged itself down to.
If we ask ‘Should a baby be allowed to eat in public?’ how many people would stand up and say ‘No’? (I would hope no-one but I imagine the odd troll would pipe up)
The really heartbreaking thing about all this is that although it is really rare to have a negative experience when feeding in public, the thought of having a negative experience actually DOES put Mums off even considering breastfeeding and breast milk as an option for them and their baby.
I have met Mums who express exclusively in order to avoid feeding in public and this is no mean feat. It takes a lot of determination to sustain this method of feeding and I take my hat off to every Mum who has embarked on this journey but it is really sad that Mums are being forced into taking a more difficult route simply because they are terrified of abuse from strangers.
Social Media and the Media in general amplifies the issue and although there are far too many (one is too many) negative incidents of late, the vast majority of Mums and babies have positive experiences. You won’t see the Daily Mail reporting on a Mum who has a run of the mill, normal experience or even a really positive experience because that doesn’t sell papers.
This is where I would love your help. I would love you to comment here, email me, post on my facebook page, and tweet me with your run of the mill and positive feeding in public stories so that I can compile a positive blog post to go some way to counteract the doom and gloom reported every day. I bet there will be many positive experiences from the gatherings in support of Emily Slough today. If there are any Dads who have a positive story to share then that would be lovely too.
I’ll start us off…
If I add up my time breastfeeding so far, I have three and a half years experience of feeding in public and have NOT received ANY negative comments. That time includes feeding a toddler on occasion too.