Forget about the breasts, babies need to eat!

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.

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0 thoughts on “Forget about the breasts, babies need to eat!

  1. It has become a bit of a tradition for us. After I’ve had each of our babies between a week to 3 weeks old we go for a family day at the coast. It’s lovely to sit watching the sea and my older children playing in the sand while I feed my brand new baby. I’ve never had any bad experiences feeding any of my 5 children in public.

  2. My first two NIP experiences were both while staying in Cambridge. The first was while attending a service in one of the college chapels; my daughter started crying, so I took her to the back where there was space to walk around, but she clearly needed a feed. I sat down and got on with it as best I could (this was quite early on so we weren’t especially skilled). No one batted an eyelid, though the student who brought me Communion was a little confused at how to give it to someone with only one free hand! The next day, several people commented to my husband how pleased they were that I hadn’t felt I had to leave.

    The second time was in the middle of a shopping centre, where a group of men were setting up a stage! I was horribly embarrassed, as getting my daughter latched on was difficult and she kept coming off, so I was showing a lot of breast. No one said anything to me. But there was a woman there with a toddler and an older baby, and she came over and sat on the same bench for a little while, chatting to her children. As far as I could see she didn’t need to stop, and I really appreciated the solidarity.

    I don’t remember any negative comments, though from 4 months or so I started to get the “Why are you still doing that?” ones.

  3. cover and I just use a wrap carrier and/or lift my jumper whenever, wherever my baby is hungry or needs comfort. Disapproving looks are usually from other women and are easily ignored. Getting smiles and help while caring for my child feels wonderful.

    • Half my comment has gone!
      Meant to say, I have fed in restaurants (inc. at work Xmas meal), in church, while shopping around Asda, while out for a walk with dogs, in my car in car parks, at the library, during a school play and on the school run. I have had ‘looks’ of disapproval but I have also had smiles (an extra large one from the vicar’s wife in church!) and a grandad at my older son’s school carried my son’s scooter for me when he saw me struggling to feed and walk with it, then a fellow mum carried my son’s bags back to my car so I could carry on feeding. I have never used a cover and I just use a wrap carrier and/or lift my jumper whenever, wherever my baby is hungry or needs comfort. Disapproving looks are usually from other women and are easily ignored. Getting smiles and help while caring for my child feels wonderful.

      • Aaaww, yes smiles really do make your day. I had a whole conversation with a friend whilst walking round the supermarket and she didn’t even notice! At least disapproving looks can be ignored although I think I would flash a disapproving glare right back at them!!! 😀

  4. love this post! I too find it so awful to hear of women and their babies being treated with such disrespect. I have been breastfeeding my son for 15 months and always have fed out and about, without a cover (my son HATED being covered). I’ve never had any negative comments though a few double takes which I put down to curiosity. I remember the first time I fed in public I felt a bit stressed, but as soon as the baby was on, I relaxed, looked round and realised noone was even bothered! Most people I’m sure would prefer a quiet feeding baby to a screaming hungry one? I hope this gives women confidence.

    • Thank you, I’m sure it will definitely help Mums to hear your story. It is awful when all you are doing is feeding your child and are particularly vulnerable at that time of your life. Thankfully, most have good experiences :)

  5. I haven’t has any horrible comments and I’ve breastfed my first for 8.5 months and currently bf the second (he’s 11 months with no signs of stopping any time soon!) I’m always proud to nurse in public, usually in a cafe or whatever when we are out. This Saturday we went to Sittingboure town centre in Kent and I nursed in a pub, the waitress didn’t even bat and eyelid and even said ‘Aww!’. We also went to a cafe, I didn’t need to feed but it had a ‘Breastfeeding Welcome’ sticker in the window 😀

    • Lovely! I do love a ‘breastfeeding welcome’ sticker. Not because I think we need to be ‘allowed’ to breastfeed in certain places but because it helps new Mums especially feel more confident and encourages them to feed out and about.

  6. Our dryer was broken at home so I had to go to a laundromat. While I was waiting, my son and I sat on a bench outside and nursed. A woman came over to me and said “What a cute baby. I breastfed all of my children. Good job”. It was one of my first NIP experiences by myself and it was so encouraging.

  7. Me and my boy love feeding out and about. Its just not practical to find somewhere private most of the time, and why should we?! We go to some lovely places and I feed my boy anywhere thats comfortable for us, usually outside in the sunshine. Shame I can’t add photos here as I have some lovely ones of us out in the countryside recently. We have a little spot in our local park next to the river where my little man can fall asleep (on the boob!) listening to the water tinkling and the birdies singing. Beautiful :)

  8. Me and my boy have a spot in our local park down by the river where I feed him pretty much everyday. My son can fall asleep peacefully listening to the water tinkling and the birds singing. Beautiful :)
    First baby, 5 months happily breastfeeding and never a bad experience x

  9. My comment isn’t exactly interesting or newsworthy. But I’m with you. 3 years of being my daughter, 18 months (so far!) with my son and I’ve not had any negative comments from strangers or friends. I have had friends come over wanting to borrow baby for a cuddle and not realise till they get close that baby is busy right now. And I’ve had one unexpectedly detailed positive conversation with a teenage boy at a bus stop about it. He was a big brother interested in the baby and curious as to why I was still feeding such a “grown-up” baby, but all positive :)

    • Love that you educated that young lad :) I think people worry too much (and weirdly) that teenage boys will somehow find it awkward and sexual when really if you’re honest and answer their burning questions, they see it for what it is too. Normal and natural :)

  10. With my first, I never attempted to feed in public…I didn’t even know I COULD. It never occurred to me that I was allowed to NIP, so I did ‘the right thing’ and hid away or carried bottles to give while we were out. I didn’t enjoy it, but I thought it was what we had to do. I was also booby trapped with my first, so she was mixed fed from birth and breastfeeding ended at 5.5 months. Not my ideal situation, but drs are sometimes liars.

    With my second, I knew I wanted things to happen differently, and I have followed through. I have been nursing for 3.5 years all around England and Wales and not only has nobody ever commented or glared or said anything at all, I’m not sure anyone ever even noticed, bar one time (I was in the hospital waiting room waiting for the consultant during an ectopic pregnancy. I was nursing my 10 month old and an elderly couple simply smiled at me as I quietly and sadly fed my son, while waiting for my heartbreaking news. I took their kind look to store away and remember later because I couldn’t feel glad about it right then.).
    Amywho, as time continued on, I’ve become more confident in my choice to breastfeed and in my decision to NIP is one I’d never question. I was apprehensive at first, but it’s all been fine.

    • So sorry your first time wasn’t what you wanted :( You, like me used that experience to fuel your determination to do things differently second time around. Sorry to hear about your loss xxx Glad you had only positive experiences whilst feeding.

  11. I breastfed my first daughter until she was 14 months and am now breastfeeding my 13 week old (literally now actually!) I have never come across any negativity or had any comments when feeding in public. ….the only remark I had that was slightly negative came from my own mother that my then 8 month old looked ‘too big’ to be breastfed.

  12. I have been feeding my son for almost 16 months now. When I was pregnant, I bought a nursing cape – more to spare other people’s blushes but to be honest, but I just found it to be a faff so I ended up with the old vest top underneath a normal top to cover my stomach and top part of my breast. I have never experienced any negative comments and if anything, people take absolutely no notice :) I have had a few smiles from other women – in a ‘I’ve been there too, isn’t it lovely way’ and a couple of sniggers from teenage boys but that’s it! As my boy was getting older and getting distracted so popping off regularly, I was often more than a little exposed but both I and other people just laughed! I have had a lovely experience feeding my son, in private and in public and am just sorry that other people have had bad experiences because I suspect (and certainly hope) that most other nursing Mums have had positive experiences like mine :)

  13. I’ve fed both my children freely in public (sometimes very much so – I can often be found feeding whilst manning our stall at the local Farmer’s Market!). I’ve never yet had a negative experience, in fact I’ve had quite a few lovely smiles! I fed my daughter until she was 3 1/2 and my little man is 18 months. I was always prepared for negativity when my daughter small – it was the same time that a breastfeeding mum in Wiltshire had a bucket of water tipped over her and her baby so it was very much in the back of my mind. The only time I was approached by anyone though was to say how lovely it was to see, that really made my day!

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