Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Cover up please! Breastfeeding in Public..

So you've mastered breastfeeding at home and after the superhuman effort of childbirth, you deserve some retail therapy!

Is your blood running cold at the thought of getting your boobs out at the cafe? Or are you well armed with the knowledge that you're doing the most amazing thing ever for your baby and what others think doesn't mean a bean?

To be honest I don't think this subject is as simple as either of those responses. We've come a long way in that its now actually illegal in the UK to move on a breastfeeding mother so that's brilliant and not to mention long overdue. But I often find myself tying myself up in knots about it.

You might well ask why as I am, I guess, a breastfeeding veteran with 3 exclusively breastfed babies under my belt. I've confidently fed all of them in public, inwardly daring anyone to challenge me... honestly there were times I'd be sat in a cafe almost spoiling for a fight. How wrong is that? I would sit sometimes thinking about the women who have been asked to move on, by staff, by members of the public, and I'd end up fuming (in my really very English, mild mannered way, LOL).

Generally when you see a mother breastfeeding, you can see little or none of her breasts, and even if you could see some skin, then its still less than the photos on the front of any celebrity magazine and that's totally acceptable apparently. In fact I saw more areolas on display on the Oscars red carpet than at my local breastfeeding drop in.

In response to this societal reaction, a number of products can now be bought to help protect the breastfeeding mothers 'modesty'; shawls/ponchos etc. Although I am very pleased that there is a market for these items (as in, breastfeeding mothers out there breastfeeding) I wonder occasionally whether they reinforce the idea that breastfeeding needs to be covered up.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that there isn't a place for modesty. What I'm saying is how saddened I am by the fact that women feel that if they do need to breastfeed while out and about, that she either needs to find a private room out of sight of everyone, or cover herself up.

And while I'm on the subject, those 'feeding' rooms provided by some shops etc are beyond gross, a vertical backed wooden bench next to the changing table and a bin full of ... well... not exactly a breastfeeding friendly environment, whatever the sticker on the front door says. Of course it could be worse. I've seen a disabled toilet with a feeding sign on it too. Maybe the management ordinarily eat their lunch in the bathroom... though I somehow suspect not.

If a breastfeeding cover enables a woman to feel confident about breastfeeding her baby in public then I'm all for them. I appreciate that its not all about worrying about the reactions of others and sometimes about personal modesty boundaries etc but they are also to me a little reminder that as far as total acceptance goes, we have a way to go yet.
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  1. Hope you don't mind me chipping in here, my kids are now all teenagers (or older), so not exactly babes in arms! But I did exclusively breastfeed all five, for nine months to a year apiece, so I do have a lot of experience in this matter. It seems to me that a lot of mothers-to-be are influenced by adverts which show breastfeeding mothers virtually stripped to the waist, also magazine articles on breastfeeding tend to show lots more boob than is necessary in real life. I just used to wear jumpers and shove child's head up and onto boob (except in very hot summers, where I wore a T shirt and did the same). No skin revealing necessary (which, given the fact I've had five, was probably a good thing, come the last one!) I think, when expectant mothers are considering their options as to feeding, it ought to be pointed out that breastfeeding doesn't mean that anyone has to see anything. I often fed sitting next to people who didn't even realised what was going on!

  2. Hi Jane thanks for your comment. I see where you're coming from, there's an argument to be made for each side I guess, the adverts I would assume are trying to normalise breastfeeding but perhaps missing the point sometimes that a woman actually just needs to know she can breastfeed quickly, easily and discreetly in public. Thanks for your thoughts and experience on the topic.:)


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