Aye Aye! Breastfeeding in public…

I thought that given that I am breastfeeding, and this for some reason, is still a controversial subject I should probably have an opinion on it, so here it is…

Pre-baby, when I saw women breastfeeding I used to literally think ‘wow, they are so brave’. Even back then, when I knew nothing about breastfeeding or babies, I was still massively aware of how people shrink in horror or become uncomfortable and awkward at the sight of a breastfeeding woman. But why? It’s one of the few natural behaviours. left that humans do, and yet there’s this weird cloud of controversy that hangs around the neck of breastfeeding. And I’m not sure it will ever shake off this controversy now; it feels too late, and I think that’s really sad.

When I first started breastfeeding it was a bloody mindfield. It was seriously tough. But once it clicked, it was something that I felt comfortable doing, and the more I did it the easier it got. I fortunately didn’t ever get cracked or sore nipples so had an easier time than most. Until I gained confidence, I was petrified of breastfeeding in public. I used to only leave the house immediately after a feed, and rush back home before the next one. I didn’t even want to do it in front of friends. And it wasn’t even the bit about flashing your boobs that was the main issue for me, (I think the whole world and his dog saw my boobs during a particularly hot summer in Bournemouth in 2005) it was more about being seen as a mum who ‘knew what she was doing’. And lets face it, I didn’t for a while, and even now I feel like I’m winging it most of the time (but I like it like that!) I had to have quiet, I needed my chair to support my back and I had to know that I wasn’t in a rush and that no one was waiting for me, or even worse, watching what I was doing. I still prefer to have all of these things but you can’t let breastfeeding take over your life and now I can do it cross legged and standing on my head in a car park if needs be.

A major part in my journey out of the dark depths of solitary feeding, to nursing in public (I still never get why it’s called nursing, I’ve never needed a stethoscope) was watching how other mums did it. I remember reading bits of advice about going to breastfeeding groups and being shown by ‘experienced breastfeeders’ what to do. The whole idea of that just made me cringe. I imagined hippies in flowing skirts with their baps out while making daisy chains. But it was when I went to take Phoenix to get weighed at the children’s centre that I spied a mum breastfeeding and had a eureka moment. She was so discreet, practically nothing was on show, and she just carried on chatting casually. Now I know this sounds stupid, but I had no clue how to get my boobs out discreetly (I know, what can I say, I’m a tart) and Phoenix was born in the summer and I was opting for clothes that I could just pull down from the top and flop my boobs over – not so discreet, hey? So when I saw this woman sneak a muslin square under her t-shirt, tuck it under her bra to keep her body covered, then let down a nursing bra and lift up her top revealing little more than a peep hole for the nipple, I was wide eyed: ‘this girl has got it sussed!’. See, it’s things like that you never get told, so maybe the suggestion of going to a breastfeeding group isn’t so ludicrous after all – there was no way I was going to waltz into Starbucks with the way I was doing it “Hello sir, would you like a nipple with your latte?”.

Generally if I’m out shopping I still prefer to use the feeding rooms in Mothercare/John Lewis as they’re more relaxing, it’s nice chatting to other mums and you can send your husband off to buy you chocolate buttons, but I am no longer scared to feed in other places. There comes a time when you just don’t have a choice but to feed in public, and once I’d done it, it was a barrier overcome (that happened to be in a pub in Waterloo for me!) You also develop an innate skill for seeking out ‘quiet corners’ and transforming tables and chairs into a set up that gives you a bit more privacy. So if you are breastfeeding, when you’re ready, don’t be shy, and don’t be put off by the silly ol’ general public, the more we retreat, the more this ridiculous controversy around breastfeeding will grow. The end.

Please add your thoughts by commenting below 🙂

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22 thoughts on “Aye Aye! Breastfeeding in public…

  1. Do people shrink in horror? If they do I haven’t noticed!

    I agree it can be awkward feeding in public – I found it especially tricky at first as my babies were massive, so really heavy to hold, but didn’t have the head control to be ‘gently cradled’. I got a lightweight portable breastfeeding pillow (with straps to carry over buggy handles – genius!) with my second – I never knew such a thing existed until another mum lent me hers in a pub beer garden! That was a real help in the early days.

    ‘Fashion’ wise, I have a selection of about 8 Primark vest tops, £1.50 each, in lots of different colours, that I wear under normal t-shirts. Top up, vest down, jelly belly remains concealed. Wish I knew that muslin trick for this summer though, as I was boiling in double layers (not having that problem at the moment!).

  2. Emma Dudley says:

    Hiya Em, your facebook page was suggested to me by Dani and I have been having a read through. Congrats on your little boy he is very cute!!! I have a little boy myself, 4 weeks old this Friday called Alexander and today is going to be my first feed away from home at Merry Hill but they now have feeding cubicles! Still very daunting but know I have to take the plunge soon!! But like you I get all panicky if he cries!!! I am taking him into my work Friday and all I am thinking is ‘please don’t cry while we are there’!! Xx

    • hey em, great to see you on here and congrats on Alexander! you’ll have to flick back to my new born posts! good for you for getting out and about, especially as your heading to the super stressful merry hell! if you visit my facebook page and hit like you can get updates, be good to hear how you’re getting on! x

  3. Tracey says:

    1000% with you Em on this. A mega-important issue and as you say soooo sad, nevermind shocking and outrageous that there’s controversy about breastfeeding in public. XX

  4. Caroline says:

    When I first started breastfeeding I found it a very solitary situation – I was too embarrassed to do it in front of anyone but my husband, so when visitors came to see the baby I would be hidden upstairs for most of the time trying to feed, and I found that really depressing. Once I got into it I was far more brave, but only out of necessity not because I felt comfortable doing it in public. I think it’s sad that something so natural, beneficial and what your boobs are actually for, should be publicly awkward.

    Also, you never see anyone on soaps breastfeeding, it’s all about making up bottles!

  5. I’ve breastfed all five of my children including my latest little one, my 15 month old son. I have always felt like I was in such a minority. There are never any breastfeeding role models to path our way into the public. On TV, breastfeeders are portrayed as hippy attachment parents who breastfeed their 8 year olds or as the butt of a sexualised joke (did you see those episodes of Friends with Joey drooling over Rachel’s post-partum boobs??) So, if I need to feed my boy in public, I find a quiet corner and arrange tables, chairs, his buggy, my husband and kids to create a safe, private space for me to discretely feed him with my clothes organised to hide my flesh. Bravo to the companies like Ikea’s Restaurants that are beginning to adopt breastfeeding friendly policies. Maybe times are a-changing!

    • Hi Wendy – I totally agree about the portrayal of breastfeeding women, it’s a shame, I’m a totally normally, average girl who breastfeeds but you’re right we are always portrayed as hippies or weirdos. So so annoying. I went to Ikea when Phoenix was 3 weeks (mad) and I was so happy when I found the breastfeeding corner I could have cried! Thanks for reading x

  6. Darren says:

    It makes me so mad when people get weird about breast feeding. They are forgetting that they are human! Peace out! X

  7. Bev says:

    I can remember the exact place I first breastfed our first son in public. John Lewis restaurant in Milton Keynes – big build up, got brave, decided to go for it, just sat down & started to relax when the fire alarm went off & we were evacuated. Almost emotionally scarred for life! But we got the hang of it in the end including the whole ‘magic muslin’ thing. A very special time. It was only when we switched to the bottle that I realised how much easier I’d had it than other mums carting all those bottles & sterilising bits about!

  8. mummyfiles says:

    Lovely honest post. I remember feeling nervous of feeding in public, but it was hubby who told me not to be ashamed so with his encouragement, I whipped a boob out. I hadn’t quite got the discreet knack so I think I probably did actually whip the whole thing out.
    Once I found my mojo though, I could feed the boy anywhere, the best one was walking around TK Max with him strapped to my boob. Good times!

  9. Kirsty says:

    Breastfeeding was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. E had a tongue tie which caused my nipples to shatter into a thousand pieces. The pain was as bad as labour. All the Australian BF association suggested was ‘feed through the pain’. A midwife put me on to nipple shields but it took 8 weeks for the damage to heal. 2 weeks of good BF then E has decided to get fussy and he clamps down and pulls. He’s now on half BF, half formula at 16 weeks and I’m happy.

    Of all the things ice dobe for him breastfeeding has made me cry the most, feel the proudest, and given me faith that everything works out in the end.

    Not that I ever worried about doing it in public. Most of London and some football grounds have seen more of my boobs than ppl do when I feed, LOL. he’s been fed everywhere from Mothercare to an AFL match. I still prefer the parents rooms though 🙂

    • Ahhh well done for persevering, you’re right, it’s the most stressful thing but also the most rewarding in the end. P has a tongue tie too but its quite mild and fortunately didn’t effect feeding – will you be having it snipped? I’m still not sure…

      • Kirsty says:

        It was quite bad and really affecting his suction so although his latch was good he wasn’t getting volume. And he was killing my nipples! So it was snipped when he was 10 days old.

        I would say get it done when he’s young. There was no change in E’s cries over & above the “there’s a hand in my mouth” cry, so no apparent distress. Straight on the boob afterwards to calm him and let the milk work it’s wonders. Happy baby!! I understand they can affect speech if left, although I suspect it depends on severity.

  10. Jess says:

    Breastfeeding my 5 week old in public for the first time this sunday, I am more than confident to feed in front of anyone in my house but am slightly dreading it on someone elses turf! Especially as my friend had some negative comments from an old man when feeding in public for her first time last week, think I would probably have cried if I was her. What would people prefer, a screaming baby?!!

  11. jess says:

    It went really well actually, bit of an awkward moment when the little boy opposite started pointing and asking his dad what the baby was doing! Good first experience though, the waiter even asked if I wanted him to keep my dinner warm! I told him there was no point as eating cold food and drinking cold cups of tea was something I had become used too! Its just a shame that there are people out there who will make women feel like they are doing something wrong for doing one of the most natural things in the world x

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