I saw the feature on the news about the young mum being labelled a ‘tramp’ for breastfeeding in public and to be honest I was quite flabbergasted that this occurs even now. I guess there will always be those that oppose and think breastfeeding is something that should be done in private.
When I had my first child twenty six years ago, he was born by an emergency Caesarian Section and I was in hospital for ten days post birth. I wanted to breast feed and I tried really hard, but it just didn’t work for me and shortly after arriving home, without the constant help of the midwives, I gave up and he was given formula.
My next child was born just seventeen months later, this time a normal birth and I was home within 24 hours. I gave breastfeeding another try and this time managed to keep it up for six months. The whole time I felt I was practically confined to my home. Breastfeeding in public was frowned upon by so many, but also I didn’t feel confident enough in myself to feed my baby in public. Even when visiting friends and family I would resign to the privacy of a bedroom to feed my baby. I was caught out a couple of times while on trips out and ended up feeding her public toilets, actually sitting on the loo. (oh the shame of admitting that now!)
Times have changed though, and I felt a lot more comfortable when baby number three arrived some sixteen years later. I did feed her in public a few times, but not blatently. I was discreet, using the right sort of clothing for quick and easy access, and covering up without making it obvious. It wasn’t difficult, and providing she was being a good girl and feeding well then we ‘got away with it’ mostly. I mean, no-one around knew I was doing anything other than cuddle my baby. Is that wrong? Not for me, I’m quite a shy person, and just felt more comfortable being discreet. Of course, I would prefer to seek out proper breastfeeding places, comfy semi-private rooms set up specifically for baby feeding, just like being at home.
I can admit to feeding a baby on the train, in the car, in cafe’s, even in the park. I didn’t receive any comments or stares and felt totally comfortable doing it my own discreet way.
The same went for baby number four, in fact we got so comfortable that I extended breastfeeding until she was just over two years old and she made the decision to stop. After the first few months, though, it becomes less necessary to feed out of the home. So, I was not nursing a toddler in public at any time. I did start to get some opposition from my own family though…isn’t she too old for that now, isn’t it about time you gave up?
So, as a mum I’ve seen and experienced the changes in acceptance of breastfeeding in public. I’ve done both breast and bottle feeding, public and private feeding. In the earlier days I felt like I was abiding by some silent rules. Hiding myself away to nurse my baby. Then I had the opportunity to feel more freedom in my choice of where and when I nursed my baby.
Then along came baby number five and a whole different dilemma in my mind. Was I too old to breastfeed? I know it sounds daft, but at 44 years old I didn’t expect to be pregnant, and I just believed that people would think I was the baby’s grandmother. My two older children were both old enough to be parents of all three of my younger children. It was just all getting a bit too weird, even for me.
I made my decision. I made it because of how I felt within myself. Yes, I was thinking about what other’s would think. You may say, it doesn’t matter what other people think, but what if it does matter, it mattered to me. I don’t mind what other people do, breast feed, bottle feed, nurse in public, I really don’t mind at all, it’s their decision. I don’t normally care what other people think about me and what I do. But, this time, I felt vulnerable, sensitive, self-conscious. I made my decision. I fed my little boy at home for six weeks then I switched to bottle feeding. During those first few weeks, most of my contact with the outside world was family and friends. We did go out, and I did nurse him when I was required to, but it was only for six weeks, and the time flew by. I didn’t beat myself up about it, it was my decision, and the Little Man is just fine.