In celebration of World Breastfeeding Week, we are delighted to share with you this blog from Juliette, our BabyNatal teacher for Bromsgrove & Redditch, and a breastfeeding support worker. Many of our teachers joined BabyNatal as teachers to support other parents in their parenting choices, due to their own personal experiences of becoming parents themselves, and Juliette’s story is a great example of this.
When my second little girl was born I knew straight away I wanted to breastfeed I had read about all the great benefits to my baby and me such as reducing my risk of getting breast or ovarian cancer, naturally using up to 500 calories a day, it being free! Less chest and ear infections in baby and less chance of diarrhoea and vomiting are some of these benefits. I also felt that it really would help me with bonding with my baby, this was important to me as I had missed the chance to breastfeed my first baby girl as she was too ill and I didn’t have the opportunity to bond straight away with her.
At first I struggled with it but I soon felt comfortable and more confident feeding at home so I took the first step of breastfeeding in front of my father in law which scared me quite a lot. As he was someone I respected, I wanted to keep my privacy and dignity around him, it felt a big step. I anxiously got everything ready – the easy clip down bra, a proper very expensive breastfeeding top that had discreet holes and a large muslin cloth to hide my dignity. When the time come I sat right in the corner of the sofa furthest away from anyone, fumbled as I was nervous, while my little one cried away just letting me know that’s ‘its food time so stop messing!’. However, we did it no one even noticed and my father in law even asked if he should leave the room while I feed. When I said I had finished he said he thought I was cuddling her. Well I thought that wasn’t so bad, mission accomplished and I feel ready to go into the wide world and feed my child when she is hungry in a public place.
Although I am a fairly confident person and now felt reassured in my ability as a breastfeeding mum what I hadn’t considered were other people’s reactions, I was more worried about me and getting it right. So I was very surprised on my first time at a breastfeeding support group how reserved all the mums were when they fed. Don’t get me wrong – I wasn’t expecting it to be all nature is best and all sit with our tops off! But the women turned away and covered themselves up with so many items you could hardly see their baby and as this was at the breastfeeding support group, it really surprised me.
My next trip out was a family meal at a pub, where I became quite flustered as an elderly couple looked at me in disbelief that I dared to breastfeed my baby in a pub at lunch time. I did get upset at this and took it personally for a few days and then I thought this is natural – I am feeding my baby how I want to feed her and she is hungry – so forget about everyone else and to zone in on that. This is what I did, even though I still got looks and once a comment about how I should be feeding my baby in a private room instead of a cafe. (I must admit I had not had a good day I was tired and did snap back that she was eating so maybe she should eat in the room as well!) My point is that there should not be a stigma to breastfeeding in public but unfortunately there still is, it also surprised me how people of all ages and generations felt uncomfortable being round breastfeeding women. You would think these days with a more modern and changing society things would be different and I believe they will if women carry on breastfeeding in public, forget about everyone else and just concentrate on you and your little one.
For your information there are certain tips that are useful to know when feeding in public such as:
- Planning ahead think about where you will be comfortable to feed for e.g in a cafe rather than a public bench.
- Make sure you have a local list of all the breastfeeding friendly places.
- Wear a comfortable loose fitting top that baby could go underneath or a special breastfeeding top but as you find out, these are not a necessity.
- Obtain a comfortable bra that clips open at the front to make it easier access
- They now have baby’s slings or scarves especially used to cover while breastfeeding – again these are not essential, a simple muslin cloth works, whatever is comfortable for you.
- Take a friend with you having company may ease the anxiety especially if they are breastfeeding themselves.
- Know your rights the equality act 2010 made it illegal for anyone to ask a woman to leave a public place if she is breastfeeding.
Juliette is a mum and BabyNatal teacher for Bromsgrove & Redditch in the Midlands.
Find out more about Juliette on our main website here.