Monday, 23 June 2014

Guest Post: Positively Normal #KBBF2014

Dare to breast feed in public and sooner or later you will encounter negativity. Yes? If the recent sensationalist media are to be believed, I've got away by the skin of my teeth. Every other day another mother hits the headlines for having the gobsmacking audacity to feed their hungry baby in a public place. It doesn't paint a very encouraging picture for fragile new mums does it?!

I probably have hundreds of neutral public breast feedings under my belt. Coffee shops, park benches, the more recent sling feeds while pushing the big sister on a swing. Every single one a non event. No gasping, fainting, shocked bystanders. No being asked to leave (despite some well rehearsed quips up my sleeve- yet to be used). No having my "currently feeding" status loudly drawn attention to. Total boring, bog standard, busy-sleep-deprived-mother-feeding-hungry-infant mundanity.

Among all this grey-scale normality I feel quite disheartened that I only have two note worthy positive experiences. Just two. A collective 23 months of breast feeding (so far) and I have had two brave strangers among thousands approach me to pass positive comment. And luckily for my girls, it's one apiece.

Positive experience nĂºmero uno.  The tired new mothers sanctuary- a comfy chair in a waitress service cafe, freshly brewed coffee, a massive wedge of cake, and most important of all: other tired new mothers to share it with. On this particular occasion there were 5 of us. By some twist of clever baby telepathy, all the two(ish) month olds decided they needed feeding at the same time. We managed to catch the attention of a nearby table of women. As they finished their rushed lunch break catchup, one popped over to our fortress of soft furnishings and buggies and pulled up a chair. Brazen.

"Can I just say how excited this makes me. I loved breast feeding. It has been a pleasure to watch you all happily feeding your babies. Well done, you should all feel really proud."

Then up she got and off she went. True, simple, to the point. A verbal high five for feeding. I walked out on air, reminded that the sleepless nights and cracked nipples had purpose. This was quite possibly the reason I trained as a peer supporter; so I could throw a few high fives out there for those who needed them most.

My second was much less momentous, but came as a welcome reminder of the importance of normalising breast feeding. In fact it was only a few weeks ago, and I really wish I'd thanked the lady for her words and told her just how welcome they were. I was sat feeding on a bench at an open farm while the two year old ran riot among the poultry. Poor baby had half an eye on her while I was watching and willing the big one not to pick up a chicken or fall in a puddle.

A grandmother with her own toddler in tow came straight over to us as if I was another of the farms attractions and drew the child's attention to my noisy little guzzler.

She uttered words to the effect of "that baby is having a feed, how wonderful. look grandchild, this baby really loves her milk."

Again: true and simple. So often we are politely ignored, respectfully given our privacy or unacknowledged. I absolutely don't want a round of applause at every feed, nor am I encouraging everyone to seek out your nearest lactating mama and bombard her with attention. But maybe we *should* give a smile of recognition, or an occasional congratulation.

You may just catch someone on their hardest day and give them a much needed boost of pride and a reminder that they are giving their child an amazing gift.

Written by Holly Heather; proud wife of a carpenter, exasperated mother of a mountain goat and a chubby koala, passionate supporter of breastfeeders and enthusiastic surfer of the gentle parenting wave.

This post is part of the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt, which you can read more about here.

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  1. Don't make a big deal of it and no one will notice!

  2. i have no experience yet of breastfeeding (hoping to BF my baby when she is born) but ive picked up a breastfeeding scarf because i just know ill be so paranoid in public!

  3. Act confident when feeding in public, even if you don't feel it. Before long it won't be an act anymore

  4. Confidence! It's no one elses business but yours and your babies, adults wouldn't want to have their lunch in a toilet so why should a baby have to, just be proud as to what you're doing!

  5. muslins are great for covereing up

  6. I'm currently at 13 months of breastfeeding and had no positive or negative experiences. I've never had any comments made or asked to leave. In fact, 9/10 I doubt people even notice!

  7. We've been nursing baby for 27 months, keep up the 'good work', mama! X

  8. Know your rights and don't be stopped by misinformed people.

  9. Practice in places you know are not too busy like a local cafe or park or even your garden before going to busier places

  10. The first time I "practiced" out with my son I was really nervous, he was under 4 weeks old and I knew I just had to go out and face the fear of feeding in public. We went to a local garden, far enough from home that he would have to be fed. I decided to feed him on a bench (secluded area, not really going to help "the fear") and pretty much as soon as he was latched on it started to rain. Poor boy was whipped off and we had to hot foot it to the cafe. It was tiny and the customers were pretty much on each others laps. I had no choice but to feed him there and then. An old woman kept glancing over and walked over to us as she was leaving. I broke out in a cold sweat as I tried to preempt what she would say. She told me I had a beautiful son and told my son what a good and clever mummy he had. How I didn't cry I don't know. That was the only comment I ever received on my first trip out. That lovely lady gave me the confidence to keep going. I am so very grateful for that shower of rain we had that forced me inside that cafe. No 2 is due very soon and I can't wait to feed again. There is nothing in this world like it.

  11. Just do whatever you feel comfortable with, all that matters is baby and you x

  12. Be confident most people don't even notice.

  13. Don't make a big thing out of it and remember it's normal

  14. I've never had a bad experience feeding in public, a few looks but not more than that. Today I had a little girl come over and ask what I was doing. When I said I was giving baby some milk she asked " is it in your bag, shall I get it out?" when I explained the look on her face was brilliant! Such amazement. I love being able to normalize breastfeeding!

  15. I'm very shy, so I try and be as discreet as possible, having nursing bras and nursing tops works great for me.

  16. Grace Proudley27 June 2014 at 17:25

    Great read thanks :)

  17. Sarah Strickland27 June 2014 at 22:03

    No funny stories - and breastfeeding is well received wherever I've gone, so far - but I had some embarrassing moments early on with wet patches on my shirt front... over-supply meant that breast pads were a necessity until recently!

  18. Lynsey Buchanan28 June 2014 at 14:17

    A Nursing Shawl is great to discreetly breastfeed in public


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