Breastfeeding: Positively Normal

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.

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