Having seen yet another Facebook post today about breastfeeding, and having listened to a radio phone-in about it, I decided to share my views on the matter. I have called this post ‘Breastfeeding Dilemmas’ but if I am honest, with Boy 3, this is not a dilemma for me. It is just something that I do. Often. Anywhere and (mostly) everywhere.
What surprises me is how much media attention this topic is getting of late. And yes I know I am adding to the attention with this post, but since I only have a handful of readers (and they are being polite as they are friends!) it doesn’t count. I also have a very current and real view of the situation as I am still exclusively breastfeeding Boy 3.
Let me give you a little feeding history for each of my boys…
Boy 1 was bottle fed. (See, I am not the Mother Earth you may think!) I tried to breastfeed him, under the pressure of ‘Breast is Best’, which was plastered all over every doctors’ surgery and hospital I attended whilst pregnant, but it just didn’t happen. Perhaps it was his tongue tie that prevented the breastfeeding, or more likely the boob phobia he developed having had every midwife in Sutton try to force my boobs into his mouth, and him not getting any milk. As a 9lb baby, I definitely think it was the latter. You see, a 9lb baby is a hungry baby. And a few drops of milk, served from a pipette, will just not satisfy his hunger. And I can confirm that a hungry baby is also a shouty baby. And a crying baby. And an angry baby. And that makes for a stressed, shouty, crying and angry mummy. Hence the bottle-feeding! (BTW he was a very healthy and strong baby, despite being formula-fed.)
Boy 2 was breastfed. It just worked with him. There was no magic – no special way to get him to latch on, no special hold to have him in…he just liked booby! In fact, he liked it a lot. He fed on demand, frequently, as often as he could get it. And as a result, I had to feed him in many different places. As a first-time breast-feeder, I was conscious of getting my boobs out in public, but had some clever tricks to help. The vest trick (where you wear a vest under every top, so that when you lift up your top to feed, you still have a vest covering your body) worked quite well, although wearing two layers through the summer was a bit much sometimes. But this was quite discreet. And then there was the breastfeeding cover thing I bought. It was basically a piece of garish material that attached round my neck and covered the baby, but had a piece of plastic around the top, allowing me to see the baby, but the general public not to see my boobs. And whilst my boobs could not be seen, the hideous garish design was definitely not discreet. It was like a flashing neon light above my head saying ‘Look at me! I am breastfeeding!’ Not cool.
And now Boy 3 – who is almost 12 weeks old. He is also breastfed on demand. He loves milk and all things booby! Like Boy 2, he just got it. There have been no sore nipples, pain or cabbage leaves! He feeds quickly and efficiently and it is the easiest thing in the world. (There was a small case of mastitis but it was quickly fixed with some tips from a friend including massage and hot baths!)
Third time around, and seven years older, I am less self-conscious this time. That doesn’t mean I whap out the boobs anywhere, but it does mean I have ditched the hideous cover. I don’t eat with a cloth over my head or in a tent, so I don’t see why my baby should. I use the vest trick and a pashmina to cover the nipple while he latches on, but then I take it away. Because by then all you can see is the back of the head of a very contented baby. And yes, if you look closely, you will realise I am breast-feeding, but get over it. Who cares? If you would rather, I can let him scream full pelt, which would be the other option for a hungry baby!
I do try to find somewhere appropriate to feed, perhaps somewhere quiet, but that is purely for our benefit. Appropriate for me means a comfortable chair. Appropriate means somewhere where they will make me a latte and bring it over to me. Appropriate means somewhere I am relaxed. It is not about appropriate for others, because feeding my baby is not about others. It is about him and me. Be bold mummies – it is your legal and moral right to breastfeed wherever you like.
Sometimes however, these comfortable and relaxing places are not available, and in those cases we will just feed where we need to. Here are some of the places I have breastfed: Park benches, libraries, in the car in a crematorium car park, restaurants, children’s farms, rock-climbing centres, rugby clubhouses. Yes, those are real places I actually got my boobs out to feed Boy 3. And do you know what? Despite all the media furore, not one person has ever challenged me or looked at me disapprovingly…I wonder if the media has unnecessarily made this a bigger problem that is really is. Although, I suppose that even one mum who has been challenged about breastfeeding is one mum too many. I often plan in my head what I would say to one of those people who might dare to challenge me, and it wouldn’t be apologetic or particularly polite, but thankfully there has been no need.
There have been some places where I drew the line and I did not breastfeed: the baby room in Mothercare, which quite frankly smells so disgusting I cannot believe that they dare suggest anyone feeds in there, alongside the other parents changing nappies; a toilet with a convenient feeding chair placed in the corner (I would not eat my food in a toilet, why should my baby?); the rugby pitch touchline on a Sunday morning because it was bloody cold; a church full of children that I teach, at their harvest festival – that is a memory they do not need to have of me! But I chose not to feed in those places – it was my choice. Not because I was embarrassed, but because I didn’t want to.
And that brings me to the end of my views for today as I have three boys to put to bed, including one to breastfeed. So to summarise: I am not an exhibitionist; I am not a Mother Earth; I am not anti-bottles; I am not a boob ambassador; I am not proud of my boobs and keen to show them off (quite the opposite – after three babies they are somewhat saggy!). I am just a mum who is lucky enough to be able to feed her baby in the easiest, cheapest and simplest way possible. It is just something that I do. Often. Anywhere and (mostly) everywhere.