Last week I organised a Breastfeed Flash Mob in Brighton. It was on the back of some harassment I received while feeding my four month old baby in public. More than 60 women took part to assert that public feeding is normal and vital for mums. We attracted a minor media storm plus it opened a much needed debate on public breastfeeding for the millisecond of news time.
Sitting on the sofa on Daybreak, I don't feel nervous. It honestly didn't even cross my mind. After the numerous blog comments, Facebook messages and e-mails from women thanking me and the Brighton mums for making a stand, I was only concerned with getting my point across for their sake. I guess I couldn't quite believe the story had made it to national television. Every time the media called, I felt obliged to do the interview and represent the anguish some mothers feel when feeding in public. Each time a woman shared a similar story of public intimidation for feeding their child, I felt it was one story too many. We have bigger and worse things to concern ourselves with in the world, we need to move on from our public breastfeeding fears.
Some people have tried to trivialise the issue to a 'middle class' debate. This is a ridiculous as public breastfeeding affects all socio-economic groups. It doesn't matter how much disposable income mums have, we all need to leave the house. Many women are giving up breastfeeding before they want to because they lack confidence to feed in public. We all know it's beneficial to mum and baby but probably don't consider the positive economic and social benefits of breastfeeding, for those who have chosen to do so. It's cheap, promotes a healthy bond between mother and child therefore more parent independence and confidence, which in turn lowers the risk of state care burden.
The issue at the heart of our demonstration was symbolic of so many other judgements we make on our fellow citizens. The fact is, the lack of empathy in society is creating a 'them and us' culture. My uncle likened my story to that he'd heard from fellow diabetics who are asked to move while injecting insulin in public, with a discreet pen. On a more severe scale, the riots this summer is a prime example of a segregated society, showing a disengaged youth who did not care about the consequences of their actions. The looting was written off as greed and middle Britain seemed happy enough with that explanation. That to me is naive, we have to ask more questions about why this happened.
Last week it was public breastfeeding. This week it will be another issue. But the closed minded attitudes are the same and they have to change.
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