Breastfeeding her child in public had a young woman anonymously labelled a 'tramp'. This in turn led to a number of well attended mass breastfeeding gatherings throughout the UK. A great show of solidarity, women highlighting their right to breastfeed in public.
It got me thinking, have I been fortunate in that (to my knowledge, but maybe there are photos of us all over Twitter), I've never been criticised for public nursing? In 2 years, I've needed to, discreetly, feed my daughter in many different places:
- on trains
- in the bank
- on planes (great for helping ease the whole ear popping thing for her
- at four funerals and a wedding
- in the front of a parked car
- on park benches
- in pubs, restaurants and cafes
- at the opticians (during an eye test when I had nobody to help look after my daughter and she woke up and started to cry)
- in the cinema
- in a book shop
- in California
- in a mobile phone shop (the staff there were incredible, offering a chair and a cup of tea)
- in church
- on the Isle of Wight ferry
- in meetings
- in Oslo
- at the hairdressers
- in Ireland
- on the loo (when I couldn't find anywhere else to sit)
and most comfortably of all
- on a massage chair in Currys while I was waiting for a friend to buy a fridge.
We've not had an unpleasant comment, quite the opposite. I've been offered glasses of water, a cushion, a chair, a bar of chocolate, a free meal, a blanket, a sun hat, an ice cream, cups of tea and I've also had people sit next to me and start conversations about how happy it makes them to see someone breastfeeding and proceed to tell me their story.
I did, however, have several nasty looks, and an uninvited comment when I was mixing up some formula when my daughter was four months old, "That's not good for her, you should be breastfeeding", observed a lady who walked on by. I also had a very cross looking woman lean over and mutter, "Breast is better" to me when I was giving my baby a tiny bottle of expressed breast milk, which struck me as ironic.
This (generally from other women) negativity, was also true for a number of mothers who contacted me following my recent article on breastfeeding, they'd reported no difficult comments or situations while breastfeeding, but snide looks and words when bottle (formula or expressed milk) feeding. One woman commented that when her husband was bottle feeding her son he was congratulated and smiled upon, later in the day when she was doing the same she was criticised for not breastfeeding.
While I applaud (hugely) the women who joined forces to breastfeed in a demonstration of togetherness, I think it's important to step back and reflect, not just on those of us who are able to, or want to breastfeed in public, but also the women who are bottle feeding.
People (and women particularly) need to consistently support one another, and judge each other less when it comes to nurturing children; maybe then we can normalise the idea that infants need sustenance!! Breastmilk or formula, breast or bottle, let's all go about our business with confidence and feed our children when they're hungry, and stop giving the nay sayers the time of day.
Finally, in unity with other mothers, and to celebrate the fact that this particular tramp spent happy and intimate time breastfeeding her daughter on a beach over the weekend, how about a rousing chorus of an adaptation of my favourite song (with apologies to Mr Springsteen and thanks for his inspiration);
Tramps like us, baby we were born to Mum.