The Blog

Breastfeeding, Not Tit-Feeding..

All this puritanical, embarrassed, shaming behaviour towards subtly feeding a human infant, is a head-banging hangover from those days - days when piano legs were covered up, lest anyone find them too scandalous. Crikey.

It's been all tits, tits, TITS this week.

Although, of course, it hasn't been about tits at all. It's been about breasts, which are quite different.

And that's where much of the confusion has arisen. More on which later...

So what's the story?

Well, unless you've been hiding under a giant napkin in Claridges all weekend, you will have heard about the mother, Louise Burns, who went to said somewhat posho establishment for High Tea with her mother and sister, and was asked by a member of staff to hide almost her entire body under a giant napkin, in order to protect her modesty and not offend other tea-sippers, while she breastfed her 13-week-old baby who, oddly enough, wasn't able to eat the cucumber sandwiches on offer.

This sparked the entire nation to talk of nothing but breasts for the whole weekend (something which should be encouraged, I think) and ask questions such as,

'Is breastfeeding disgusting?'

'Are babies disgusting?'

'Are breasts awkward?'

'When were women allowed out of the kitchen anyway?'

'Can anyone spell 'ostentatious'?'

'How can WOMEN be supporting a ban on breastfeeding in public?'

'Have we all fallen into a Time Machine and woken up in 1895?'

'Are napkins usually THAT BIG?'

It's been a very troubling few days.

Almost everything that could be said about nipples and gurgling and Nature and Women Taking Over The Bloody World - Who Do They Think They Are?? has been said, but I would like to add a few thoughts to the milky mess, which have featured too little, and I think are important.

I attempted to make these points when I took part in a BBC 5Live debate on the issue, but I was shouted down by a journalist, who said she found breastfeeding to be 'embarrassing', and babies make gurgling noises while they feed which is 'awkward'.

The ideas that a) babies also make these noises when they drink from a bottle and b) I have sat next to grown men making more revolting noises with the mouths/stomachs/bottoms while they chomp on their steak and burb down their beers than any baby I've ever heard drinking milk from a breast, and that perhaps Noisy Eaters should be banned from public places too, didn't seem to have occurred to her.

Her points of view were so awkward I was reaching for a napkin to throw over my radio.

Firstly, breastfeeding only became 'awkward' when Queen Victoria, that bastion of grooviness and sexual expression, decided it was so.

She found even the idea of breastfeeding repellent, considering it the "ruin" of intellectual and refined young ladies.

Her own daughters didn't dare tell her that they had breastfed their children, and when Victoria found out she called them "cows".

Ah, we all like a nice, supportive family chat.

All this puritanical, embarrassed, shaming behaviour towards subtly feeding a human infant now, is a head-banging hangover from those days - days when piano legs were covered up, lest anyone find them too scandalous. Crikey.

Secondly, this whole issue is not about breastfeeding at all. It's about sex.

And the two, lest you need this spelled out to you (as many people unfortunately seem to) are VERY DIFFERENT.

Breastfeeding a child is about...feeding a child. With your breasts.

It's breastfeeding, not Titfeeding, or even Phwoar Look At The Jubblies On 'Er-feeding.

The North European and North American attitude towards sex, nakedness and the human body is utterly TRAGIC. We've barely progressed from Benny Hill and Carry On Films, which in turn had barely progressed from puerile, crotch-rubbing schoolboy.

It's all hee-hee, snigger-snigger, look at the tits on that, smutty, infantile winking and wanking, sexless 'happy' marriages, repressed sexuality, and desperately screwed up teenagers.

If we actually started to talk and behave in an adult way about sex, human needs, nakedness etc, we would all be a lot better off for it, in my opinion.

People who find breastfeeding awkward are confusing breasts with sex. And they're so confused about the latter, they don't know where to take their thoughts.

So they cover them in a napkin.

Being offended is a choice; you can also choose not to be offended.

Naked tits appear every day in newspapers and magazines, and adverts for underwear so revealing you can almost taste the sex oozing down the side of the number 17 bus are all OK, but breastfeeding in public still arouses strong debate.

Yes. That seems eminently sensible to me. Well done, Britain. Keep on repressing.

Or just grow a pair.


Liz Fraser's new book, Lifeshambles, a hilarious delve into midlife, is available to pre-order NOW.