I was so nervous when I breastfed in public for the first time. I quietly asked the manager of the café if it would be ok, and settled down into a dingy corner with my tiny baby, mums milk for him and tea and cake for me. At least a month before I got this brave I was casing places for breastfeeding suitability. Looking round I started to see something I never had before, loads of women breastfeed in public and no one notices. When I started to look for them I saw women breastfeeding in cafes, on park benches, at bus stops, in the back of parked cars and even on an escalator. Feeling like I had hundreds of kindred spirits out there I was able to breastfeed when ever my baby wanted it without worrying about hiding. I must have been subtle because someone once kissed my son when he was latched on!
I have been lucky though, no one has ever commented or asked me to move but I have heard many stories of people breastfeeding in toilets which I find very sad. Why is it ok to give your baby synthetic food in a bottle wherever you like but unacceptable to do something that is naturally perfect for the baby? And who wants to eat in the loo? Unfortunately, there is no law to protect breastfeeding mothers unless you live in Scotland where the new Breastfeeding Act makes it an offence to deliberately stop or prevent a child up to the age of 2 from being breastfed in a public place or licensed premises. Embarrassment and fear of comments is said to be a common reason for choosing not to breastfeed or for giving up early.
Safe and comfortable places to breastfeed include M&S who will find you somewhere to sit and offer you a changing cubicle if you are shy. The nastiest place to breastfeed is the baby changing room in IKEA, it’s a tiny room with a large stinky nappy bin in it.
I believe that the way to make public breastfeeding acceptable is to breastfeed in public, it should be the norm, not a taboo.
Copyright Lisa Cole, http://www.lactivist.co.uk
The Mothers Milk Marketing Board at http://www.lactivist.co.uk sells pro-breastfeeding and gentle parenting advocacy slogan t-shirts and accessories for funky mums and kids.