4 Dec 2014

The Big Breastfeeding Barney

The news earlier this week that London mummy Louise Burns was asked to cover up while breastfeeding her baby in posh hotel Claridge’s, has yet again highlighted society’s hostile attitude to breastfeeding.
Claridge’s has defended its actions and issued a statement saying "We are saddened to see what is being discussed and we feel we need to clarify that breastfeeding is of course embraced at Claridge's. All we ask is that mothers are discreet towards other guests."
From what I can see, Louise Burns was pretty discreet. But even if she wasn’t, is it really reason enough for people to be “offended” by a baby doing the most natural thing, feeding when it’s hungry, a prime instinct, and its mother tending to this need? One thing’s for sure, if she hadn’t, that baby would have caused a much bigger scene and much greater offence by screaming its little lungs out!
Some of the people who were seemingly “offended” by Burns and her baby equated breastfeeding to pooing, stating that the latter was also natural, but that we don’t do that in public.
Really? Is breastfeeding an innocent baby really the same as pooing?  I find that quite a sad and disturbing outlook.
We are surrounded day in and day out across all forms of media by breasts and bums and far more nudity that many people care to see, but that hardly causes a stir. Is a baby being breastfed really more offensive than that? What about Page 3 girls or Miley Cyrus’ bits and Rihanna’s boobs and Kim Kardashian’s, well, everything that’s on display all the time? It seems that everyone wants to see breasts all the time, until it’s a feeding baby, then it’s an “offence”.
I’m by no means a militant breastfeeder or campaigner. I actually just think every Mum should feed her baby as she deems right and what suits her, whether that’d be breast or bottle. Myself, I exclusively breastfed Alex for the first three months and for the last month I have been combination feeding, having introduced one to two top up bottles a day, and that works just fine for me.
Personally, I’ve never been one to breastfeed in public, and I always try to avoid it as far as I can, preferring to feed Alex at home just before I have to go somewhere or timing meetings and appointments roughly around Alex’s feed times. But that’s just me and my individual choice.
I’ve never felt that comfortable with breastfeeding in public, and when I think about it, it’s probably because I don’t want to expose myself  *no pun intended* to negative reactions or comments (although I am certainly able to defend myself, I  just can’t be bothered with the aggro). And also, truth be told, I like cuddling up with Alex on my sofa, just me and him, getting comfy and relaxing, and not necessarily being surrounded by the hustle and bustle of restaurants, pubs or other public places. And I know that he feeds better in a calm environment.
However, I have no problem with other Mums breastfeeding in public, and in some ways, I envy them that they don’t get as flustered as I do.
The other issue, of course, is that there are very few public places that offer “discreet” and private rooms where women can go and breastfeed if they so wish. Trust me, I’ve searched for and checked out a fair few.
Those “progressive” places like doctor’s surgeries and shopping centres sometimes cater for breastfeeding Mums, but even they leave a lot to be desired. Most of the times you’re either in a “family room”  - read tiny booth with a hard plastic chair and nothing else, too small to fit yourself and the baby in comfortably, let alone possibly also a pram and extra child - or in a bigger, communal space, with a row of multiple plastic chairs like in some dodgy self-help group, an overflowing bin and a grubby hand basin. And that’s the good examples.
The majority of breastfeeding “rooms” are either directly next to or even in toilets, and you’re surrounded by the smell of faeces, full nappies and sanitary towels. Yum yum.
Would any adult like to eat their breakfast / lunch / dinner in a toilet or toilet environment? Of course not. So why should babies?
Is it so difficult to create a nice environment for breastfeeding Mums, maybe a nice comfy sofa, friendly interior and – hell – even a water cooler and some music, so Mums have got a choice and an alternative to be more “discreet” and “private” as to not offend anyone.
It’s no wonder that most breastfeeding Mums either opt to feed their baby exactly where they are, even if it’s like in Louise Burns’ case in the middle of a posh hotel – and as is our legal right - or like me, don’t even venture out until the baby has been fed to avoid the situation altogether.
But really, it shouldn’t be Mums who have to change where and how we’re feeding, it should be society realising that nurturing a baby, whichever way, is never an offence.

* This is a link-up with the Brilliant Blogpost linky hosted by Honest Mum. Check it out here.



  1. Makes me sick that breastfeeding women are not given the freedom to feel they can breastfeed publically and you are right, bunging a breastfeeding room by a toilet is not on! Thanks for linking up to #brilliantblogposts

    1. I'm sure more people would breastfeed if they were made more welcome and there were more comfortable and private spaces available. I hope that by the time my daughter is a Mum, this is no longer an issue! :-) x


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