Whether we choose to do it or not, I think we all can agree that breastfeeding is the most natural way to feed and care for a young baby. It directly reduces the risk of disease and illness and is the convenient, healthy option for both mother and child.
Sadly though, society is often more accepting of fashionably plunging necklines and page three nudity than it is of seeing the natural act of a baby nursing. So it’s understandable that some new mums can feel self-conscious and vulnerable when feeding their baby in public places.
The Charnwood BRAS (Breastfeeding Reassurance And Support) group offers the following tips for mums who are breastfeeding when out and about. They also have some advice for onlookers!
* It’s possible to breastfeed a baby discreetly so others are not even aware of what you are doing. If you wear a top that you can lift up from the waist (rather than a tight top that you have to unbutton) then your breasts remain covered and your baby will shield your tummy. You can also feed under a cardigan, jacket or a shawl. If you double layer your tops you can lift one up and pull one down for total discretion! More stores are supplying feeding tops nowadays, try H&M on line for a good choice.
* Practising at home in front of a mirror can be helpful and reassuring – you’ll be surprised at how easily you can do it with no flesh showing! As your baby gets older they will “latch on” more easily and quickly so you won’t even have to look at what they’re doing.
* Learn to recognise early feeding cues so you can offer a feed before your baby gets frantic – a crying baby will attract attention and could make you feel uncomfortable.
* Talk to other mums about places where it’s easy to feed, eg John Lewis and M&S in Leicester have breastfeeding rooms. Choose carefully where you sit in cafes and restaurants. You may prefer to be away from a window or with your back to the rest of the room. But remember, the Equality Act of 2010 makes it clear that it’s against the law for you to get less favourable treatment because you are breastfeeding when receiving services. Feel proud of what you are doing.
* The first time you go out with your baby and are likely to need to feed in a public place take someone with you for moral support, perhaps a more experienced breast feeding friend. Or even better – find out about breastfeeding cafes in your area and go along to one of them. A room full of ladies breastfeeding their babies is sure to give you confidence!
* If you see a baby being breastfed please give the mum a supportive smile – she’s using her breasts for what they were designed for and contributing to the health of the next generation. She’s also setting a great example to other women, young girls, expectant fathers and society as a whole.
* If you feel uncomfortable please move seats or walk away without commenting. Take a minute to consider just how much courage it may have taken for her to do this and perhaps examine why you are feeling this way. Breastfeeding is a perfectly natural thing to do and no one would suggest that you eat your lunch in a public toilet so it must be unfair to expect a baby to.
* Babies have small stomachs and breast milk is digested very quickly so they need to feed frequently. There’s not always time for a mum to get home or to find a private place to feed. If you work in catering or in retail or in any place that’s open to the public, please consider how you can make your environment more welcoming to breastfeeding women.