It’s a hot sunny day. It’s a miracle I’m dressed. Frog is around a month old.
The novelty of night feeds gazing at tiny finger nails is starting to fade into a mild yearning for sleep. Prolonged sleep. Sleep that lasts more than two hours at a time.
My friend is coming to visit today. My oldest friend.
We meet her from the train and she takes us to our village pub, where we sit in the garden overlooking the canal. We eat a ploughman’s lunch and chat about the new person in our life. Frog sleeps.
But then my baby wakes. She cries. The cries turn to screams. She is hungry.
I panic. The whole breastfeeding thing is still new to me. Latching on can prove a challenge. I look around the sunny field, littered with tables of chatting groups and decide our corner of grass is the only place I can do this. There is no “feeding room”. The smelly toilets aren’t an option.
So I take a deep breath and fuss with a shawl. I take my daughter out of her pram and attempt to juggle nipple and bra fastenings in one hand, baby in the other. I’m turning red. The screams are getting louder. People are looking.
My friend helps me. She holds my shawl as I settle into a comfortable position. The baby is calm as the milk appears. No one is looking anymore.
It takes some doing to remember this far back. It’s only a year and a half ago, but it feels like an eternity. But still, I remember.
I remember how I used to feel sick at the thought of displaying all in public. I would be nervous at the idea people would be looking, judging, thinking “Shut that bloody baby up”.
If we went out, I would consult Mr Google for places I could nurse discreetly. I would know where the nearest Mothercare, John Lewis or shopping centre family room was situated. But still, sometimes, I had no choice. Sometimes I had to feed my baby in public.
On these occasions I would sit somewhere quietly. I would hope my baby would be hungry enough to settle in without a fuss. But still, that nagging feeling people were looking.
I attempted expressing breast milk into a bottle, for just such occasions. But the baby was having none of it. She would only accept her milk straight from the source.
I wish the ladies of Loose Women could think this far back. I wish they could remember the rising panic that comes with hearing your baby’s hungry cry. I wish they could put themselves in the shoes of countless other new mothers up and down the country.
I wish they could take a moment to think, before going on air and making sweeping statements like these…
Watched it? What do you think?
My first reaction to this was as a mother. I felt angry that other women – women who’d been new mums themselves – could speak in front of millions without a thought for the consequences.
Then I reacted as a journalist and broadcaster. Yes, it’s important to have opinions. Opinions are good, even if you don’t agree with them. But when you’re on air, broadcasting to a mainly female audience, many of whom will be watching from their sofas while enjoying the first phase of their maternity leave… well, then a touch of balance is required.
Fine, chat about your “disgust” at breastfeeding in public. Bang your head on the desk, even. Roll your eyes. But then it’s the turn of another panellist to step in. Preferably one who can offer a full differing opinion.
Even if it’s just a sentence to acknowledge that not all mums who breastfeed in public are on a campaign mission. Some mums who breastfeed in public are just desperately trying to stop their screaming baby from crying any longer.
Some mums who breastfeed in public don’t have a choice.
This is isn’t a breast vs bottle post. This isn’t about judging different feeding choices. It’s about acceptance.
Acceptance that we’re all just trying to do our best.