Why we should all remember early attempts at motherhood

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.

Early attempts at motherhood

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51 Comments

Filed under Baby stuff, Breastfeeding

51 responses to “Why we should all remember early attempts at motherhood

  1. Belting post Molly, I cannot believe the ignorance shown yesterday.

  2. Well said, Molly – it’s all a bit mad that breastfeeding mothers are made to feel the way they do! I can’t believe that one of them compared it to a man getting his penis out in public!!!! Bloody ridiculous!

    • Bloody ridiculous is right. I’m surprised not one of them offered a proper alternative view. The only “balance” came from the one who doesn’t actually have kids. Surprising.

  3. Well said, Molly. I completely agree with you, and all breastfeeding mothers have been there on one (or more likely many, many) occasions.

  4. A really honest post. I think the whole pro/anti argument in breastfeeding ignores a lot of the mums who are stuck in the middle like you and me. Desperately trying to breastfeed, struggling and worrying about it. My experience was just the same as yours, breastfeeding when out and about was always stressful. Even with my third baby! I never felt I cracked it, and I think opinions in the public arena need to be more chilled out. I don’t understand why it has to be such an issue.

  5. This is why we don’t watch Loose Women haha! I for one have a few photos of the boys breastfeeding on Facebook. Not because I was proving a point or making a stand but purely because they happened to look cute and I was still in the tiny baby “take a picture of everything” stage! Why is is acceptable to have pictures of bottle feeding on there or big fat disgusting people covered in grease pigging out on food, its just dinner fgs!

  6. Oh my God, I am well and truly shocked that women who have breastfed themselves can be so ignorant and ridiculous. How can breastfeeding be regarded as indecent exposure? And how can it be bad to take a picture of your baby breastfeeding? Wonder if they’d kick up such a fuss about a mum having her picture taken while bottle feeding her child?! In the end, we are feeding our babies in public because they are hungry and not because we are exhibitionists or flashers. Leaves me speechless…

  7. Watching this while BF my 3 month old and getting really really angry. Am not an agressive person at all….but those women…aaargh!!!! Only one word: backwards.

    I am a prude, never-comfortable-on-the-beach in-bikini-kinda-person, but I never thought twice about breastfeeding in public…it’s the most natural thing you could do and I just can’t believe what these women are saying. It’s not about showing your tits to the world, it’s about feeding your baby. Why would you not be allowed to put a picture of it on facebook? Babies just happen to start with breast (or bottle) feeding first, after that might follow a picture of your 6month old having his/her first solids. Or your toddler covered from top to toe in spaghetti sauce. Who are they to say that stage one should be kept “private”. Can’t believe they are actually mothers.

    Rant over, time to put baby to bed.

  8. Jen

    Really well written, I had not seen this as I don’t watch the show but watching this clip made me so angry, especially to hear this from mums who fed their babies! As you say so many young mums or mums to be will be watching this and may start to believe that this is the opinion of society. In my experience it is most definitely not. I have fed my children anywhere and everywhere and never had a negative reaction, I have had a (no nipple) bf photo as my fb profile for months as I am proud of feeding my little girl. I feel there should be more images of breastfeeding around us everywhere not just on social media. Every family friendly place I go I see images of babies with bottles (which I have nothing against but the only images of bf is a small blue silhouette on a window sticker telling mothers if they can see it that where they are is breastfeeding friendly… everywhere in our society should be breastfeeding friendly!

  9. Breast feeding made me at last grateful for a shrunken bust. I could feed my ever-ravenous baby without anything flopping out, although I did one day spray a neighbouring cafe table when she unlatched. I think discretion – and a volumninous jumper – is the key.

  10. oh dear I hadnt seen this, I remember the days well of being a new mum, and breastfeeding in public, luckily i managed to feed discretly and with little fuss so i fed anywhere and everywhere, and I have photos of my youngest feeding on facebook, for a time i had one as my profile pic… although i will admit that was to prove a point when facebook were removing breasfeeding photos, i don’t understand how anyone could compare breastfeeding to any other form of indecent exposure – breastfeeding is just the most natural thing. Shame there wasn’t more contrastic opinions on this show.

  11. Loose Women is the kind of inane drivel that I kept well away from whilst I was sat at home breastfeeding. Agree with you totally, they really should think before they speak – but then they would have no programme – hmm, now there’s a thought…

  12. I think you’ve framed your response in such a beautiful way. I just dropped by to say that. But also, having now looked at the video again – how on earth can they compare feeding a baby to excretion? They are not equal bodily functions. I so remember feeling just as you described in the beginning of the post. With all the breastfeeding difficulties we’ve had it would have been impossible for me to feed my baby in public and not flash a bit of something (especially since she will not let me put anything over her head). I would have had to give up if I was meant to hide it. As for putting it on Facebook. I haven’t done it myself but totally see nothing wrong in it. Babies are so cute when they’re feeding.

  13. Pingback: Why I Will Never Breastfeed My Baby In A Toilet - Mum2babyinsomniac » Mum2babyinsomniac

  14. This is a great post and you have written it so well. I can’t believe what those silly women were saying, I have also blogged about it – I’ve fully linked back to you but I just feel too strongly about it not to say anything! Shocking x

  15. I remember the feeling well when you just start out feeding and you are faced with a public situation. I never got it completely right but in the early days when I hadn’t figured out the latching on bit, it was an absolute nightmare and your baby’s screams alert everyone around you. One of my first experiences was with a friend (also feeding) in Pizza Hut. We had got ourselves a fairly private booth and ordered…then her baby wanted feeding, she effortlessly popped him under her muslin and carried on chatting. Then my son needed feeding and my measured to be discreet were something to be desired, he wasn’t latching and then milk was spurting everywhere. I ended up feeding him in the back of the car whilst my friend sat waiting! You just want to feed your baby and sometimes needs must. I bailed out and ran for cover but I won’t this time (I don’t think) as I’m a bit hardened to it now x

    • That feeling that everyone is watching is terrible isn’t it? I was exactly the same – partly because I sometimes felt judged in a new mum kind of way. In my head, everyone was thinking “Why is the baby crying?” or “Can’t she shut her up” or “She clearly has no idea what she’s doing” etc etc. I don’t think programmes like this help!

  16. Great post. I didn’t see the actual programme, but saw the discussion point on Twitter. Was fascinating that nearly all the replies I saw on Twitter were positive and pretty balanced, and that the programme just didn’t seem to reflect them at all. I think it’s irresponsible of the programme makers to run with such a difficult subject without providing some balance… but then maybe they assumed that mothers would be sympathetic to other mothers too! There are so many pressures on new mums, and “discreet” feeding is all well and good, but it’s not always possible. I know I’d rather see a flash of nipple than hear a baby scream for the same length of time. For what it’s worth, I found batwing sleeves the ideal solution 😉

  17. Breastfeeding for those who choose to and can, should be naturalised. Great post-highly thought provoking. I made a film for the Breastfeeding Charity Best Beginnings a few years back and the stats in the UK are shocking. It’s appaling no one on Loose Women cut in with another opinion. Not a fan of the show. Here’s the short film: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mpnlaT7jrOo

  18. Velle

    I’m from Australia, so we don’t get “Loose Women” on our tellies. But I know that their views are shared by lots of women… from a previous generation.

    Yes. Lots of silver-haired ones are probably nodding along to what they said. I don’t agree with their strident views… but I understand that it’s from a time and place quite different from ours.

    I’ve heard lots of stories (6 degrees of separation!) about some older women who are so appalled by the notion of breastfeeding AT ALL (let alone in public) that they’d happily pour a freezerful’s worth of breast milk down the sink while their daughter-in-law’s at work. Or give snippy comments like, “You’re not in UGANDA!” Which is so many levels of wrong, it’s quite funny.

    Basically, I think they feel that their comfort zone has been breached, their personal space in some way invaded. Rightly or wrongly, they’re reacting from that space vehemently. Education is key, but I agree that the show could have done a lot better showing a counter point.

    And perhaps legislation. Don’t know about the States, but here in Canberra, Australia, it’s part of the Discrimination Act that women have a right to breastfeed in public places. And I feel a lot more protected as a first time mother because of it.

    See http://health.act.gov.au/health-services/community-health/community-health-services/children-parenting/breastfeeding/your-right-to-breastfeed

  19. andrea

    I’ve never had a problem with it.. in the early days I did used to hide under a blanket, but I don’t think there is any need.. you are not whipping your boob out, just lifting your top up, babies head covers boob and their body (hopefully) covers mums flabby tummy. Actually having just written that I would say the wobbly tummy is potentially more offensive than any boobage! I wouldn’t even spot a nursing mother unless she was making a big fuss about covering up. I find parent rooms boring, but have used them (a good place to find xonversation). I do think women who are blatantly exposing their whole breast deserve what they get, that’s what gives nursing mothers a bad name. Those loose women have done what they no doubt set out to do, got everyone talking about ‘loose women’, blogging, trending etc. And I bet they’ve had a lot of hits onitv player! Clever really.. Super lovely photo Molly!

    • Clever in many ways yes, although I wonder if this litte debate may have turned some people off the programme? Sounds like you had it sorted – after months or so I felt more confident, just wish I’d been so deft in the early days!

  20. I don’t have time for a proper comment here, but I loved this and have shared it on Facebook. Thank you so much for this.

  21. Thank you for this post Molly. Unbelievable and outmoded point of view by prominent women who have a wide following! How scary is that? I hope you have written to the programme makers, venting your disgust at this piece of unbalanced, tabloid nonsense!

    • Really surprised there was no balance at all in the discussion. I know it’s not a news piece, but considering the mainly female audience and the fact lots of that audience will be new mums on maternity leave, the lack of balance was truly shocking.

  22. I haven’t watched Loose Women in months (I like the telly off when the kids aren’t at home) and it hasn’t changed.Suggesting mums should hide away in the toilet just beggars belief and I’m bloody cross about this.How to breastfeed in public is the number question asked at the breastfeeding workshop held at the local hospital (I’m a breastfeeding peer supporter).It’s also why some women never continue breastfeeding because they are constantly worried about what other people are thinking whilst they are out.This shouldn’t be mums have enough on their plate without having to worry about that.

  23. I think your last line says it all, we are all just trying to do our best. We have all known that panic. The heat that starts to creep up your spine as your heart beat quickens. It’s part of being a mom. I love the picture of you with little Frog as the truth is this is what motherhood is really about. 🙂

  24. The ‘Early attempts…’ photo is very sweet. That is a mother deeply in love with her baby!

  25. This clip makes me really disappointed. While I wouldn’t put photos on facebook of myself when I was breastfeeding, to put it in the same context that it is the same as a man flashing is willy is absolutely ludicrous. How can that be the same?
    I breastfed exclusively for 11 months and I often went and fed her in the car or in the toilets, and always used to hunt out John Lewis feeding rooms, which is really sad but on occasions I felt incredibly uncomfortable to feed her as people would visibly look uncomfortable and tut at me, especially some of the older generation.
    When I was out with other Mummy friends it wouldn’t be too bad but I always used to cover Mads completely with a muslin cloth, I was never one to just pop my boob out as that isn’t me.
    It is such a shame when you see half naked photos of women everywhere constantly in the media, that people like the Presenters on Loose Women can get that worked up and disgusted by the thought of breastfeeding in public.

    • Couldn’t agree more. I was the same as you, alhough sometimes there was no getting away from having to feed in public. I just wish the programme had been a bit more respectful of the situation countless new mums find themselves in – that self-conscious feeling and the stress at hearing your baby’s hungry cry. Maybe if there was more naturalisation of feeding in general mums wouldn’t feel so self-conscious about it. And the same goes for bottle feeding. I’ve had friends who’ve felt self-conscious bottle feeding in public, worried people would think they were somehow a failure as a mum because they weren’t breastfeeding. It seems we can’t win, whatever we do. That’s why I wish there was more acceptance that we’re all just trying to do our best.

  26. Well said. It’s ridiculous that such a fuss is made about breastfeeding… As for comparing it to a man flashing a penis, it’s absurd. There is nothing more stressful than your little baby crying out for food. I breastfed in public, used a breastfeeding top and a muslin. What’s the big deal? The General Public need to get over it!!!

  27. This is a great post (sorry I am late to comment).
    I am a feminist and can clearly articulate my position on breastfeeding but when I am out with my baby I am still just a person getting her usually private breast out in the world, and it still feels like a vulnerable thing to do.
    I think there should be MORE images of it. I remember in a movie (was it Gattaca?) there was a very tender incidental scene of a woman breastfeeding on a train and the image really stayed with me of that circle of love, that connection. It’s the only time I really remember seeing breastfeeding depicted in a positive way without it being ABOUT breastfeeding being depicted in a positive way.
    I love this post because it’s not about the politics of breastfeeding but the practicalities.

    • That’s exactly what I was trying to do with this post – I didn’t want it to be a political one. Thanks for the great comment. I haven’t seen Gattaca but would like to now after reading this.

  28. Jen

    I am appalled. There is nothing more natural than a mother breastfeeding thier baby, no matter where you are. It is so dissapointing how society does not see this. The government here in Australia has made an enormous effort to encourage mothers to breastfeed and feel comfortable doing so and it has worked. Most days I see a mum breastfeeding somewhere, or I am myself and nobody bats an eyelid. Campaigns, education, lactation classes and pre and post natal breastfeeding support is whats needed in the UK so it can become THE NORM. I wish there was more we could do to help make breastfeeding in public comfortabe for mums. For now I guess the more of us that do it, the more it will be accepted.

  29. Pingback: Loose Women and Breastfeeding In Public

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