14 Jun

Breastfeeding in front of other people

Emma is a mum of two girls and juggles motherhood with running two small businesses with her husband. She has kindly shared some of her thoughts about breastfeeding in public.

Breastfeeding in public isn’t always easy. I’ve breastfed both of my daughters. I breastfed my eldest until she was 27 months and I’m still breastfeeding my youngest at 22 months. Up to around 5 months both times, I had letdown problems – mainly because of oversupply. I produced a lot of milk and would find I would spray, leak or soak a muslin or several breastpads with the milk I was producing. Breastfeeding discretely wasn’t always easy. Once my girls got to about 3-4 months they would come off my breast mid feed and look around, leaving me spraying everywhere. I preferred to use quiet breastfeeding rooms if I could to minimise the distractions. With my second baby, I found I had to lie down to stop the milk flowing so quickly so feeding in public was very difficult as you can’t exactly lie down in the middle of a cafe! Once I was trying to feed her in a very noisy, busy restaurant in the middle of Cardiff (Jamie Oliver’s actually). Our table was in the middle of the restaurant and there was a draft blowing on us and people kept walking past. She wasn’t really old enough for solids yet so her only source of food was milk. I ended up going upstairs and sitting on a stool in a quiet corridor outside the disabled toilet (which was occupied). I felt like a total idiot when a man came out of the toilet with his son. It was that or sit on the toilet in the ladies – not very pleasant!

I stopped breastfeeding in public both times around 9/10 months in, once most of the daytime feeds had been replaced by solids and restricted feeding to quiet moments at home or in a friend or family member’s home. This is partly because both of my daughters were quite inquisitive and would detach from my breast and have a look around. It was also because they were more likely to help themselves and the position they were feeding in was more toddler like. This made me feel uncomfortable.

I have mostly found cafes, restaurants and so on to be quite accommodating if you ask if there’s somewhere quiet you can go. I’ve not always felt comfortable asking and sometimes others with me have felt more awkward than me around me breastfeeding.

Things that annoy me:
Signs for feeding that imply bottle feeding like a bottle icon – as seen in lots of motorway service stations.
Places that don’t have a breastfeeding/bottle feeding room.
Breastfeeding/bottle feeding rooms (I don’t mind being mixed together) that smell of poo and aren’t clean.
Separate rooms for feeding choice – seems a bit weird to do that but perhaps it’s because people other than mothers can bottle feed and breastfeeding mothers can feel uncomfortable?
The implication that because your baby is over 6 months you should move over to a bottle. The adverts on tv for follow on milk don’t help this. I know many do choose to and have to if they are going back to work but for those of us making the choice to carry on, it makes it harder.