03 Sep

Breasts against the patriarchy!

…to take a stance that you control what a woman does with her body is an assumption that you have power over her. You are dictating what is appropriate behavior. You are trying to “get her” to do what you want. If she doesn’t comply, then you obtain assistance to “get her” to do so. Here’s the deal: every time you prevent a woman from choosing what she does with her body, you are acting in a violent manner.

One man’s response to a request that his wife not breastfeed their baby in a public place, from Empowered Papa.

25 Jun

Emma’s breastfeeding story

Emma is a mum of two girls and juggles motherhood with running two small businesses with her husband. She wrote this post about breastfeeding a little while ago.


There. I’ve said it.

This post is all about boobs.

I spend a ridiculous amount of time with my boobs out at the moment. Not because I’m a weirdo, or a life model or even a glamour model; but because we chose to breastfeed both our children. For me, it was the only choice I felt comfortable with and I was fortunate that both my girls took to it fairly easily.

It’s not been easy though. First time around I had problems with positioning early on and suffered pain from cracked nipples, mastitis and also sheer embarrassment at feeding in front of people. I remember sitting up in bed crying with pain and talking about giving up and trying a bottle but still we kept going to my goal of 6 months. Then we hit weaning and feeds were dropped and before we knew it, we reached a year.

When my first child was 18 months old, I had an early miscarriage. I am pretty sure the combination of breastfeeding and jet lag was to blame. We didn’t tell many people and we ‘buried’ the feelings. It wasn’t meant to be. My daughter still needed me, I was just getting started in the businesses, so there was plenty to take my mind off things. I don’t think we dealt with it very well.

I actually ended up stopping feeding my first at 27 months but I think my daughter would have kept going for longer had I let her. I felt I needed this little bit of my life back – although it was only once a day by that point. We also wanted to try for another baby again and thought a little break between feeding and pregnancy would be nice…

Within 3-4 months, I was pregnant again. Our second baby is now 5 months old and again she is being exclusively breastfed. I’ve been surprised by how hard I’ve found it this time. I’ve had mastitis three times and problems with oversupply. Currently my daughter is so distracted during the day, she chooses to feed mainly at night, so I’m not getting much sleep. Coupled with the fact that I am so tied to the baby as no-one else can feed her, other areas of my life are being neglected somewhat.

I’ve had to feed in business meetings, in school meetings, whilst reading bedtime stories, during mealtimes, in cafes, churches, on beaches; and I’ve spent a stupid amount of time lying down in darkened rooms with only a baby, my naked chest and my thoughts for company.

I am SO over breastfeeding now but I will continue until we both decide we have had enough. Whilst this is me doing this, my husband and I are both in agreement that this is the best thing for us all right now despite the difficulties. I love it and can’t stand it in equal measure but I know I will look back in time and feel so glad that I did this.

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.

01 Apr

Images of Breastfeeding

Part of our job is to normalise breastfeeding, and to fight against the systematic undermining of breastfeeding within our culture. Facebook has been deleting photographs of breastfeeding women for years, because someone somewhere finds them offensive. The Guardian and NCT have finally got on the case.

Rowan Davies in The Guardian stated that A society that is not prepared to accept the odd flash of nipple is a society that is not prepared to accept breastfeeding

She invited readers to:

try a little Facebook-busting. If you’d like to mail your pictures of nipple-accessorised breastfeeding to your.pictures@guardian.co.uk, the fearless folk at Comment is free will post them on the Guardian’s Facebook page, and see whether Facebook takes them down

And here’s what they reported:
The beautiful breastfeeding images Facebook is missing out on

Belinda Phipps, CEO of NCT, commented:
Sorry, Facebook – on breastfeeding you seem rather confused

And just to refer back to that original remark about normalising breastfeeding, The Alpha Parent has a lovely post showing breastfeeding depicted in children’s literature.


Views expressed here are my own, and do not represent the views of NCT.

07 Dec

Nursing In Public

We often spend time in an antenatal class discussing the perceived horrors of ‘getting them out’ in public places. With varying degrees of support from partners, other family members, and complete strangers, I can see why it is such a huge barrier, adding to the breastfeeding-related anxiety for mums-to-be.

Recently I asked a group ‘who are the first people you are likely to breastfeed in front of?’ and the answers that came back were: your partner, the midwives, your close family. One dad objected strongly: that’s not true, he said. You don’t have to do it in front of any of those people. He was profoundly uncomfortable with the idea of any kind of ‘public’ feeding.

But if the WHO guidelines recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, an inability to leave the house must have a serious impact on the new mother’s life.

That doesn’t mean you have to be completely brazen and bare all, on a bench outside the town hall, the very first time you do it, hence my question. By the time you are ready to go out for long enough that you are likely to have to feed your baby, the chances are that other people will have seen you do it already. But here are a few ideas to consider, that might make it a less daunting prospect:

  1. Baby Steps
    Consider making your first outing to somewhere you know will be safe, non-judgemental, and with lots of other mums and babies. At NCT Bumps and Babies you will meet mums with babies of all ages, and a whole variety of different feeding experiences behind them. Or find a local breastfeeding support group. Or if you did antenatal classes and have a group of friends, organise a coffee morning at someone’s house. If the wallpaper is different, you might feel less isolated.
  2. Getting Them Out
    If you’ve been schlepping about at home wearing just a nightie for the first week or so, you might not have thought about the impact of wearing or not wearing the right clothing.
    There are countless beautiful and expensive nursing tops available, with mysterious openings and clever tucks and folds. All you really need is a loose shirt, perhaps two layers (vest and t-shirt works well), that you can pull up; and the one essential piece of kit is a nursing bra, ideally the sort with a drop-down cup. You pull the top layer up, the bottom layer down, drop the cup and attach the baby, who then covers up most of the exposed flesh.
    Things to avoid: bras that are not designed for this kind of easy access, tight tops, dresses, lots of buttons.
  3. Cover Up
    I am by no means saying that a nursing mother needs to cover herself as though ashamed of what she is doing, but if it makes you feel more comfortable, you could use a light scarf or a muslin square to disguise the fact that you are breastfeeding. I am skeptical about ‘nursing aprons’ and other devices that are designed to be worn while breastfeeding, because they don’t make the process any less discreet.
  4. Safe Places
    Get to know the places you know you can go, where you will feel safe and comfortable. Large stores often have a baby feeding area; smaller stores might have a changing room with a plastic chair next to the nappy bin. Coffee shops are a haven for mums, especially during the working week; just don’t sit in the window!
  5. Your Rights
    In England, the Equality Act 2010. specifically prohibits discrimination against breastfeeding mothers. Nobody can ask you to leave a public place on the grounds that you are breastfeeding.

This is another one of those concepts that is difficult to get your head around before you baby comes along; and then after a few days of focusing on breastfeeding, may well seem like much less of an issue. But don’t forget that there is a lot of support available from other mums and from groups where mums and babies meet; you don’t have to be stuck in the house.