14 November 2014

Friday's thoughts: My experience breastfeeding in public

I wanted to write about my breastfeeding experience for so long, it’s a subject that is really close and emotional for me, and one post will not cover it entirely…So I will be dividing it into several posts. At this point I will be focusing on my experience in breastfeeding in public, and write a general reflection on this matter.

I wanted to write about breastfeeding in public for a long time, but not exactly knowing why (or maybe I do), I have been daunted by the prospect of actually doing it. But today I gain a bit of courage and I am doing it, writing it!

You might be aware that in the UK breastfeeding in public is still marginalized, and mothers are still subjected to insults. Even though a mother that is breastfeeding is protected by law, through the Equality Act, discrimination still occurs. Before breastfeeding, I was completely illiterate on this matter, and had to check it out. The law clearly states that service providers must not refuse to serve a breastfeeding mother or even refusing to serve one, and is protected is public spaces as parks, public buildings and public transport. Read about it here.

As you may have realized, I fully support this act, breastfeeding in public. In my short experience  breastfeeding (I have been breastfeeding since December 2013, and I am still breastfeeding), I have been breastfeeding in public in quite different spaces, either public, or not. What made write this post, gain the courage? Because even though the law protects breastfeeding in public, there’s still an underlying message that we are not supposed to do it. 


Breastfeeding by Carolyne Dubé
Retreived on Public Domain 



A couple weeks ago, I went to Debenhams, and while going to the diaper changing facility I found a breastfeeding mum there. I looked at her, and then continued to the diaper changing facility and changed my baby. At the time I wanted to tell her that she might feel more conformable in some other space, as the Debenhams coffee shop, but I refrain in doing so. I thought that I was being intrusive.
But that got me thinking, what would make a mother feel more comfortable breastfeeding her baby in the middle of the loo, where other mothers change their babies nappies? I would certainly not feel comfortable there, and I don’t. Actually, one of the first places that I breastfeed in public was at the Debenhams coffee shop, and I did it freely and without any discrimination. This is actually one of my go-to coffee shops when I need a space to breastfeed. In the beginning I even used a muslin to cover us, but then one of the waiters said that I didn’t need to use it, if I was more comfortable without a cover… Other of my very favourite spaces for breastfeeding is John Lewis’ The Place to eat. I go there regularly at tea time, almost every day. No-one ever criticized me there. I absolutely love going there, where my baby comfortable breastfeeds while I have a cup of tea followed by a slice of cake….
What I can’t actually explain properly is the sublimed message. John Lewis happens to be one of the places where they have a spot for you to breastfeed. One could think, great some specific space for that!

But that’s not how I feel about it. Firstly, the space is absolutely depressing, it’s a small corner, without any windows, natural light, where you are crammed against a wall, and again, is part of the nappy changing facilities. So, it may get a bit smelly, and is definitely not comfortable at all! Babies' r 'us is a second space that have a spot specifically designed for breastfeeding and formula feeding. And this one is simply terrible. Again, without any windows or natural light,it is the tiniest room, only has a space for just one sofa. Very uncomfortable! And this really got me really upset, because one would think that a superstore as Babies’r’us would be more considerate towards breastfeeding mothers!
A general assumption is that providing these spaces is a good think, but I actually think that is the opposite. And why is that? Because breastfeeding mothers may feel compelled to use these spaces, and choose not do it publicly, even if that is more appropriate (comfortably wise at least). Plus, these spaces are just nappy changing spaces with a chair...

If in one hand breastfeeding mothers are protected if deciding to breastfeed in public, we are also offered these ‘appropriate’ spaces to do it. What I really think that we are being offered truthfully is merely hiding spaces, so that we breastfeed away from the public eye. Well, I do it, and I am protected when choosing to do so.
I understand if for some mothers you would prefer to breastfeed in a more private space. And again, it’s great if we have spaces to do it. But I really don’t understand the general idea of adjoining the nappy changing facilities with the breastfeeding ones. Honestly, do you like to eat in the loo? I don’t, and I don´t think that my baby does as well. 
And what about you, how do you feel about breastfeeding in public?
  

I am linking up with this amazing blogger:

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

10 comments:

  1. I am not a big fan of breastfeeding in public - have no problems with others doing it, have done it myself, but personally I do prefer to go to one of those breastfeeding places. I just feel more comfortable in a place like that. I have fed in (nice, clean and non-smelly) disabled toilets too. I guess I just like the privacy. It is tricky though as private places aren't always available.

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    1. It’s a really complicated matter, breastfeeding in public, and I completely understand why a mother would choose a private place to breastfeed, what I really have some difficulties in understanding is the idea of having the nappy changing facilities adjoined with the breastfeeding ones....

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  2. I was terrified of breast feeding in public. Especially with a baby that was constantly on again off again! But I was terrified because of all the stories you hear in the media. In my experience no one took any notice of me. I think we need more positive stories portrayed in the media to get rid of the stigma.
    #brillianblogposts

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    1. I have to say that I was scared of breastfeeding in public in the beginning too, and same as you, because of the stories you read and hear. But as I wrote, I have always done it so far without being criticized. Overall I believe I have a pretty good experience when breastfeeding publicly!x

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  3. I agree women must do what they feel comfortable with but society and the media needs to change and accommodate women so that they can make an informed choice. Thanks for linking up to #brilliantblogposts

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    1. Exactly! But I still think that most breastfeeding mums are not aware of all the choices they have...!Thank you for hosting! :)

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  4. Great post. I totally agree that no mum should be made to feel bad about BF in public, yet I have often felt self conscious (and I'm a pretty confident person). Second time round, I'm much better at just doing it & not worrying what anyone thinks. I've never actually had any negative reactions, though, but had rehearsed a whole speech about it with my first daughter! I do also really like the availability of private spaces to feed in shops, if I don't want to stop for food/drink or am not wearing a great outfit for discreet feeding. I'm glad those spaces exist. Our local John Lewis and Debenhams rooms are actually very nice, especially the JL one which is just for feeding. I don't feel they are they to stop public feeding, just to give a choice but maybe I'm wrong! #brilliantblogposts

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    1. Thank you! I might be a bit demanding... But I am glad for all the spots that allow privacy too. Unfortunately the ones I now are not they great....and that’s why I feel that these are more for hiding rather than having the comfort of a breastfeeding mum in mind. I also have some difficulties accepting is the constant adjoining of nappies changing facilities with the breastfeeding ones...x

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  5. Some great points. The issue of breastfeeding in public is a complex one and everyone from nursing mother's to shoppers feels differently about it. I'm happy to feed anywhere and anywhere now. Ikea have a space, and I have never used it as I don't feel I need to but others might find it helpful. Promoting BF is the importnant part and businesses should have pro breastfeeding policies. Adhering to the law is just not enough. Great post!

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    1. Thank you ! I was not aware that Ikea had spaces for breastfeeding, its good to know that! As you at the moment I don´t have any issues about breastfeeding anywhere! I advocate breastfeeding in public, and I breastfeed in public :). x

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