With Claridge’s under scrutiny this week for their policy on asking women to be ‘discreet’ whilst breastfeeding, I thought I’d take a break from my normal content to share my point of view as a new mum.
Not so long ago – 10 weeks to be exact – I was one of those people who didn’t know where to look when even my closest friends fed their babies. Was it something to be acknowledged, or ignored? Even now that I have a child of my own, I still don’t know what the right etiquette is. So while I fully understand that breastfeeding is uncomfortable and even unsavory for many, I would like those people to pause and consider the following:
When my daughter is hungry I feed her. If not, I guarantee your meal will be more ruined by her screaming.
When I’ve tried to use a cover up, it really doesn’t work. In spite of what people think, breastfeeding isn’t something that babies or mothers do automatically. For many, it’s a bigger source of pain and stress than labor. My daughter will take up to an hour to eat, pausing every so often to rest and look around. Anything over her face gets brushed away, or in the way of me making sure she is eating properly. That doesn’t mean I sit in restaurants naked from the waist up. It does mean that I position myself in the most discreet spot I can and do my best to be as unobtrusive as possible. Most of the time her body covers what’s on show, so a person would have to really be looking to be upset. Especially if they weren’t sat with me.
When it’s time to feed my daughter in front of people, I am self-conscious. As is every other mum I know – those that breastfeed and those that bottlefeed. That’s because complete strangers, shops, restaurants and media take it upon themselves to comment on both. Not to mention, our post-partum bodies aren’t exactly something we’re proud of or want on show. We can’t win.
When people suggest that us mums shouldn’t take our children out, I am angered by the hypocrisy. We are constantly encouraged to get our ‘old selves’ back as quickly as possible.
‘Be bikini ready and lose the baby weight. Leave the child at home and go for a night out. Have sex at 8 weeks post-partum. Get back to work.’
Getting out of the house IS part of my ‘old self’ – at the moment, the only part that I recognize and can achieve on a daily basis. My daily trips out are what’s kept post-natal depression from setting in. Sometimes it’s the only way I’ve been able to eat. It’s let me catch up with friends and family, and feel like a part of society – not some home-bound troll who watches endless hours of bad television. Even if I wanted to leave my daughter at home, I am one of many couples who do not have family in London that can take her when I want to go out alone. Where I go, she goes. And we have a better bond as a result. Isn’t that the most important thing?
Many of us have looked for other alternatives to ‘getting our tits out in public’ as some lovely people have dubbed breastfeeding on The Guardian website. Trust me, if there were options that made everyone happy, we would have adopted them by now. So grow up and look away if you don’t like it – after all, it is rude to stare. And please don’t make a scene. As a new mum, we have enough stress to deal with; we don’t need humiliation too.