Attitudes have greatly improved, but not every public feeding has been positive…
Last week I was one of many local mums who were interviewed to help promote the new initiative We're Breastfeeding Friendly Limerick (<<< watch the AMAZING video!). While I have many, many happy memories of nursing three of my children, the television reporter from Virgin One asked that I share a negative experience that I've had.
The first baby that I breastfed was my daughter, who is my second born child. I initially planned to breastfeed her until she was 6 months old. When that day came and went, I was soon feeding a one year old and very comfortable doing so anywhere.
When my eldest was 9 years old he attended a university soccer match with his own youth soccer team. We were all spectators watching the match in bleachers one evening. My daughter indicated she wanted to nurse, so I did so. Simple as. A woman and her male companion walked past the bleachers (we were in the front row) and said something along the lines of "so can I just shit here!?" while making hand gestures behind her bum that were meant to mimic explosive diarrhoea. She was clearly disgusted with my breastfeeding as she stared at me.
I'm not going to lie. This upset me and in that moment, I felt embarrassed. I was at the match with just my daughter, as my son sat with his teammates. I know had my husband been there, words would have been exchanged and some no-bullshit assertive Irish dad schooling would have occurred. One of the things I love about my husband is his assertiveness when I might otherwise be too stunned to say something. And I was.
Looking back now though, I'm happy this situation happened to me. Sure, I was pissed off but it DID NOT stop me from nursing my child wherever and whenever I wanted. By that point I was confident breastfeeding in public. A newer, less confident mum may have never breastfed in public again.
My irritation came from that woman's ignorance and her attempt to embarrass me in front of hundreds of people. For the record, human faeces is not the same as breast milk. One is a waste product of the body and the other is primary nutrition for a developing baby. Last I checked, defecating in public is a crime and breastfeeding isn't. Breastfeeding is protected by law. You CAN nurse your baby anywhere and people cannot ask you to leave.
The comparison of poo to breast milk is beyond annoying. I have heard of people comparing other body fluids, like semen, to breast milk. I find this comparison particularly disturbing. An old co-worker of mine compared masturbation in public to breastfeeding. I asked if he intended to feed his sperm to babies and that conversation got real awkward real fast. I think I made my point.
Babies, whether fed from the breast or bottle, deserve to eat whenever and wherever they need. No parent and child should be forced into a bathroom or made to feel like they aren't welcome in public.
You are welcome. If you're breastfeeding your baby in public, I hope you never deal with negativity. I hope people are respectful and kind. I always smile at mums feeding their babies and if I see them struggling with something, I offer to help. This might mean getting them milk for their tea or picking up a toy that was dropped on the floor. These small acts of kindness don't make me a superhero- they mean I'm a decent human being. Make the choice to be a decent human being.