For some reason when I was much younger even though I always knew I’d breastfeed I thought I’d express and bottle feed in public. I guess something about society made me feel like I’d be too uncomfortable to breastfeed in public. As I grew older I abandoned that idea. Which is a good thing as I’ve found it such a hassle to express to just leave my daughter with my husband for an hour let alone if we were going to be out all day! Although I would have expressed if for some reason my daughter couldn’t latch or something.
For the last few years I’ve been of the opinion that women should not have to use breastfeeding covers because they should not feel like they need to cover up when feeding, they should just be able to feed their baby. I hated when I saw someone using one on TV as I felt they were showing women that they needed to cover up when breastfeeding. I didn’t buy a cover before Tulip was born, I was just going to feed her.
The first time I fed in public was when Tulip was just over a week old. We had to go out to register her birth and get her birth certificate. My husband and I decided to make a day of it and we went out to lunch. I made sure I sat at a table with my back to a wall so I wouldn’t be surprised by someone coming up behind me. When Tulip got hungry I fed her, only slightly awkwardly, trying to cover up a bit with my sling. The people at the other tables were far enough away that they couldn’t really see anything and it was a family place in the middle of the week so it was mostly just other mums and their small children. No one really seemed to have a reaction to me breastfeeding. I did notice some people looking over at me but they were probably just looking because I had a tiny squishy baby and who doesn’t like to see a tiny squishy baby? The first time breastfeeding in public was a success! She also got hungry again when we were talking to the registrar but given her job and that she sees new babies all the time, I figured she was probably used to it so I didn’t worry about feeding in front of her.
The next time I had to feed in public Tulip was 2 weeks old and we went to a paediatric first aid course. When Tulip got hungry I got very anxious. We were in closer proximity to other people and even though they were all parents and I know they wouldn’t have cared, I felt very uncomfortable feeding her in front of them. Also we were in the early days so it sometimes took a couple tries for Tulip to latch on. One of the other mums there (who had been in our NCT group) saw I was struggling and I was again trying to cover up a bit with the sling. She offered to let me use her breastfeeding cover and I happily accepted. The minute I put it on I immediately felt the anxiety go. I could concentrate on getting Tulip latched on without feeling like I was being watched and she went on to have a nice long feed. When we got home I immediately ordered my own cover.
Whenever people came round or whenever I went out I’d use the cover to feed Tulip. I’d sometimes go without if I was at a baby group and there were other mums breastfeeding too. I’d also breastfeed without the cover if I was around friends who had breastfed in the past. I justified using the cover to myself as Tulip seemed to feed better under it without distractions. I also felt so much more comfortable and that’s very important for making sure my baby got fed!
As time went on, Tulip and I got more confident with feeding. She also seemed to not like the cover being over her any more. When I joined the Positive About Breastfeeding group and got involved in these blog posts for World Breastfeeding Week, I started to think about my original opinion from when I was pregnant that I should be able to feed wherever and whenever Tulip wants and I shouldn’t feel I have to cover up. I still felt this way and really wanted to get the confidence to feed without the cover, especially since Tulip didn’t like it any more. I had fantastic support from the facebook group Can I Breastfeed in it? Off Topic Discussion. This is an offshoot of the group Can I Breastfeed in it? which is a great group for breastfeeding mums to share breastfeeding friendly clothes they’ve found! I posted saying I was trying to build up my confidence feeding in public without a cover and I just wanted some reassurance. I was overwhelmed with positive comments and encouragement.
Later that day I fed in public without the cover for the first time since our initial outing and I haven’t used it since! I also ordered a confidence clasp from Suckle Store. They are made by one of the mums from the Can I Breastfeed in it? page. It has a bra clip on one end and a clasp on the other (connected by a ribbon) so you can attach a muslin to your bra. This way you can cover up a little without covering up the baby. This has made me feel a bit better as Tulip can’t pull the muslin off entirely! I’ve become so much more confident since I stopped using the cover and Tulip prefers it that way. I’ve even stopped worrying too much if I accidentally flash a bit of boob when latching her on if that’s what needs to happen to get her feeding! I’m so passionate about this being normalised now as no one cares if they see a bottle when someone is bottle feeding, why should they care if they see a breast?
I still feel a little uncomfortable feeding in front of friends who don’t have children because they’ve never been in my situation and some still think “it’s ok to breastfeed in public BUT you should cover up” and they get a little uncomfortable about it. We need to remove that BUT from their thinking and just have them say “it’s ok to breastfeed in public”!
I’ve never had a bad reaction to feeding in public (other than the slightly uncomfortable twitching of some friends and family). I’ve never been asked to leave an establishment or had them ask me to cover up. All in all my experiences breastfeeding in public have been positive. I really hope that one day soon breastfeeding in public will be normalised and we won’t see blog posts like this or debates about it. It will just be a thing that some (hopefully most) women do. And not only do I want breastfeeding a baby in public to be normalised but also extended feeding for toddlers!
Just this week I took part in The Big Latch On which is a global event where women get together and breastfeed to try to help normalise breastfeeding. Just this one event boosted my confidence about breastfeeding in public a lot. So much so that I wasn’t as bothered about it as I usually am later on in the day when there weren’t others breastfeeding too. Events like this are so important to normalise breastfeeding!
Photo by Mara Ashton Photography
For more positive feeding in public experiences please hop on over to We Are Team Walsh where you can gain further entries into the grand prize draw. Full terms and conditions can be found on the Keeping Britain Breastfeeding website. UK residents only.