Mum Siobhan O’Reilly decided to test how people would react to her breastfeeding in public places.
Wherever I am, I’m always ‘loud and proud’ to breastfeed, to the extent that a social occasion is a letdown if I haven’t got my boobs out at least twice. But if anyone was mean to me about breastfeeding, I’d probably crumple into a hormonal heap. My challenge is to take my breasts and my baby - Jamie, 3 months – out and about, steel myself for rude remarks and see how the world feels about breastfeeding in public places.In April 2009, the Equality Bill was introduced into Parliament. The Equality Bill has a clause that makes it very clear that it’s against the law to force breastfeeding mums out of places like cafes, shops and public transport. It’s anticipated the bill will come into force from autumn 2010. It’s been unlawful to discriminate against a mum breastfeeding in public since the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, but without the Equality Bill, someone could still tell you not to do so in their shop, café or wherever.
My baby’s check-up is an ideal chance to try out waiting room breastfeeding. Things start badly, as my 5-year-old hisses, “Please don’t show everyone your boobies!” This from a child who asked if he could photograph them to show a classmate. I ignore him and discreetly latch Jamie on. The man next to me gets up and walks away. Then an elderly lady walks up, and I’m convinced she’s going to be rude. She smiles, and says, “Now that’s contentment!”
Well, I now know how to get a seat to myself on the bus! As I feed Jamie, three separate people go to sit next to me but choose not to when they see what I’m doing. I found this really embarrassing, and it’s not an experience I’d care to repeat, but at least I have somewhere to put all my shopping bags.
Amazingly, this is where I have my worst experience. While I’m feeding, a child toddles up to look at Jamie. I smile and say hello, but his mum drags him off. I then see her whispering to her friends and giving me dirty looks.
Despite my first toddler group experience, I try a local NCT ‘Bumps and Babies’ group. This is very different – lots of people are feeding their babies, and posters everywhere tell me breast is best. It’s great, but it makes me wonder if I’d actually be worried about bottlefeeding my baby in a place like this!
I have a teenage sister, so I ask her if I can hang out in her university canteen and breastfeed there. She’s horrified, but when I offer her £10 she gives in, as long as I sit at a separate table and pretend not to know her.
Why not use a pashmina shawl to cover yourself and keep your baby feeding? It’s easy for you to keep breastfeeding and no one knows what’s going on behind the shawl.
Clare Byam-Cook, breastfeeding expert and author
Jamie has a cold and can’t breathe through his nose, which makes it hard to feed him, so I spend the day trying to feed him all over the place – on benches, in the canteen, and, at one point, in a sandpit. I’m not happy, so when someone with ‘Ranger’ on his t-shirt tells me, “Sorry, but you can’t do that here”, I amaze myself by snapping, “Actually, I think you’ll find I am doing it here.” He slopes off and mutters to his colleagues, but I’m left alone, and pleased that I refused to be cowed, I cheer up and enjoy my day.
What this week brings home to me is that a lot of people are still uncomfortable about breastfeeding in public, and that it’s not the norm to see women doing it in the UK. It’s a shame we need a law to protect our right to do it, but if that’s what it takes to help women feel braver and happier about doing something natural and beneficial for their babies, then it must be a good thing.
i love this article, it comforts me to know there are other mums who are the same as me.
i don't have a problem with breastfeeding in public. i fed my son for a year and am still feeding my 7 month old daughter and have only ever had 1 bad experience where a "woman" didn't want to come into the same baby changing/feeding area as me because she "didn't want to see me doing THAT"!! but she made herself look a right tit in the process of huffing and puffing with her pram so the laughs were on me really!!!
as for feeling 'letdown' about not getting my boobs out anywhere, i totally agree!! its a running joke with me and my other breastfeeding friends (from the baby cafe, does anyone else go to one?) that we've had our boobs out everywhere!! my all time best was infront of the vicar!!!!!
so, apart from my grandma asking me if i were 'one of those germaine greer types', my breastfeeding experience has been and still is fab and i would say to anyone, don't be shy!! be proud that you're doing the best for your baby and certainly don't let anyone make you feel ashamed!
I think people attitudes to breastfeeding is ridiculous, it is what they are actually for for goodness sake. Good on you for testing peoples reaction to it. I never quite made it to that stage, breastfeeding was a struggle for me so I never felt comfortable feeding anywhere.
If my bump decides he will latch and feed well I'll be testing people too
I agree.People get so silly when it comes to breastfeeding.Boobs are meant for feeding babies.Whatever else you do with them is by the by,they were intended for feeding babies,so get used to seeing them doing that.
When I breast fed I generally had a raggy to hand and between that and my clothes and the baby there was nothing to see.There were times I felt uncomfortable,around my Grandad,he only saw Harry once and I was very new to it then.It just felt wrong.Always around my Dad,I can't even hear him say that word.Too embarassed.
Other people though,well if you don't like it don't look,I wasn't about to offer you any.
i have a really long list of odd places lola has decided its lunch time,
i think the funniest, maybe not too odd, was pizza hut i rested her bum on the table and she always flings her top arm behind her and she was dipping her finger in and out of the bbq sauce giggling!!!
WORST EVER she was 4wks old on a bench on a corner (lots of traffic) IN THE SNOW!!!!!!! and on my own to top it off! im suprised nothing snapped off!
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