Breastfeeding is a natural and beautiful thing. During this time a special bond between the Mum and baby is created.
BUT let’s be honest, breastfeeding can often be difficult and stressful for various reasons. Sometimes the milk supply is low, the baby has difficulty latching on, the Mum is suffering from mastitis, the Mum might be too sick to breastfeed etc. All these things can be tremendously stressful for the Mum and can put a big pressure on her shoulders. To add to the stress, sometimes when Mums breastfeed in public or “semi-public” they might be on the receiving end of verbal abuse, which is just not ok. Many Mums find these kinds of confrontations difficult to deal with and feel that it’s a personal attack towards them. This is really sad! Especially, as by law, babies have the right to be breastfed and Mothers have the right to breastfeed. Even though our society in general acknowledge that breastfeeding is important for both the babies and Mums, how come that some people still make critical remarks or confront the Mums in an unfriendly manner thinking that breastfeeding is unnatural and illegal, and hence should be done behind closed doors?
Let’s hear a story from a nurse, Shannon, who had a rather unpleasant experience while breastfeeding her newborn baby in a public toilet, while being covered up.
When she told me her story, I was really moved. Over to Shannon…
“It was my birthday and I had decided to catch up with some friends. I had a one month old at the time. We chose a place that had good pram access, wasn’t too loud and I would feel comfortable bringing a new baby too. We decided upon a 5-star hotel, as we believed they could accommodate us. I got dressed up and was happy to have a night out. During the night my little one needed to be fed. I am naturally modest and don’t feel comfortable feeding in public. I went to the ladies’ bathroom, which I thought had a little sitting area, where I would be able to feed in comfort and with privacy. But unfortunately, it didn’t. I was directed downstairs to a bathroom that had the amenities I was after.
There was a function in a nearby room, so the bathroom was full of ladies in formal wear doing their make-up and hair. I sat down, put my breastfeeding cover on (this goes around your neck and covers your baby while you feed). Whilst I was feeding, suddenly a Security Guard entered and very abruptly demanded me to leave. I was quite taken aback by this and it took me a moment to process what they were saying. The Security Guard then proceeded to lean over me in a very intimidating way and insist that I leave the bathroom at once. I left and went back to my friends and was physically shaking, my heart was racing and I felt like a criminal. “
This was her 30th birthday party. What a miserable way to end her celebrations. Not the experience you are after when you are celebrating your birthday with your friends.
Shannon now has two gorgeous sons, who are two and four years old. She’s is currently studying Child and Family Health Nursing and working on her blog Flourishing Mumma. Even though she had a bad experience on her birthday, she’s still an advocate for breastfeeding.
“I successfully breastfed both of my boys until they were over one. I l know there can be difficulties and challenges with breastfeeding and have experienced them myself, but I know that breastfeeding had a positive outcome for my children. I know some ladies experience difficulty breastfeeding and some can’t for various reasons, and I think they should feel a sense of achievement for trying and not feel “mummy guilt” for not being able to feed. We as Mums should support each other through this wonderful and very challenging journey of motherhood.”
I asked Shannon how she believes that we could change the negative stigmas associated with breastfeeding in public.
“We have to educate people, so they understand the importance of breastfeeding for babies and their mums. And if you are walking past or seeing someone breastfeeding and you look in their direction, then smile at them, so they feel comfortable while feeding. The Mum feeding her baby might feel self-conscious and something like a simple smile might help them feel more accepted.”
I’m very thankful that Shannon wanted to share her story. Hopefully people can learn something from it.
Until next time, stay calm and smile if you see a fellow woman breastfeeding her child in public.
P.S. If you are a breastfeeding Mum and suddenly get verbally abused, you can find help / support here:
AUSTRALIAN BREASTFEEDING ASSOCIATION: 1800 686 268. This is a FREE service. The helpline is staffed by trained volunteer breastfeeding counsellors and is open 24 hours, 7 days a week.
P.P.S. If you have a similar story, we would love to hear from you.