Normalise Breast Feeding?!

‘We should normalise breast feeding’! 

This is a statement I have heard time and time again and although I agree, breast feeding should be normalised, I do get a bit bored of the constant round of blog posts, news features and articles in print that I see come around and around like a carousel of repetitiveness.

I mean we can SAY it over and over but really does it do any good? And who exactly are we appealing to? I think for the most part people are very on board with mothers breast feeding and often it’s the mothers themselves who have a bit of a chip on their shoulder, always on the lookout for someone who might give them a funny look so that they can moan.

Now, before I go on further I have to tell you that I breast fed both of my children until they were nearly 4 year’s old and I loved the experience. Yes it was a rather extended period of time. No, I don’t wear clothes made of hemp. I’m probably not who you are thinking of when the image of a child being fed at nearly school age pops into your mind but… I still did it.

I have been on every end of the breast feeding feedback scale. I have also changed emotions over how I feel about other people’s reactions over the years. Because as you change, with time, you also grow and I believe that’s exactly what I’ve done.

When I had my daughter 7 year’s ago I was absolutely intent on breastfeeding and I fought through cracked nipples, 2 early bouts of mastitis (which floored me) and a child who simply couldn’t (or wouldn’t) latch. I had to finger feed her for a bit to let my tits heal (my nipples looked like they were hanging on by a thread) and it was a massive achievement when she FINALLY did it and we got into the groove. When you’re in the throws of that situation, where it was SO important to fight this fight and win, you find that need to champion breast feeding to everyone you see. Or at least I did.

I am the first to admit that I became, at that point, quite militant about breast feeding. I looked at mothers feeding with a bottle and I absolutely did sniff my superior nose in the air and look down it at them for their choice. Why? Oh god, I’ve no idea. I was being a twat. But… In my defence I had just done something which I thought was very important and I thought other people should know it. No… I heard myself… It’s no defence! I was just being a twat.

By the time I was pregnant with my son, still with a feeding 2 year old, I was still massively on the breast feeding bandwagon of preach. I joined tandem feeding Facebook groups and fed my daughter through the most painful stages of pregnancy which again made my boobs feel like they were being hacked off. And I don’t regret that decision at all, it was right for us, it was right for my daughter and it worked. But why the boggins I was so bothered about other people doing the same is literally beyond me?

When he came along something changed in me and made me much calmer. I had a home birth (I do realise this is doing nothing for your impression of me and would like to reiterate that I own absolutely no garments made of sustainable fabrics or natural herbs) and tore very badly (it’ll do that with a back to back baby coming out with a fist up like a superhero) and because my boobs were hugely full but the baby was sleeping, my midwife suggested I express a little before having a rest myself.

So I did.

And when I woke up 6 needed hours later (believe me 46 hours of labour isn’t great for energy levels) my husband and Mum had fed the expressed milk to the baby.

OH. MY. GOD!

I literally went beserk!

He won’t feed now. Oh my god it’s all ruined. He’s ruined. I’m ruined. My LIFE IS OVERRRRRRRRRR! I can never show my face on the tandem feeding page again!

Only a few minutes later he was feeding. On me. And I relaxed. Oh…

OH…

At 4 months we went on holiday and I decided to give him a formula feed in the evenings. I was changing. With my daughter I cried when she got colic and I had to give her infacol because I didn’t want anything but the magic elixir created by my body to go into hers but here I was with baby number two giving not just a bottle but one filled with formula. MADE in a factory. By, I would have once assumed, DEVILS!

‘Oooh, he’ll stop breast feeding altogether soon’ I heard a little voice in my head say. But I ignored it because I wanted to drink and not worry I was passing alcohol into my child (I know the score here and it’s unlikely but you still worry). See… I HAD changed!

And when he got to about 10 months old he had ulcers in his mouth which again made me think he might stop and I didn’t want him to. But… As I mentioned before, both of my kids fed until they were nearly 4 so… You know… The worries were unfounded.

Over time I became less bothered by HAVING to breast feed because it was something I’d decided was the only way in life. I also realised I didn’t care (and why should I?) how other people fed their baby. Seriously, what WAS wrong with me? I don’t care on any level what anyone else does with their kids as long as they’re not harming them and being good parents so why the eff would I have ever cared how they kept their baby fed? BONKERS!

Oh… And I also came to the conclusion that ‘most people’ (that I encountered at any rate) already saw breast feeding as normal. Because it is.

I can’t tell you the amount of times in my most militant frame of mind that I had my eyes on EVERYONE to see if they were judging me and if they’d dare to pipe up. I had the perfect line in my head ready to deliver to anyone who dared challenge but guess what?! No one did in those early days of my feral parenting – HOW disappointing!

I was in Carluccio’s in Covent Garden once and an older woman kept looking over… Here we go I thought, here we go! And with adrenaline building up inside me for the ‘fight’, I was ready for her. I was totally ready!

She came over…

I snarled, I bared my teeth, I was on the war path…

Then…

She smiled and touched my shoulder while looking rather lovingly at my daughter and she said… ‘It’s so lovely to see people breast feeding, shows how far we’ve come, it had to be done in private when I was young and I love that you sit here so confidently feeding your gorgeous baby’.

FUCK. Well THAT didn’t give me the opportunity then did it!

And I agreed with her, we have come a long way. Yes there are people who still need their opinions changed and believe me, when you breast feed for a combined 6 years you DO get the opportunity to educate even if it’s just once. Mine was on the tube and with two men in their twenties challenging me on my choice to feed my hungry baby when he needed it and not when we got to our destination and preferably (to them) home. My practiced line absolutely (and finally) did get delivered. Along with an added spur of the moment ‘look, if you continue to irritate me and stare in this disgusted manner then I will turn my very full boob on you and squirt you until you HAVE to move away from me, you’re ruining my breast feeding experience so please shuffle on’. Aggressive? Oh maybe but honestly the WHOLE carriage was laughing and by the time we got to the next stop and the two men fled for their posh suit’s lives I was getting fist bumps from the rest of the commuters – and that’s saying something, Londoners might not care if you breast feed in public but they sure aren’t keen when you travel with kids in rush hour – I was honoured by their camaraderie.

LOOK! Can you see my tits in this?!

My point is, on the whole, it IS accepted. We don’t NEED to constantly bang on I don’t think and instead might be better placed to let actions speak louder than words.

Just do it. Just breast feed. It will soon become normal to anyone who thinks it isn’t if they see it often enough.

There was a segment on BBC breakfast this morning with a woman talking about how she’s fed her baby for 6 months and how we need to ‘normalise it’ bla bla bla. I’m afraid I’ve heard it all before and while I get that it IS very important to you when you’re in the throws of it and you feel you have much to say, I couldn’t help but think she would have delivered a much better message if when her baby cried (as it did) and started snuffling around her jumper (which looked very breast feeding friendly to me) she had just whapped out a bap and stuck the baby on.

Showing a baby feeding on a boob you can barely see because, well, there’s a baby stuck on it, would be the BEST message but instead she kept talking and eventually the presenter had to take the baby from her and stand up rocking it so that we could hear the woman bang on a bit more. (It was a very sweet baby I have to say and I was impressed that the mother had chosen to go on TV without feeling the need to place one of those ridiculous head bands on it – what IS that trend all about? – Another story I know)!

I do think normalising breast feeding is the right thing but I do also think we can talk until we’re blue in the face (and boy breast feeding mammas can DO that)! It’s actions that speak louder than words and for the few remaining disapprovers, if they SEE it ALL the time then it becomes normal. Smoking in pubs was normal until we stopped it. Now no one would dream of lighting up inside an establishment. It’s all about learned behaviour so my message is, it’s great to talk about it but it is a little yawn worthy, just DO it!

I plan on (hopefully) breast feeding again as I plan on (hopefully) having more children and I won’t think twice about doing it in public just as I haven’t in the past. I expect, on the whole, I won’t have any negative feedback in the future either but it will be less likely if everyone just feeds as normal, as and when, no matter what we’re doing even if it’s being interviewed on TV!

What a message it would have sent if she’d fed her baby live on air… Oh well, that was a missed opportunity wasn’t it?!

Oh… And before I go… I also think it’s pretty normal to bottle feed your baby. I just think it’s pretty normal to, you know, FEED your baby. Unless it’s not hungry of course. Then you might want to, I dunno, take its picture, squish its legs and make smooshy faces at it. But… Never, ever put one of those revolting head bands on it. Not unless you want me to tut rather disapprovingly and look down my superior nose at you as I walk past at any rate! 😉

2 thoughts on “Normalise Breast Feeding?!

  1. Well said Ruth and well done, I know your pain on the nipples nearly hanging off. I breastfed all three of mine until they chose to stop; one at 6 months, one at 8 months (actually I had to stop him as I was going away for a weekend and he couldn’t come) and one to a year. I loved breastfeeding my babies but it was far from easy. With my youngest I had to express feed solely for two weeks as my boobs were in such a bad state but they healed and we continued without issue. In all of that time I only once or twice had someone give me odd looks or said something and then they felt my wrath x

  2. Wow Ruth all I can say is you amaze me. As someone that couldn’t but also chose not to breast feed I feel cheeky replying on here.

    But what I will say, after being wth a group of friends now who all openly BF, in public, not with scarves just do it and talking about it to them I have such a different view. I was terrified of BFing and was worried how much people would look, would it hurt and so much more, I wish I had known you when I had Addison. I now yearn to have breast fed, I feel quite sad I shall never experience it.

    I think there is not enough talk about BFing espically from people who do it and do it well, not all hippy and free loving xx

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