I don’t know whether this is the same for everyone or not, but during my pregnancy, it was preached to me from my 12-week appointment how important it would be to breastfeed. The midwives were encouraging and full of information, and leaflets outlined the various benefits that breastmilk would give to the newborn babies. That said, I never found them to be overly pushy or preachy, they did leave it up to the individual, but it was not left as something vague just how much breastfeeding was expected of each mother to give the best start to their child in life.
In society, it seems to be a bit of a mixed bag. Mothers are caught in an ever-changing battle of opinions; being praised by one section of society for giving their time, bodies and nipples to the cause of increasing their baby’s immune system, future IQ and other such benefits, while being berated by others and labeled “the breastapo” among other slurs. It can be hard enough to wake up after very little sleep, put up with painful, sometimes cracked and bleeding, nipples, an upset baby who may or may not latch naturally and do all of this in public – and that’s before you see the looks you can be shot, or comments made in earshot about “putting those away” and there being a “time and a place”.
Lately, I was walking through Mahon Point Shopping Centre with my toddler asleep in his buggy. A woman baby wearing her child, who could only have been 2 or 3 months old, while breastfeeding at the same time walked past me. I said nothing to her, I just smiled and walked on by. Inside, I was both in awe and thrilled to see that the feelings of inadequacy and needing to hide the fact that you breastfeed aren’t hitting everyone out there, and jealousy, for my lack of ability to do the same.My own breastfeeding journey ended at 9 weeks thanks to a rather fussy baby who didn’t want to gain weight, issues with supply and a lot of emphasis being placed on supplementing with formula. It isn’t a decision I regret, it was the decision that was best for me, my son, our family. He has come on in leaps and bounds since then, and I am quite proud that I did make it that far. I remember him being a week old and breastfeeding in the front seat of my mother’s car in a busy car park, not caring who or what saw. However, I can also remember a few weeks later feeling like I couldn’t sit in a cafe or a park and breastfeed, questioning whether I should just give him a bottle when I was out and about, as it might not be appropriate in such a setting. The transition to this way of thinking wasn’t organic, it came from seeing different reactions around me – likely that those people thought they were subtle but to the breastfeeding mother who is already hormonal and conscious that she is revealing more of herself in public than normal, they were anything but.
I assumed these feelings were unfounded, just the paranoid thoughts of a self-conscious first-time mother who wasn’t sure what to do and was having difficulty feeding as it was. This had been backed up by the overall positive reaction those around me (parent and non-parentlike) have to breastfeeding. Today I found out that I was wrong when reading the comments made by viewers of TV3 Midday in reaction to Dil Wickremasinghe breastfeeding her son live on air. Instead of looking at this as a wonderful demonstration of normalising the act of breastfeeding, which is a method of feeding babies in use since the dawn of time, since I’m fairly sure our caveman friends weren’t boiling kettles and measuring scoops of formula, people were outraged by this act and berated TV3 for having the gaul to air it during daytime hours. I’ve not seen anybody berating BBC or Channel 4 for airing Jamie Oliver shows where he feeds school kids, or general cookery shows on kids television; so why get so het up by seeing an infant be fed by its mother? Was there a large explicit scene with excessive amounts of breast shown? Did priests and conservatives around the country require smelling salts to be brought around from the shock? No.
A baby was hungry. His mother fed him. While conducting an interview. Not just a show of decent parenting ( it’s a good idea to feed those hungry babies when they demand it), but an excellent demonstration on the power of women to multitask.
Twitter has blown up since the whole debacle came out a few hours ago. Thankfully most of the opinions I have come across are like that of my own, but I am shocked to see how many negative comments are out there, people likening it to urinating live on television, people saying there is a time and a place, and even one person asking had she not heard of a breast pump. Going on my experiences of breast-feeding and pumping, why should a woman have to lessen her supply by even a little by pumping if she has the ability to bring her child with her and feed from the breast? TV3 were in agreement with the child being with her; I have a feeling that if other workplaces were as lenient with employees with breastfeeding, the image of the girl in the cubicle next door having a lunchtime feed with baby in tow would be a whole lot more common.
What do you think? Do you agree that it’s suitable viewing for daytime television, or are my expectations far too liberal for modern daytime television standards? Let me know in the comments below!
If you are interested in finding out all of the places women can breastfeed; this list from The Clothesline should give you some ideas.
For breastfeeding support tools, check out this roundup I put together here.