The 1-7 August is World Breastfeeding Week, which aims to highlight the benefits of breastfeeding. Over the last 10 years, Dr Kate Boyer, a Senior Lecturer in Human Geography in the School of Geography and Planning at Cardiff University, has been researching women's breastfeeding experiences. Her research shows that new mothers can be uncomfortable with the prospect of breastfeeding in public, sensitive to public reaction, and averse to the prospect of making other people uncomfortable. Here, Rebecca Cox of reveals why women should be able to breastfeed anywhere and anytime they want...
The year? 2017. The place? London, UK. The story? A woman, on the other side of the world, is breastfeeding her daughter. In public.
That’s right, a woman feeding her child outside the privacy of her own home is still so shocking in the present day, that it makes headlines 10,545 miles away.
This would suggest there’s still a conversation needed on the topic, as bonkers at that might seem to you, the enlightened general public. Particularly if you’re reading this with a baby attached to your bosom.
The woman in question is Australian Senator Larissa Waters, and her chosen location to carry out this shocking act was her workplace, the nation’s parliament.
And she’s just as bemused by the newsworthiness of her actions - indeed as any decent human would be.
Speaking to the BBC World Service at the time, she said: "It's frankly ridiculous, really, that feeding one's baby is international news. Women have been breastfeeding for as long as time immemorial.”
Still, Ms Waters became the first politician to breastfeed in Australian parliament since the lower house joined the Senate in allowing breastfeeding.
(Yep, that’s right, until 2016, you weren’t even allowed to consider it.)
Until I became a mother I never for a second considered that my choice of when and where I chose to feed my son would be an issue up for debate. Sure, some people don’t feel comfortable doing it in public but that's up to them.
If feeding your baby is something you’d rather keep private, that’s completely fine but I had one of those babies. If I ever wanted to leave the house for longer than 15 minutes without him going into meltdown, I had to feed in public. And I was fine with it.
Nobody should have to face ridicule, comment or judgement for choosing to do so. And if you don’t think it happens, I’m afraid it does. I I had back in 2015 and even received judgemental comments on the post from a fellow mum.
Until we reach a time where the act of feeding your child is so completely normalised that we no longer have to publish stories about working mothers breastfeeding thousands of miles away, it’s important to let women know that they can feed in public without the fear of shaming. If you see someone out breastfeeding their baby, a word of encouragement (or, hey, a cup of tea) wouldn’t go a miss. recently made headlines by doing just that and offering breastfeeding mums a free cuppa if they visit.
It’s time the world caught up to the fact that feeding your baby any time, place, or way that you see fit is your fundamental right as a mother. But if you’re still feeling nervous about taking the plunge, consult my guide to breastfeeding in public below and do so with confidence (whichever continent you’re on).
How to breastfeed in public
- Practical: The double layer top. You’ll learn this one quickly, a strap top worn under a regular round-neck t-shirt. Pull the bra/strap top down underneath your t-shirt before placing screaming baby at your bossom them whip up the top layer and attach said baba. As long as the little mite stays attached, you’ll be well-covered.
- Magic Muslins: Draping a large muslin cloth across the shoulder you’re feeding on will keep the whole thing covered, but only from the front. And if your baby is anything like Jack he won’t appreciate being asked to eat with a blanket on his head.
- Feeding aprons: Work for some but not my thing. You may as well where a sign saying ‘BOOBS OUT THIS WAY’ with a big neon arrow. Not very subtle.
- Distraction chatter: Nothing to see here. Catch someone taking a glimpse? Engage them in conversation. They should then focus on your face. It’s frowned upon to look at someone’s boobs when you’re talking to them. (I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but it’s frowned upon.)
- Distraction headwear: Who cares about a nipple when you’re wearing sequined cat ears?
- RELAX: If you’re tense, your baby will be too. This is when the thrashing around and increased exposure happens.
- Feeding slings: These are actually great if you can be bothered to figure them out. I can’t.
- Not caring: The absolute best trick in the book. Realising that there’s nothing remotely embarrassing about feeding your baby, no matter how much grunting and vomiting they do, is the ultimate secret to feeding in public.
If seeing a woman breastfeeding makes you uncomfortable, follow these helpful tips:
- Deal with it.
- Or move.
The breast feeding guide was first published on .