Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Breastfeeding: A Public Debate

If there's one topic that seems to provoke a totally disproportionate amount of rage from some people, it's breastfeeding in public.

This isn't a debate on breastfeeding vs bottle feeding - that's an entirely different issue (and I say, everyone has a right to choose without fear of condemnation either way). This is about whether it is right or wrong for a mother to feed her child - a human being - in the presence of other human beings.

I am profoundly grateful that I had a child in a decade where it is mostly acceptable to discreetly breastfeed in a public place (and why any new mum would intentionally flop a whole breast, nipple and all, out of her top in full view of any Tom, Dick or Harry is beyond me - there's always a place for discretion!).

Quite frankly, I would not have stayed sane in those early days if I had not been able to leave the house and visit a coffee shop where I would feed Ruby. In those early days when you really are breastfeeding on demand every. single. hour. it's pretty impossible NOT to breastfeed in public unless you want to put yourself under house arrest for three months.

I've breastfed Ruby in coffee shops. In restaurants. On park benches. In the car (not moving, of course!). In the doctors' surgery. At the train station. On the train. I've even fed her during an interview with the bank manager!

I've sat on the front row in church and fed her. And I'm pretty sure that last week, if she had decided to cry all the way through my sermon, I probably would have just sat on a stool up the front and fed her while I preached (whether you think that's appropriate or not is an entirely different debate!).

Because you know what? It's not that big a deal!

Never have I felt uncomfortable discreetly settling Ruby with a little drink.

Never have I felt the need to go and hide in a toilet cubicle (yuck!).

Never have I experienced any negative attitudes towards my actions, and aside from the odd averted eyes when it's dawned on somebody what I'm actually doing (shock, horror!), I honestly don't believe many people have even realised, let alone had a problem with it!

I'm pretty sure more people would have something to say if I just let her scream incessantly because I'm not fulfilling her needs.

Now that we're in the process of weaning, and I'm beginning to realise that my breastfeeding days with Ruby are numbered, I will cherish each and every moment. Because for the time being, in my body, I possess everything that she needs. Only I can fulfill that need. And that is precious.

So when it's time for a little snack, even when she's had her fill of purees and finger foods at lunch and she still decides to nuzzle into my chest and tug at my top, I will gladly oblige! I don't care if you cop an eye-ful. I don't care if you're embarrassed that you saw. I would rather satisfy my daughter's hunger, thirst or need for comfort than spare your blushes.

Because this time is precious.

These days are numbered.

I will never be able to claw back these moments in my daughter's life.

Before you know it, she'll be on solids. She won't need me in the same way anymore. And other people will have the ability to fulfill all of her needs (though not quite how I'm able to).

These moments, just me and her, quietly minding our own business in the corner of a coffee shop, but equally enjoying every second of being together. Me and her. Her and me. These moments are to be treasured. For they will not last forever. In the blink of an eye, they'll be gone.

So I will carry on, despite what you may or may not think. Despite what the media says. Despite what stupid, ridiculous, fame-hungry Katie Hopkins says.

Because you know what?

It's not about you.

It never was.

It's about her.

My baby.

Her needs.

Not yours.

Not even mine.

Hers.

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