Over the passed ten years I’ve had quite a differing experience of breastfeeding my children. Ranging from being unable to breastfed my eldest, Luc despite having wanted to, too then successfully breastfeeding my younger three children for differing lengths of time.
When I discovered I was expecting Luc I knew I wanted to breastfed. My first birth wasn’t quite as I had expected it would be and it ended with an emergency c-section. As soon as I was in recovery Luc was handed to me and the midwife helped me to position him to feed. I remember feeling so overwhelmed with love for this little bundle and so proud of myself for actually breastfeeding.
Sadly after twenty four hours as I was moved to the ward, I became quite unwell and I pretty much don’t remember the first week of Luc’s life. Every time I tried to breastfed I ended up vomiting due to the position I was feeding in and the pressure against my wound. I spent most of it asleep and vaguely remember doctors coming to see me on the post natal ward and dad of 3 cradling luc. Formula was quickly given and various tests carried out to determine the cause of my illness but all came back clear. Once Luc had been given formula we were pretty much left to it, no support was given to help me breastfeed as I wanted too. After a week I managed to discharge myself and attempted to establish breastfeeding myself.
My mother tried to help me but Luc wouldn’t latch on again for me having spent over a week on formula. There was no other support available to me and reluctantly I had to give up on the idea of breastfeeding. Dad of 3 was supportive and tried to make me feel better about the whole situation but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had failed and that if the right support had been available I would have succeeded. So when nine months later I discovered I was pregnant again I was more determined to breastfeed.
My second labour ended in another emergency c-section after I failed to make progress in the time allotted to me. Twenty four hours after the birth just as I left the high dependency unit I began to feel ill again just as I had following my first birth. I was so scared history was repeating and told the midwife I wanted to discharge myself. My mother in law was visiting me at the time and I remember her trying to persuade me to stay but she saw how upset I was and how determined I was to leave she supported my decision and stayed until I could leave.
Back at home I managed to get comfortable and found a position to feed Trystan in without causing any strain or pressure to my stomach. The relief that I was still feeding was overwhelming. I remember thinking a couple of weeks later that the sickness I experienced was a reaction to labour and then intervention and was just one of those things. My community midwives were fantastic and so supportive, during my pregnancy they had shown we various positions to breastfeed in just in case I had another c-section.
With Trystan I breastfed him for eighteen months and although we had a few difficult moments with mastitis and engorgement but I enjoyed breastfeeding. I remember the first time I had to feed in public, we were at a soft play centre, Luc was around a year old and Trystan a couple of months. We were with a friend and there were a few other parents there too. The centre was laid out with the soft play frame/equipment at one end of the building and rooms of tables facing with the café behind the tables. The whole area was really quite exposed and I remember thinking how on earth was I going to be able to feed without everyone seeing. I wasn’t sure how other’s would react to me breastfeeding around them either. I remember using Trystan’s blanket to help keep my modesty while he feed. Half way through feeding I nervously glanced around and realised that in fact no one was watching me. Once I realised that I relaxed and enjoyed our time out. With that first time behind me each time I fed in public became easier and felt more natural and I didn’t give it a second thought.
When Rowan arrived three years after Trystan I breastfed him. We had moved back to West Wales by this time and I was determined to help other mothers who wanted to breastfeed. Having had very little support myself previously I felt it was extremely important to have some one or somewhere you could turn to if you were having difficulty with any aspect of breastfeeding. My local children’s centre started a breastfeeding support group and along with a few other new mums I started attending. It was somewhere we could chat, share problems and solutions as well as sharing refreshments. A local health visitor would also pop along every few weeks to provide support. A year in I trained along with two other mums as Mother Supporters for the group with the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers and continued to provide support to others.
I breastfed Rowan for twenty six months, during which time I feed him in all manor of places including the crematorium at my grandfather’s funeral. That was quite a funny experience and by this time I really had mastered the art of feeding discreetly in public. Even dad of 3 hadn’t noticed I was feeding at the time! I’ve feed in cafés, parks, museums, beaches and in the middle of shops. Thankfully I’ve never meet any opposition at all. By the time Erin arrived breastfeeding was second nature to both myself and the rest of the family.
I have never had a problem with any of the families I childmind for either with regard my breastfeeding. There have been times when I have been sat feeding either Rowan or Erin on the sofa and on the other side I have been giving a minded child a bottle of formula.
So when I hear that other people have had negative experiences of breastfeeding it makes me sad to think that there are some mums who are made to feel like they are doing something wrong by breastfeeding in public. So when I read a recent survey carried out of a mix of women and men from a range of ages and ethnic groups to find out what their experiences of breastfeeding in public were, did they agree with breastfeeding in public and if not why, I was interested to see the results.
The survey aims to discover why the issue of breastfeeding in public is so controversial. 623 people were asked a series of questions about their experiences or their partners experiences. One of the questions was “If you or your partner have breastfeeding experience, were you comfortable breastfeeding in public?” 299 people answered this question, 57% of them said they had felt comfortable to breastfeed in public while 43% said they hadn’t felt comfortable to breastfeed in public.
The next question went on to ask “If your not comfortable breastfeeding in public, why not?” 128 people answered. 27% said it was due to the fear of other peoples reactions. 27% said it was due to not being able to find a comfortable place for both my child and myself. 24% said it was due to embarrassment, 19% said it was due to being self conscious about their body. While 2% said it was for another reason.
Sadly 64% of 56 people who answered the next question had received negative looks from people while breastfeeding in public. That’s something that saddens me, why should a mother receive negative looks for the way she chooses to feed her baby. The survey continues to ask if people would agree with breastfeeding in public if women did the following:
. Use a nursing cover up – 29% said yes to this.
. Breastfeed somewhere more private, like a toilet cubicle – 27% said yes to this.
. Had the option of a designated breastfeeding area in public spaces – 23% said yes to this.
. Breastfed underneath their clothes rather than pull them up/down! – 15% – said yes to this.
. None of the above – 6% said yes to this.
48 people out of 623 answered this question.
I have written this post on behalf of Benenden to share my experiences of breastfeeding and to raise awareness of World Breastfeeding Week, 1st to 7th August 2014. If you would like to read more of the survey you can do so here, it makes interesting reading. What are your experiences of breastfeeding in public?