Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The right to feed

As you know, I don't often do soap box posts on here. I'm always worried someone will come a long and have a go and shut down my blog etc. I know, probably a bit irrational, but in my profession, I do have to be careful what I say, to some extent.

However, when I saw the Sports Direct situation unfold via Mumsnet on facebook, I could not simply sit back and let it go. Basically, if you don't know a story broke in the Independent about a woman who was breastfeeding her baby in Sports Direct whilst her hubby shopped. She got asked to leave by one of their assistants and was made to go outside in the rain. There are various things wrong with this scenario. Not mentioning the fact what what they did was illegal. Although at least it's one more reason to boycott Sports Direct ha!

You may know, I breastfed (and still do) Charlie. When he was tiny and newborn, I tried to time our outings around his feeds so that I didn't have to whop my boobs out in public. However, anyone who has ever breastfed, will tell you, that there is generally no schedule to feeding, especially in the early days. Babies tend to feed on demand. And so, if you happen to be in Sports Direct (other sports shops are available and I urge you to use them instead) and your baby starts crying for food, then feed it you must. You cannot reason with a baby; you cannot ask them to stop crying whilst you go and find a place more 'suitable' and 'convienet' to feed the baby so that you don't, god forbid, OFFEND anyone by feeding your baby in public.

What shocked me more about this whole debacle, was peoples' reactions to it on facebook. Mumsnet posted the link and then sat back and watch the whole thing explode. One woman in particular said that breastfeeding, and I quote, was "yak." Another woman said that breastfeeding was "grotesque" and that it was "totally unnecessary" to feed your baby in public. The same woman also went on to say that women are being "provocative" if you feed your baby in public. What kind of society are we living in where women, of all people, think that feeding your baby makes you provocative?! People are forgetting the main reason for boobs - to feed your baby. It is only our society that has sexualised breasts. Of course, anyone who made comments that challenged these people got shot down as 'breastfeeding nazis'! The women who believed Sports Direct were right to throw this woman out also believed that breastfeeding was wrong, especially in public. They believed that, if you must breastfeed, then you should always find somewhere more suitable (a public toilet I presume) to do it so that other people are not offended. Sorry, but what part of me feeding my baby offends you? You sitting there in the cafe talking with your mouth full offends me, but I just have to deal with it. The woman who called it yak also said that, when she sees a women feeding her baby, she takes her children away so that they can't see what disgusting act is going on. WHAT?! How on earth is this negative attitude towards breastfeeding ever going to change when you have women, of all people, behaving in this manner and teaching their own children their ridiculous views? If you don't want to breastfeed your own baby - fine! Don't. But how can it be seen as offensive, yak and provocative and yet page 3 is deemed as acceptable in today's society. To portray a woman as a sexual being rather than an individual? There are sexualised adverts all over the place, with half clad women and indeed men - yet these are accepted as common place. But yet, the simple and natural act of breastfeeding your baby is frowned upon and considered disgusting by some people.

This is not to say that I have anything against formula feeding.  That's not the point here. Although, I do wonder what the store's reaction would have been had the mother pulled out a bottle of formula for the hungry baby. Everyone has the right to choose and, whilst of course, I do believe, breast is best, that does not mean that I look down on or think that people who choose to use formula are wrong. That is their choice and everyone has the right to their choice, without having to defend it. I would never question anyone who chose to use formula to feed their baby. I would also never say it was disgusting. What does annoy me though, is people's attitude to breastfeeding (just so you know, peoples' negative attitudes to formula feeding also annoys me too, but that's another story). The looks or stares you get when feeding in public. The tuts. And then the ridiculous comments you see on posts such as the one on Mumsnet.

Besides all of this, it is ILLEGAL to discriminate against a breastfeeding woman and women are allowed to feed their hungry babies ANYWHERE they feel necessary. Of course, there are exceptions - whilst driving! But the Equality Act 2010, states that breastfeeding mothers should not be discriminated against. It is the law that they can feed wherever they need to.

It is entirely situations such as this that made me wary of breastfeeding. I knew when I was pregnant, that I wanted to breastfeed. However I knew that there may be problems, I may not be able to do it, the baby might not take to it etc. But the main reason for my wariness, was other peoples' reactions. In 2014, that is a sad state of affairs. Do people not wonder how mothers fed their babies before formula? We had no other choice, it was breast or nothing. Above all else, it is the most natural thing in the world. But then you get those idiots who contrast defecating and urinating as natural and compare this to breastfedding in public! Their claim being you wouldn't do those things in public so why breastfeed.

It was only after about 6 months of successful feeding that I finally started to think 'sod it,' if you don't like seeing me feed my child then feel free to go somewehre else. I started to become ready for an argument shoudl anyone ever say anything. Although, luckily no one ever did. Not that it would have stopped me. I got the odd stare or look, but no one ever approached me with somehting negative to say. Thank god. But this is the problem. What about those mothers who aren't as strong willed as I was and who do run off to the public toilet or their car to feed their baby? What abvout those mothers who everentually give up breastfeeding because of societies unralistic views about breastfeeding? What about the mothers who never even try it, because they are scared of the criticism and negativity they will encounter? It's those people I feel sorry for. They should not be made to make choices like that based on other peoples' views. Have your views of course, but don't enforce them on other people.

What I can't agree with though is having breastfeeding being called yak, provocative and disgusting.

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