Breastfeeding - Why Embarrassing Moments Don't Matterby Sarah Hurst
The thing with breastfeeding is that it is a learning curve - you assume for yourself, but actually, the real student in this life lesson of keeping a human alive via milk alone is actually your baby! That’s right - this teeny tiny human who can’t walk, talk, recognise their own name or see clearly past 30cm is about to attend their first class, and you: Mamma, are the Teacher. You’ve got this...or at least you will do, but if it goes a bit tits up in the process, hey, no matter. It happens to the best of us...
It’s all very well when you’re at home, topless, propped up by a million breastfeeding pillows, countless muslin cloths and all the time in the world to work on that latch and the optimal position for feeding - but shit suddenly gets real when people start visiting or you have to leave the house.
First of all, let me jump in here with a giant-sized baby wipe and mop up those worries before they begin. Why? Because your job is infinitely more important than almost any of the things you are worried about. More important than whether Uncle Bob got a flash of your nipple. More important than whether Brenda the busy-body thinks you’re showing too much flesh and definitely more important than whether it’s lunchtime, teatime, night time or simply 30 mins since the ‘last time’. Babies have their own time. If you listen, this is one thing they CAN tell you.
But what I can I tell you?
Well, first of all, you are LEGALLY allowed to breastfeed in public in the UK. It is illegal for someone to ask you to leave a public place under the 2010 Equality Act and if this happens you can challenge their request. You’ll probably never have to, but I’m giving you this info just in case.
Secondly, whatever embarrassing little breastfeeding mishap happens to you, you won’t be the first. You won’t be the last. It really isn’t a big deal. One day you’ll probably laugh about it…or write it all down in a list for someone else to enjoy, like I’m about to do now….
1. My firstborn was a busy baby with dreadful reflux. The only way he would feed effectively for a LONG time was in an upright position, straddling my leg (I’m for real!) and so discretion was strived for, but rarely achieved. Especially as I had invested in a shed load of breastfeeding tops designed for babies who feed in a cradle hold…but let me tell you….I had AMAZING posture because of it.
2. Remember that busy baby I told you about? Super nosy. Wanted to look at EVERYONE. Especially when he was mid milk session with let-down in full flow. It was bad enough when he turned his head to look at a stranger and I squirted milk across the table at my friend in Neros. Even worse when I did it to a stranger…
3. Breastfeeding tops can be a bit of a minefield when they have fancy cutaway panels underneath a lift-up top section. It’s not easy as a sleep-deprived mum to get dressed properly anyway, and complicated fold-over bits just made it worse. Obviously, I didn’t always get it right, but nothing was ever quite as bad as the day I walked home from town with a man who lived on my street who ended our conversation outside my house with, “I hope I don’t embarrass you by saying this, but I’ve walked home with you because I need to let you know that you’ve got your top on inside out and I didn’t want to tell you until you could do something about it!” – yep, the cut-away booby ‘holes’ were clearly displayed on the outside of my clothes. Thank you that man though. Never spoke to him again. Admittedly do still cringe when I think about it, but mainly because I stupidly replied with “oh it’s meant to be like that!”. Idiot. IDIOT.
4. The ‘top up: vest down’ method is the easiest and most simple method of breastfeeding without freezing your nips off or showing too much skin. Most people won’t even have a clue what you’re up to. It’s super quick and easy, especially if you have a stretchy sleep bra that just pulls to the side along with your vest. Be warned though, it is SO easy and comfortable to do, you MAY forget to reassemble your clothes and answer the door to the postman with one boob out. If it wasn’t for our hallway mirror, I’d have never even known it had happened…
5. Finally (for now, because I do still have a breastfeeding milk-monster at home) my daughter knows no bounds when it comes to wanting milk, and our first trip to the supermarket together, (once she was old enough to go in a trolley) clearly proved. I can see now, looking back, that being sat right in front of my boobs on a busy, hot summer’s day was probably a little too tempting for a 1-year-old. She decided to take matters into her own hands and grabbed at my vest with both hands, pulling it down so that she could try and have her milk. I declined. She screamed. Everyone turned and saw it.
Do you know the best thing about all of these little mishaps though? I don’t look back on any of them as the hardest moments of parenting. I look back on them as some of the funniest. They are the moments that add a bit of sparkle to an otherwise boring memory of a monotonous day of parenting. They are the bits that make you remember the days you would have otherwise have forgotten…and… I have a brilliant bank of stories for when they are older!