Breastfeeding in Public: The Irish Edition (Guest Post)

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This is Lory´s take on our post swap on breastfeeding in public.

Lory Manrique-Hyland, from Mother Blogging,  is a writter and an unintentional stay-at-home mom who suffers from post-feminist angst.

What a simple and yet complete view she gives us on the topic. Enjoy her story.

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Breastfeeding in Public: The Irish Edition

The current received wisdom is that breastfeeding is best for baby and mother. The benefits arenumerous and include: Safe, healthy food for the child since you don’t have to worry about babybottle contamination; Convenience and money – no weekly purchase of formula required, and youdon’t have to bring prepared bottles around town with you; reduced colic; a perfectly adapted foodsource for the infant; reduced ear infections for the child; weight loss aid for mothers post-partum;decreased risk of obesity for children who were breastfed; and I could go on.

Despite this being the message people like American First Lady Michelle Obama are spreading,modern society is not really doing a huge amount to support breastfeeding mothers. If babies shouldbe breastfed for their health, the health of the mother and the health of society, then they’re goingto have to be breastfed in public on occasion. Mommies have to get out of the house sometimes,you know. We need to go shopping, run errands, stop by the post office, take baby to Gymboreeclass and so on. And when we go out, so do our babies. And they need to eat. Often.

While I’m sure we would love to be able to squeeze our errands into 90 minute slots betweenfeeds and be comfortably seated on the sofa before baby starts to howl for a suckle, it rarely worksthat way. So, often, we are in the coffee shop or the playground with our older kids or maybe outshopping and, boom, feed time comes ‘round. Or, maybe the kid just wants to eat early – they’renot robots, you know. So, we feed them. This may have to be done, as a friend did recently, in thedressing room of a clothing boutique, or as others have done, in a toilet stall. Sometimes, though,you just have to feed them in front of others in a restaurant or city park.

I’m done with breastfeeding, but back when I was breastfeeding, I never cared what anyonethought. Once, my baby started howling during a doctor visit so I just picked him up, pulled down mytop, stuck him on the breast and kept talking. Once I was at a pub lunch in the Southwest of Irelandwith some visiting Americans. Zach – about a month or two old at the time – started howling for afeed. I picked him up and breastfed as long as I needed to. The waiter came and went, staring at myboob out of the corner of his eye. I didn’t care. And I didn’t care if anybody else cared. Zach neededto eat. Babies are part of society. They get to eat while out mixing with society.

Some women would like to be more private about it, and I totally understand this. They’d like to sitcomfortably not in a toilet stall but perhaps on a chair with a cushion and feed the baby. There arerarely any such conveniences available when you’re out and about, though. Even if you want to bediscrete (not me, mind you, I couldn’t care less) but you, you well bred, polite and discrete lady –even if you wanted to be discrete, you couldn’t be half the time. You have to feed in a corner of thecafe.

Breastfeeding rates in Ireland are still amongst the lowest in Ireland. According to a 2010 article in the Irish Medical times, “If breastfeeding isn’t considered the culturally accepted method of infantfeeding and not perceived traditionally as the norm, then it tends not to be the highest rate of infantfeeding. This is the generally accepted situation in Ireland.” Let’s face it: You do feel really awkwardtrying to get your baby to latch on in public. The whole vibe and atmosphere around here is that itshould be done behind closed doors. But if you want breastfeeding rates to increase – and all thedoctors and midwives and public health nurses say this – there has to be a cultural change, not justmore clinics as suggested in the article. In order for the culture to change, more women have toget out there and breastfeed in public, as needs dictate. If you’re willing to warm a bottle in a cafe,you should be willing to breastfeed. Use a shawl or large t-shirt or a baby blanket to cover up whileyou’re helping the child latch on. Once you’re both comfortable, you could consider opening yourshawl a bit or adjusting the baby blanket so that the child’s face is visible to you. Turn away whenyou’re putting the baby on the breast. Have a friend or husband stand up and cover you both whileyou settle in. Like most things, it’s the beginning and the end that can get awkward or embarrassing– the latching or the buttoning up when you’re done.

If you choose to bottle feed, you’re set. Society loves you. As long as your baby doesn’t make toomuch of a fuss (though you know she will) you’ll have an easy ride out in public. But, if you need touse your breasts to feed the baby, as has been done since the dawn of time, you may be in for anawkward ride. But stick with it. It’s worth it.

Photo Credit

This article was originally posted on Tripping Mom by Marilia Di Cesare on June 27, 2011. Republished with authorization. Click here for all other posts.

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