New Survey Says One In Five Still Think Public Breastfeeding Is Inappropriate

I receive over 100 press releases a week, and mostly, I don’t go beyond the headline before filing them in archives where chances are I’ll never look at them again, but recently a survey conducted by www.myvouchercodes.co.uk, really caught my attention: breastfeeding in public.

Now, quite frankly, you all know my opinion on breastfeeding in general, but I thought the results of the survey were interesting.

I don’t know why we bother even calling it breastfeeding in public. We should just talk about feeding in public and get on with it, without apology or concern for the puritanical sensibilities of people who aren’t offended by bikinis, low cut tops, or perfume billboards.Untitled

What really excited me about the survey was the fact that only 21% of people felt that breastfeeding in pubs and restaurants was inappropriate. I know that’s still (marginally more than) 1 in every 5 people, but there was a time when it seemed like everyone was against it, so I see it as progress really. (Unscientifically. I don’t know how many people didn’t like it 10 years ago!)

The survey was only done by 500 people, and 21% of those said breastfeeding in pubs and restaurants was inappropriate (too right! Who wants to see anyone eating in a restaurant or pub, those houses of modesty and propriety!), and 18% thought public transport was an inappropriate place (I for one much prefer listening to a screaming baby all.the.way.home). I assume that the 18% who thought recreational areas were a no no are the same people who believe your life stops when you have a child (no wonder!) and one that made me laugh was the 16% who thought you shouldn’t breastfeed in town or city centres (I can’t even think of a sarcastic comment for that one!) – but you’re okay if you are in a shop that’s not in town – only 1% thought that wasn’t appropriate.

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Mark Pearson from My Voucher Codes said: “We are aware that mother’s still feel persecuted sometimes over this subject and we hope that eventually breastfeeding in the places mentioned becomes the norm for them. And that we don’t keep seeing news stories, where a nursing mother has been told to hide away to breastfeed. ”

I agree with him, to an extent, so long as we don’t keep seeing it in the news because it’s no longer happening, rather than because we no longer care about it.

You only have to search breastfeeding on this blog to know that I am a huge supporter of full term or long term breastfeeding, and I do think that it’s by bloggers, friends, mothers, sisters and complete strangers giving a supportive smile, a knowing nod, offering a breastfeeding mother a drink (it’s thirsty work, folks!) that that 21% will be steadily whittled down, so that when my daughters have their babies, the words breastfeeding in public won’t even be used together anymore, but instead they’ll look back on ‘inappropriate breastfeeding’ as an antiquated and weird concept.

What do you think? Is public acceptance of breastfeeding growing?

Big Latch On, Farnham 2013

Today I was blessed to be able to play host for The Big Latch On in Farnham, with the support of wonderful mamas who came together to beat the world record for mother’s breastfeeding at the same time.

On the 1 – 7th of August every year, to raise awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding and the need for global support, the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action organises World Breastfeeding Week. World Breastfeeding Week  celebrated in 120 countries and marks the signing of the WHO/UNICEF document Innocenti Declaration, which lists the benefits of breastfeeding, plus global and governmental goals.  

The Big Latch On

Getting Balloons, Sign Up Sheets and Posters ready

To mark this occasion on Friday 2nd and Saturday 3rd August 2013 at 10:30am thousands of breastfeeding women and their babies or children across the world will gather in their own communities to take part in the Big Latch On, a synchronized breastfeeding event in multiple locations.

The first Big Latch On took place in Aotearoa New Zealand in 2005 and was introduced to Portland, Oregon in 2010 by Joanne Edwards. It has now taken off globally and in 2012  8862 children were counted breastfeeding as part of the Global Big Latch On.

In 2012 the Farnham, Surrey Big Latch On event had 12 mothers nursing 13 babies. This year we had 24 mothers nursing 25 babies (we had one tandem feeding dyad at each event).

You count!

Just this week I had someone on Twitter ask me why I felt the need to have a breastfeeding picture on my profile, and said that it offended them. I replied to her that that was exactly WHY I had a breastfeeding picture – so that it will become normal to see a woman breastfeeding, and will no longer be offensive. I simply can’t imagine any of the older siblings at the event today ever turning around and saying they find breastfeeding offensive: they’re growing up with it as normal. Mothers! We’re changing the world, we’re changing the future. We’re doing great!While I was running around trying to keep an eye on my toddler while at the same time making sure everyone knew what was going on and all the official bits of the Big Latch On were adhered to, I did stop at one point, and just watch.  We were a community. A community of mothers and women. I didn’t know everyone who attended today, but it didn’t matter, because we were there for a common aim, and with a common goal.

I love breastfeeding events. They unite us at a base, fundamental, instinctive level.  Breastfeeding events are a celebration, a peaceful demonstration, a communal drinking at the wellspring. Breastfeeding events buzz with excitement, with energy at the knowledge of making a difference, and with taking a stand, drawing our line in the sand, enjoying our right and our freedom, as women, and as mothers.

Community of women

Do we rally in anger? Do we shout and condemn, and criticise? Every mother in this group has walked a path. It hasn’t been natural and easy for everyone. It’s come at a cost to some. It’s come at tears for others, it’s come as the most natural thing in the world to others still. It’s been an active, conscious decision to others. Everyone has a story to tell about how and why they are here.

Today we feed our babies, we raise our hands, and we are counted.

It's all About And For The Children

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A huge thanks to Paula from La Leche League Farnham and Krishna from IPEN for being our witnesses today. Another huge thanks to Sara for helping me with the lucky draw and to Wendy and the Natural Birth and Beyond Team for the helium and balloons.

I want to give a very special thank you to a group of businesses that never shy away from supporting the events and competitions I offer through this blog and today at the Big Latch On. Your prizes were loved today:

 

 

 

 

Farnham Natural Birth And Beyond Breastfeeding Picnic

Today, Natural Birth and Beyond hosted a breastfeeding awareness week picnic in Farnham’s Gostrey Meadows. The event was arranged by Wendy Wood from Relax For Birth, and saw a group of around 50 mothers and nurslings join together to celebrate the beauty of breastfeeding in honour of the UK’s National Breastfeeding Awareness Week.

The best thing about a breastfeeding meetup is that by it’s very nature, it’s a peaceful event, filled with smiley, happy mamas and babies.

At the Breast Debate I went to last week, one of the things that was mentioned was that we don’t see enough breastfeeding in public. I mentioned that it’s more likely that we don’t know when we’re seeing a mother feed her child. Here’s what I meant:

Would you have known this mama was nursing if I didn’t tell you?

One of the things I really love about breastfeeding is that it is as unique to each nursing dyad as the people in it. Looking around the picnic today, I saw some mums really nicely covered up:

I saw mamas comfortable with their company and their bodies:

I saw mamas comfortable in their layers,

And mamas comfortable without:

I saw mamas getting comfy:

And relaxed and smiling:

There were people chatting:

And tending their babies,

Celebrating the freedom, and the right, that we have to feed our nurselings wherever we have a legal right to be.

Mothers, being mothers, relaxing on a glorious sunny day, 

Doing our bit to normalise breastfeeding for the people that walked by, smiling at all the babies, and for the next generation

All the while, just being mamas, sharing a picnic lunch.

*if you see a picture of yourself here you’d like removed, please let me know!

See more pictures:

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For more from Keep Britain Breastfeeding read these blog posts:

The Mummy Adventure 
Smiling Like Sunshine 
Simply Hayley Hayley
The Secret Life of Kate
Respectable Breast Spectable

and support these businesses

Feed Me Mummy 
Snoob
Thrupenny Bits 
Ardo Claire 
Mumba
BigBoxLittleBoxCardboardBox

and don’t forget to visit this post to enter to win:

  • Breastmilk Keepsake
  • £15 Boobie Milk Voucher
  • Breastfeeding Pillow from Theraline
  • Breastpads from Theraline
  • Adjustable Drop Cup Feeding Bras  from Cantaloop
  • Baby-Proof Jewellery and Teething Necklace from Mama Jewels
  • Electric breastpump and accessories
  • Maternity Raspberry or Black Feeding Tops from Melba London
  • And over £1000 in prizes from Keep Britain Breastfeeding

The Value Of Support To The Breast Milk Donor And Recipient

Any breastfeeding mother will be able to tell you the value of support, or the impact of the lack there of. Without the support of those closest to you, maintaining a breastfeeding relationship can be incredibly difficult. The same can be said for both the milk donor and the recipient of donated breastmilk.

I wrote about the benefits of donor breastmilk in a situation where the mother is not able to breastfeed her own baby for whatever reason, or needs to supplement her own milk. Often a mother may feel that using donor milk is a good and necessary step for her child, and even though she’s not providing milk herself, she still needs a lot of support, because if health care providers or family members speak doubt or uncertainties, it can cause a real lack of confidence in her own decision making.

I asked a few donor milk recipients to share with us what their partners, families and health care providers thought about their choice to use donor milk, and also how they felt about the women who donated to them. (To read more about their reasons for needing donor milk, and why they chose it over other supplements, read the first post in this series.)

Source: Crimfants On Flickr

Jorje who writes at Momma Jorjes son Spencer received donor milk for a few months. Jorje met her donor through Human Milk 4 Human Babies and received three lots of milk from her, enough to supplement Spencer for several months. Jorje’s husband was supportive of her wishes as he knew how passionate she was about breastfeeding. “Our pediatrician was not concerned one way or the other. Our son was obviously thriving, that was all that mattered. I think our pediatrician understands and acknowledges that such things are really the parents’ choice.

While Jorje herself was quite sad not to be able to meet all her son’s needs herself, she was incredibly grateful to the donor for keeping her son on breastmilk

Kellie,  from Our Mindful Life, only needed donated breast milk for about a month. For her, the hardest part was asking her friends for breastmilk. Her husband was 100% behind her decision to supplement with donor milk, because they already had one child together and he had seen the benefits of breastfeeding first time round. Kellie never told her health care provider that she was supplementing with donor milk, but her friends were very supportive.

“I was so amazed and honored that my friends were willing to go to such lengths to provide the milk that my baby needed. It really made us even closer. I was just so glad that my baby was able to have breastmilk, and that he didn’t have to be hospitalized.”

Melissa W. has been physically unable to breastfeed her two month old daughter. She has received donor milk from three mothers in her area, and feels so grateful towards the women who have allowed her to keep her daughter on breast milk. Her husband was against the idea, initially, until they spoke to their doctor, who was very supportive.  Melissa is in Washington State, where there is more demand for breastmilk than there are donor mothers. At a rate of $80 for 100 oz of breastmilk, she could not afford to feed her baby human milk, but with the help of generous donors, she hopes to keep Arwyn on breastmilk until her first birthday.

Suzy had a fast labour with complications with her third baby. She required four blood transfusions, and took some time to recover. During her hospital stay, a nurse recommended donor milk so that she could get some rest and begin to recover from the placenta accreta that had impacted her baby’s delivery. In the hospital she received 8 ounces of donated milk, and back  home a friend delivered 20 oz and colostrum to help them along.

“I’m am over the moon thrilled that she had donor milk. It eased my mind while I was recovering. I had managed to exclusively breastfeed my other 2 children, I really wanted the same for my 3rd. I care about newborn gut health and feel breastmilk is more beneficial than formula. I want that for my children.”

Suzy is now tandem feeding her 3 month old and her 20 month old with no further need for supplementation. When I asked her how she felt about the milk donors, she said: “I deeply appreciate the commitment they have made to babies

Often times mothers feel guilt when their children have to receive formula milk. Some mothers feel like they have failed. Others feel actual terror at introducing a chemical sustenance to their already weakened child, and mothers who have read the statistics and know the potential dangers carry that as an added stress at a time when they are already vulnerable, so to them, having donor milk available, is invaluable. Each of these mothers has mentioned gratitude, and how very grateful they are to their donors.

Those who have had milk donated by friends have also spoken of how the bond with those friends has grown, which is beautiful in and of itself.

These are only four stories of donor milk recipients, but one thing that is very clear to me is that positive support and reinforcement has made these mama’s feel happy and confident in their decisions. Sometimes they’ve had to find medical support for it, and other times it’s been accepted without too many questions, but having supportive networks around them has made all the difference to them, and to their babies.

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For more from Keep Britain Breastfeeding read these blog posts:

Where Roots Fourish 
Milk Machine Mum  
The Great British Family 

and support these businesse

Life, Love and Living with Boys
Life Happens So Smile 
Let’s Walk Together For A While
Keep Up With The Jones Family 
Circus Queen 

and don’t forget to visit this post to enter to win:

  • Breastmilk Keepsake
  • £15 Boobie Milk Voucher
  • Breastfeeding Pillow from Theraline
  • Breastpads from Theraline
  • Adjustable Drop Cup Feeding Bras  from Cantaloop
  • Baby-Proof Jewellery and Teething Necklace from Mama Jewels
  • Electric breastpump and accessories
  • Maternity Raspberry or Black Feeding Tops from Melba London
  • And over £1000 in prizes from Keep Britain Breastfeeding

Tips On Expressing Breast Milk

This post is a repost from 21 June 2011. I had just returned from six months in South Africa, where I had pumped for a hospital who used the milk for AIDS babies. Please read yesterday’s post: The Benefits of Donated Breast Milk. @smiffysmrs on Twitter told me that she’d been donating breastmilk for almost seven months. When I asked her what her partner thought about her donating breastmilk, she responded:  {he} thinks its awesome that Bella and I are helping premature babies get a great start.  I loved how she included her daughter in the act of donating. It’s not just something she does, with her body, but it’s a team effort from herself and her nurseling. I just love that! Here’s the post I wrote after 20 months of breastfeeding:

For most of my time breastfeeding, I have expressed. Initially I did so to get my husband to feed my daughter’s 11pm feed so that I could have some ‘solid’ sleep.  At three months, my daughter refused the bottle, but I still needed to express as my boobs were so full, she wasn’t getting everything  and I hoped she’d take the bottle again at some point.

Then I went to South Africa, where breastfeeding rates are abysmal – great misfortune in a country that desperately needs it- and decided to express for a milk bank there. Since we’ve been back in England, I’ve not been expressing much, but I hope to contribute to our local Human Milk for Human Babies group again once things settle down a bit here.

I’ve been thinking about expressing, and realised that I’ve never written anything about it, so here are my hints and tips for successful expressing:

  • Firstly, understand that what you express is not a measure of how much milk you have. Some women just don’t express much.
  • try to change pumps. I used one pump that took about 10 minutes to get 1 ounce. I swapped to another and got 10 ounces in the next 10 minutes.
  • Thirdly, start pumping as soon as possible. I started pumping in between two hourly feeds when my daughter was born and I believe that really benefited my flow.>
  • Fourth, understand how breast milk is produced, and how let down works. This will help you understand the supply and demand, and make the whole process easier.

Gorgeous Gifts: Donated BreastmilkTo express:

  • Try massaging your breasts to stimulate milk flow
  • Place a warm cloth on your breasts
  • Express straight out the shower – the warmth helps with the let down.
  • Visualise your baby breastfeeding
  • A picture of your child (or a video works well too) helps stimulate those hormones that release milk.
  • An item of baby clothing can do the same.
  • Let baby nurse on one side while you express the other. This takes practice, at first, but is achievable.
  • When I need to express a large amount, swapping baby and pump really helps. i.e when I can’t pump anymore from the left, I let Ameli nurse for a few minutes on the left, then start pumping again. This is because your baby is the best pump there is, and even when a pump gets nothing, your baby will.
  • Keep well hydrated – have a glass of water next to you and drink it while expressing.
  • Express a little milk into your hand to rub on your nipples after each session. (If you watch a baby breastfeed -or certainly my baby, so I assume it’s the same for others- here’s often milk just on her lips. This means my nipples are getting soaked in milk during her feeds, which protects them too. A pump doesn’t do this, so you need to do it  for yourself. Breast milk works better than any creams.)
  • Pump at the same time every day to ‘trick’ your body into supplying milk for your baby at that time.
  • Find the best time of day. In the mornings I would normally have a lot of milk, and expressing would be easy. At night it would take a little longer. But also remember that your milk changes, and at night nucleotides are released into your milk to help your baby sleep. If you’re giving expressed morning milk at night, that won’t be present in the milk, and visa versa.

So, those are my tips – is there anything else you can add?

Don’t forget to enter the #Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt, and all these other competitions too:

For more from Keep Britain Breastfeeding read these blog posts:

Tigerlilly Quinn
The Princess Poets Life Adventures
The Mummy Adventure
Smiling Like Sunshine

and support these businesses:

Breast-Aid
Pixie Pants Cloth Napies
Fudgulous
Baby Beads

and don’t forget to visit this post to enter to win:

  • Breastmilk Keepsake
  • £15 Boobie Milk Voucher
  • Breastfeeding Pillow from Theraline
  • Breastpads from Theraline
  • Adjustable Drop Cup Feeding Bras  from Cantaloop
  • Baby-Proof Jewellery and Teething Necklace from Mama Jewels
  • Electric breastpump and accessories
  • Maternity Raspberry or Black Feeding Tops from Melba London
  • And over £1000 in prizes from Keep Britain Breastfeeding

The Benefits Of Donor Breast Milk

The year Ameli was born, I wrote a series of breastfeeding related posts as a first time mother, entirely in love with breastfeeding. I wrote about the things I wish I’d known before I started, and about some of the very rarely known facts about breastmilk as well as reintroducing breastfeeding if you had to stop for any reason.

By the time my second National Breastfeeding Awareness Week rolled by, I had entered into the domain of ‘extended breastfeeding‘, and attended my first breastfeeding flashmob.

In the blink of an eye, it seemed, it was the third National Breastfeeding Awareness week of my parenting time line, and I had been breastfeeding through pregnancy, through Hyperemesis Gravidarum, and breastfeeding a toddler. In fact, last year all my posts for Keep Britain Breastfeeding were around the theme of tandem breastfeeding.

As much as my own journey of breastfeeding has progressed and developed, and my babies have grown – both of whom are still nursing – I don’t have a huge amount to add this year, so I thought I’d spend a bit of time this breastfeeding awareness week around the theme of milk expressing and donation, something that has been very close to my heart at times over the last few years, and particularly while I donated to a hospital for their AIDS babies in South Africa for six months.

We all know the benefits of breastfeeding now, but very few people know or understand WHY anyone would choose donated breastmilk over formula for new or preterm, or otherwise unwell babies.

Please understand this is not about guilt or about having done it wrong if you’ve chosen differently. It’s about sharing information so that mothers can make informed choices going forward. 

Donor Breast MilkThe World Health Organisation recommends milk given to babies should be breastmilk. If that is not possible, donor milk is the next best option. This often raises questions for people, because we trust something that comes from a shop – they wouldn’t be able to sell it if it wasn’t safe, right? – over simply trusting other people, and often for good reason.

Unfortunately, statistics around milk donations and recipients are ridiculously hard to come by. I’ve been trying to find out who the greatest users of donated breast milk are – as far as I can tell it would be the roughly 15 million premature babies born every year, but don’t quote me on that – and also whether there were reported problems or statistics on actual contamination or illness from donor milk, but again, this hasn’t been something I’ve been able to find any information on.

So, with donated milk being in many ways, such uncharted territory, why would anyone choose to use it over easily accessible formula? According to research from 2007, babies who receive breastmilk, even donated breastmilk, are at much lower risk of Necrotising Enterocolitis, the second most common cause of morbidity in premature infants, the condition where portions of the bowel undergo necrosis – tissue death. Incredibly, the risk is reduced by a whopping 79%. In statistics related to babies, that’s huge.

Breastmilk is also easier to digest. A preterm baby’s gut is very delicate and it absorbs breastmilk more easily because the balance of proteins is different, and designed for the human gut.

I’ve been searching for stories on milk donors causing a child to become ill, or spreading disease, or causing problems, but I’ve not had any jump out at me. Milk donors are themselves mothers to babies or young children, or in some very sad cases mothers who have lost their babies and want to give something of that baby to help other mothers and baby dyads, so I can’t imagine that a mother would take illegal drugs, or do anything that would be a problem in her own milk.

Speaking to mothers of babies who had to use donated breast milk in the early days, I asked them what they felt the benefits were of using donor milk rather than formula.

Jorje from Momma Jorjes son Spencer had some trouble with his oxygen levels at birth. He also had a little trouble with the suck, swallow, and breathe reflexes, so he would get tired out while nursing. She had to breastfeed him, then top him off with a bottle, which was much less work for him. “I could have just done bottle, but I wanted him to nurse.”

Jorje wanted to use a breastmilk donor, because she felt donor milk was less likely to be accidentally contaminated. “You never know when there is going to be a recall on a commercial product, but with breastmilk, if the mother had turned up with food poisoning, she’d have known long before I actually got the milk”.

Kellie, who writes at Our Mindful Life, found out her son had a tongue tie and was only able to get it clipped at 7.5 weeks.  In the meantime, he wasn’t able to nurse or suck and wasn’t gaining weight. Kellie was pumping milk, but wasn’t able to pump enough to give him her milk exclusively, so she also gave him a few ounces of formula every other day.  “After a few weeks, he also began to show an allergic reaction to the formula.  We were told that if we couldn’t get him breastmilk to take him to the hospital and have him admitted.”

Asked what she felt the benefits of donor milk for her son were, Kellie says, “For us, it was hugely beneficial because it kept him out of the hospital, and kept him from having allergic reactions.”

Melissa W. had a terrible experience with her daughter losing 40% of her weight in two weeks. At 8 weeks she switched to formula, but two weeks later, Arwyn developed Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), got a lot worse before she got better. After three more weeks on breastmilk, the doctor recommended swapping to formula full time, but Arwyn was throwing up everything. A week later they went to yet another doctor and discovered that she had a Milk Protein Sensitivity, and formula made her ill, but breastmilk, with or without dairy, was fine. Since then, they’ve been using donor milk, and Arwyn hasn’t been sick again.

These are just three stories of donor recipient mamas and their little people. Read more the rest of the week to find out more about their experiences as breast milk recipients.

If you’d like to add your story for a later post, please answer these questions!

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For more from Keep Britain Breastfeeding read these blog posts:

Where Roots Fourish 
Milk Machine Mum  
The Great British Family 

and support these businesses:

Breast Milk Keepsakes
Melba Maternity

and don’t forget to visit this post to enter to win:

  • Breastmilk Keepsake
  • £15 Boobie Milk Voucher
  • Breastfeeding Pillow from Theraline
  • Breastpads from Theraline
  • Adjustable Drop Cup Feeding Bras  from Cantaloop
  • Baby-Proof Jewellery and Teething Necklace from Mama Jewels
  • Electric breastpump and accessories
  • Maternity Raspberry or Black Feeding Tops from Melba London
  • And over £1000 in prizes from Keep Britain Breastfeeding

The #BreastDebate

I spent yesterday evening at the Philips Avent #Breastdebate – a round table event to discuss a few issues around breastfeeding and returning to work. This post has a two-fold purpose. I hope to simultaneously share the details on the discussion, and address the Twitter response. Before I even start to tell you about it, however, I want to make a few things very clear:

  • I was not paid to participate, I did not receive anything free (with the exception of my train fare reimbursed, which is fair enough, right?)
  • While it is my aim and ambition to  be a WHO Compliant website, when invited to attend, I decided that at least with me on the panel, there’d be a real supporter of breastfeeding in the room. (It was a non-issue, since everyone on the panel had experience of breastfeeding or expressing.)
  • Not everyone breastfeeds. Some use donated milk, some exclusively express. While
    you can hand express into a cup, there are ways to simplify life and use a PUMP and pump breastmilk into a BOTTLE. Using either of these products does not make you a bad person. Companies make these products, to sell, and sometimes, they advertise them. The companies themselves are not bad or evil for making and selling and even advertising bits of plastic or glass. I do not need a lecture on WHO codes. I KNOW. I get it. But I am a firm believer in people being educated, and simply not talking about what’s available doesn’t empower anyone.  That said, products were not mentioned in the discussion.

The first question I received when I said I’d be attending the event, was ‘why is a bottle manufacturer running a breastfeeding event. I had the same question initially, because we all know about the Boobytraps, and how companies represent and misrepresent facts and ‘help’ which can send people on a one way path to giving up breastfeeding.

It is my personal view that the hashtag #breastdebate was badly chosen.

For one thing, it wasn’t a debate, but a discussion. There were no opposing sides. We were all in agreement over most issues. If anyone wasn’t, they certainly didn’t voice it.

Secondly, it wasn’t really  about breastfeeding, as in nipple-to-mouth. Yes, the question of ‘should mothers be ‘allowed’ to feed without a cover’ was asked – and raised a few heckles on Twitter, as it does for me, but it wasn’t one of the main talking points of the night. With varying levels of experience with nursing covers – from real covers to napkins – we agreed it’s up to the mother-baby dyad.  Also, Cherry Healy, who tweeted that, posted this after the event:

The questions we spent most of our time on were:

1) Do you feel attitudes to nursing in public have changed over the last 20 years. 

Some of the panelists said no, they didn’t think so. Health journalist Jo Waters felt that it had changed and people were more negative about it now than when she breastfed her now teen. I felt that it depended massively on your environment, and what the people around you were used to and who you spent your time with. Tina from Loved By Parents had a terrible experience in a restaurant where a couple went out of their way to tell her how disgusting it was that she was feeding her baby there, and Sally, a reader on my Facebook page shared a similar story of being yelled at in an M&S changing room. In Tina’s case it upset her, but didn’t stop her. In Sally’s case it’s prevented her from  nursing in public again!

Overall, we all agreed that your exposure and experiences will have a huge impact on your answer to that question.

Related to this, Cherry Healy who was hosting the discussion asked whether women should have to cover up when nursing. Again, as mothers who have breastfed, we all agreed that that is up to the mother and child team to decide what they are comfortable with, and no one else. I did point out that nothing says ‘I’M NURSING HERE’ than a nursing cover, and that most people don’t even know it’s happening.

Breastfeeding at one hour old

Cherry said that she rarely even sees anyone breastfeeding, and the panel discussed whether it should be more visible on television, in soaps and so on, but again, I pointed out that most nursing mothers aren’t out to show their stuff! You could be looking right at a nursing mother and not know it! It’s certainly happened to me on more than one occasion.

2) Should employers be compelled to provide breastfeeding rooms

This was an interesting discussion, because Carrie Longton, from Mumsnet, was able to view the question from the point of view of a SME – a small business that doesn’t have the space for a full-time breastfeeding room, like many, many others out there, I’m sure, and the rest of us discussed it from the working mother point of view. I don’t have experience of going out to work and expressing, but I know many that do.

We discussed what the minimum requirements are for a breastfeeding room, as well as what we’d love to see going forward, as well as what in our wildest dreams we’d love to ask for.

Gorgeous Gifts: Donated Breastmilk

I think longer paid maternity leave would do wonders for longer breastfeeding outcomes,  Tina felt that a comfortable, clean environment was essential, and Carrie mentioned a supportive work environment – even if the room is there, having unsupportive comments or mockery of anyone using the room is not going to encourage anyone.

I was naively surprised to find out that there is actually not a LAW that a breastfeeding room should be provided, but rather a strong recommendation. (However there is a law that a resting place should be provided and this should include an area where the mother to be or nursing mother can lie down. In all my working life, I’ve never seen an employer with such a room!)

The question to the panel was two-fold: is the directive enough or do we need more legislation on the support of breastfeeding/breastfeeding mothers for this facility in the workplace, and if so, should there be a minimum requirement, i.e. is a hardback chair in a clean storage cupboard enough? It ticks the boxes, but should the standard be set higher?

We agreed that what already exists is not enough, and we agreed that there should be a minimum standard in place. We also agreed that that can be incredibly difficult, because what a multinational corporation can afford and what a two-(wo)man operation can afford are two very different things, so a lot of thought will need to go into how it is done.

So what next 

Vigeland Statue in Oslo, NorwayThe Avent team will use the recording from last night to compile a short video that will summarise the topics that were discussed and the ‘conclusions’ that we came to. What we all realised towards the end though, was that this round table event was just the tip of the iceberg.

I asked someone from the team why they were running the event and she said “we wanted to start the conversation about where the gaps are in the support network when it comes to breastfeeding and eventually want to look at ways we could lobby government on legislation such as on the topic of breast feeding when returning to work.”

While it’s fine to be suspicious of a bottle manufacturer’s motivations in being involved in this project (and trust me, I’ll be keeping an eye on what they do with it too), I think it’s important to look beyond on demand breast is best , to mothers who do return to work, and to understanding that they too need support and that treating the tools of expressing as taboo hurts mothers more than it hurts companies. (If anything, it BENEFITS companies!! I’ve spoken to a few mothers today who spent a lot of money on different bottles, because there just wasn’t unbiased information available to them to help them determine what they needed when they did need bottles. And these are EBF mothers!!)

Look at it this way. Philips Avent sell bottles. What mothers choose to put in those bottles makes no difference to them as a company. If their involvement can see pressure put on employers to be more supportive of expressing mothers, then how can that be an entirely bad thing? (PHD In Parenting has a great post about why advertising bottles is a bad thing, and I agree with regards to pregnant mothers, but where do mothers who need bottles go to get information if we make it a taboo and make them feel almost dirty for mentioning the B word? Can anyone tell me?)

The Round Table Discussion was a good one, and it was positive, and I hope that the objective of getting businesses and employers more involved in creating expressing spaces is an achievable one. I’m glad someone is taking it on and trying to bring about change. Do I wish it was a fully WHO compliant company? Of course, but am I glad someone is doing it? Yes, I am.

 

Perth Nurse In 2013 – Normalising Breastfeeding In Public

Whether you call it a nurse-in, a breastfeeding protest or lactivism, I love a good session of breastfeeding in public with a bunch of other women also breastfeeding in public. The beauty of breastfeeding activism is that it can’t be an angry event – by it’s very nature, breastfeeding releases oxytocin, the love hormone, and there’s something so powerful about a group of women channeling their passion and their energy into a united cause.

If you’ve ever met me, you’ll probably know I’m not really a feminist. I believe that men and women have roles in this world, and I don’t necessarily believe that we are supposed to be equals in everything, but rather that we are supposed to be leaders and followers in different things, making up a full and beautiful circle of strength and weakness, vulnerability and power. I also am not big on the concept of ‘women’s rights’. I am a human. To me, by definition, I am covered by human rights. I understand, in an imperfect world, the need for women’s rights, children’s rights, but in an ideal situation, we wouldn’t need to defend ourselves as women – we could just be human and therefor judged by the samestandards, regardless of our sexuality, our orientation, our colour or our gender. (I love this clip from the West Wing. It’s exactly how I feel, in an ideal world[from 4:40])

While I do think that breastfeeding mothers should respect their environment – I also feel that you should dress appropriately whether you go to church, a dinner or ice skating, and I feel you should consider others wherever you are, whatever you’re doing – I take exception to being told where I can and cannot breastfeed, and I take exception to being told to cover up. I don’t pop my boobs out when I breastfeed anyway, because I dont want to but I also don’t use a cover, because I don’t want to. When I first started breastfeeding, I used a cover because I wanted to and when I became more confident I stopped because I wanted to.  The law protected me, yes, but the encouragement I received from a stranger on a bus gave me the courage that led me to where I am today.  If the law didn’t protect mothers, then where does it stop? When it is okay to tell a woman how much cleavage she can show, it will be okay to tell her how much skin she can show. If it’s okay to tell her where she can feed her child, then it’s okay to tell her where she may or may not be. We can’t have it both ways. Either we are ‘equals’ or we are not.  There shouldn’t be a further subclass: men or women, breastfeeding women or non-breastfeeding women.

And today I participated in another breastfeeding protest, not because I want my boobs out on the street, but because if ONE mother or future mother saw women nursing in a public place and saw that it was okay and that it was normal, then it was worth it. If it gives one mother the courage she needs, then today was a job well done.

So, here are a few pictures from our Perth Nurse In today, and here’s my message: Breastfeeding is beautiful. It is normal. My breastfeeding isn’t a judgement on your feeding choices. Breastfeeding is the normal thing for babies, and it should be normal in our society. You don’t eat in a toilet or facing a wall – neither should my child. You don’t eat with a cover over your head, neither should my child have to. Breastfeeding is to bonding what a candle lit dinner is to romance, it’s lovely, but sometimes you just have to eat to stay alive – not every meal is an intimate experience, nor is every breastfeed. The only way to normalise breastfeeding, is to breastfeed where people can see it. 

I loved the fact that there were young people behind us doing street dance and skateboarding stuff, right next to a bunch of breastfeeding mothers. How much more normal can it be?

Other posts you may enjoy:


These guys were behind us - how much more normal could we want?

*If you see an image of yourself or your child that you would like blurred out or removed, please contact me!
Here’s some news coverage from the day too:

The Big Latch On 2012, Farnham

Today we had a lovely picnic as part of The Big Latch On in Farnham, Surrey.

The Big Latch On  sees groups of breastfeeding women come together at registered locations around the world, at a set time they all latch on their child for one minute while being counted by witnesses. The numbers are added up and see if we beat previous Big Latch On records or maybe even the world record! Last year there were a total of 5687 nursing mothers in 412 locations in 5 countries.

At the time of writing – half way through the two day event – there are already 3503 breastfeeding children (allowing for tandem nursing!) in 624 locations over a whopping 23 countries! What an incredible increase in participation!

At our first ever Farnham event we had 12 breastfeeding mums and 13 nursing babies.

(Click twice to enlarge)

The Big Latch On is originally from New Zealand. It was started by Women’s Health Action in 2005 as part of World Breastfeeding Week. Each year they have seen a growth in the numbers of breastfeeding women attending and an increase in the support for breastfeeding in public. The Big Latch On was introduced to Portland, Oregon in 2010 by Joanne Edwards as a celebration for World Breastfeeding Week. In 2011 Joanne worked with Annie Brown and members of La Leche League USA to grow the Big Latch On across the USA.

And so it spread to the UK. Someone asked me today where I heard about the event, and I honestly don’t remember! I’m just glad I did and glad I was able to organise it.

Sitting there today, feeding my Aviya with the other mothers, I felt such a bond with not just those in our meetup, but with mothers all over the UK feeding at exactly the same time, and with those across the world nursing their babies at 10.30 local time throughout the world.

I know it wasn’t just me, either. One of the mums who attended wrote on her feedback form that it had a “lovely community spirit” and another wrote that the event “felt special”. I was proud, today, to be among mothers who are changing perceptions and changing the future for breastfeeding mothers in the gentlest way.

Naomi Stadlen writes in her new book, “How Mothers Love” (US here) about how mothers can be a force for change.

The political role of mothers is also changing. Every society owes a great deal to the work of the mothers. We could exert an even stronger and more conscious social and political influence than we have recently started to do. I often wonder if people are afraid that we might.

 

 

Breastfeeding Beyond The First Two Years

The theme for this week’s Keep Britain Breastfeeding is ‘Feeding after the first month’. That’s great and I’m sure you’ll find a wealth of information by reading through some of the other blog posts, but I want to skip a few months – around 24, to be precise, – and talk about breastfeeding an older child, a toddler.Read more: Breastfeeding Beyond The First Two Years