We are in the middle of our two week seaside holiday and so this week we are without my husband who is working away. Despite being nervous at leaving the safe cocoon of our home, we’ve been having a lovely time and our baby girl is becoming more and more expressive each day!
The other day we headed to Eastbourne and we had a new experience…breastfeeding in public…alone. Usually I have my husband or family or friends with me but the day was always looming that I would feed her with no-one and I have to admit I was a bit nervous.
As most of you will know, the Eastbourne pier had a rather big fire last week and so that part of Eastbourne had become quite the tourist attraction. We also wanted to see it, and without thinking settled down at the beachside cafe on the underpass next to the pier. I sat with my coffee in front of me and got baby latched on at least semi successfully without making too much of a hash of it. I then realised that with the rather large crowds of people on the promenade staring at the pier and taking pictures, I had somehow managed to place Scarlett and I centre stage of the biggest attraction in town! Not very smart for someone wanting to breastfeed as subtly as possible and without any attention! I dread to think how many tourists pictures now contain my feeding baby and a slightly frazzled looking Mummy!
But other than a rather daft decision, it went fine and without incident and we were about an hour later joined by Grandad and went on our way! As with a lot of things, the build up worrying about it was the worst part. So it got me thinking about what my top ten breastfeeding in public tips would be from my experiences this week, whether you be alone or in a group. As you read them, do feel free to add your own, although there’s no need to point out that a lot of the below would be simple common sense to most. I’ve learnt from the past week, that’s the important thing…!
1) Get baby attached as swiftly as possible but don’t rush too much, people don’t expect you to be a magician but by being too aware of hiding yourself, it’ll end up taking longer which will make baby more agitated (and louder, perfect for not drawing attention..!) and generally lengthen the whole process.
2) Don’t worry about other people, most won’t have any problem with it at all and anyone who does is actually breaking the law! You cannot be asked to leave or harassed whilst breastfeeding and unless you’re taking you top and bra off and swinging yourself about, you’re fully within your rights to feed in cafés and restaurants.
3) Saying that, some people will feel uncomfortable. That’s not your problem but it’s not them having a problem with you or your child, it may just be they’ve never seen a breastfeeding Mother before or are of a generation or background that are used to it being behind closed doors. So don’t worry about them!
4) If for any reason, like me, you’re needing to use shields, however tempting it is to hastily put all clothes back into place without removing them – do bear in mind that they stick out a hell of a lot more prominently than you do, and you may not notice until you’ve been walking around for a while and find you’ve been doing a rather unglamorous Madonna impression for half an hour!
5) Seagulls can’t be trusted. This doesn’t just apply to breastfeeding, seriously, at the slightest hint there may be food about they turn into vultures. Made worse when you’re feeding and worry you can’t bat them away quick enough. I might be bias as I’m terrified of birds but I’m pretty sure even the RSPCB dislike seagulls.
6) If you’re wearing regular clothes (as opposed to tops etc that are specially designed for nursing) do check before you leave the house that they stretch as well as you assume they will, so you don’t find yourself sitting on a toilet in a pub on Brighton pier with your dress off and on the floor. (Totally unrelated to another experience this week of course…ahem)
7) If you are going out in a rush and can’t find any breast pads…make the time to get them. After an hour or at the slightest cry from your baby and you’ll have two rather obvious wet patches. In related news, wet patches show up very strongly on light red tops…!
8) Do try and find a way to occupy the time whilst feeding so you don’t feel too self conscious (or bored!) but at the same time, make sure you don’t get too occupied. Baby’s often fall asleep whilst feeding and if you’re engrossed in that thriller novel, you may not notice that to onlookers you’re a woman sat alone, reading, holding a sleeping baby…with one breast casually hanging out.
9) If you’re using nipple shields, remember that they’re quite light, so on a breezy day, you need to keep hold of them once your done. Relatives are almost always understanding of you breastfeeding your child in front of them, they’re significantly less understanding of a milky nipple shield landing in their fresh cup of coffee. (Especially if they take their coffee black!)
10) And finally (although I half suspect most people wouldn’t need this pointed out to them as advice) If there’s been a big event that draws in the crowds, especially crowds with cameras and you’re nervous about breastfeeding…don’t sit right in front of said event.
Breastfeeding is definitely a learning curve, and getting used to it in public isn’t instantaneous. The nerves won’t last forever, but in my case sadly, the Eastbourne tourist photos might do…!