Happy World Breastfeeding Week 2013! How are you finding it so far? Have you seen much promotion for it and read something new that will help you on your breastfeeding journey? I hope so, because there’s so much wonderful advice out there if you’re looking for help or trying to gather information. At the end of this post, you’ll find a selection of blogposts I’ve written myself about my own breastfeeding journey with my son. It was a wonderful 14 months and I look back on it fondly but it wasn’t without its bumps in the road and dark, long nights which we all have as parents, no matter how we choose to feed our babies. Continue reading What’s wrong with this picture?
Today is the last day of World Breastfeeding Week for another year. I thought I’d top off my trilogy of breastfeeding posts for the week by looking at perspectives of breastfeeding in public. When I say perspectives, I’m specifically talking about sitting on one side of the fence as a woman who has yet to breastfeed a baby and what that looks like and then hurtling over that fence to sit and see the view from the other side as a mother who, above all else, has to feed her hungry baby who doesn’t necessarily know whether he’s in public or not.
Before Baby S came along, I always thought that I would breastfeed. I can’t really put my finger on why because I wasn’t breastfed myself nor had any exposure to breastfeeding growing up. The first real interaction I had with a breastfeeding woman was when a friend of mine had her first baby and when she fed him in my company, whether it be in the comfort of our respective homes or out and about, I was always super keen to be seen to be supportive. I wasn’t 100% sure how to do this and maybe in hindsight I should have asked her but in my mind I was actively concentrating on treating it as perfectly normal, carrying on the conversation or doing whatever it was that we were doing. The one bit that used to throw me was where to look: should I be making eye contact with her and not look at the nursing baby? Or should I move between the two? Or should I have been looking at her breasts to acknowledge the nursing going on? The things we tie ourselves up in knots about when we’re aiming for political correctness! From the other side of the fence now, I wouldn’t even notice this careful positioning of the eyes of my companions.
When it came to my first “public nursing”, myself and a new friend also with a tiny two week old decided we’d provide moral support to each other and headed to the local coffee shop to try it out. Nobody paid a blind bit of attention to us and we were only delighted with ourselves. Although in fairness, we live in a part of Dublin which I might go as far as saying could be the, if not one of the, breastfeeding capitals of Ireland, so we were not an unusual sight by any stretch.
After that initial success, myself and Baby S found ourselves out and about quite a lot and very quickly my concern about other people’s reaction to my breastfeeding dissipated when it became obvious that the needs of the screaming, starving baby – who literally went from nought to ravenous in seconds – seriously outweighed my concern to be mindful of passersby and I now think there isn’t a man, woman or child in the whole of Dublin who hasn’t seen my breasts at this stage. There is nothing like the sound of an insistent hysterical infant to focus your attention and block out all else around you.
I’m an old hat at it at this stage and I couldn’t care less where, when or how I feed. Not that Baby S gives me much choice any more as he has become adept at launching himself at me across a room and nuzzling his head between my breasts! Only on one or two occasions have I felt uncomfortable but I think I might have been picking up on a vibe from people around me. I’ve often wondered how I would react if anyone passed a comment to me and I was always poised with my speech about my legal rights and threatening an establishment with a hefty fine, but the opportunity never arose :). I know this comfort with public nursing isn’t something that everyone experiences and some woman prefer not to do it at all. Each to their own, I say but for me, it was pretty, pretty handy.
What have your experiences been as an observer or a nurser?
Have I mentioned before that I love breasts? My friends will happily tell you that I’m obsessed with other women’s cleavage. Seriously, they’re so beautiful. I was a healthy and disinterested 34A until I hit my mid-20s and then suddenly out of nowhere I got myself some curves and grew a pair of generous 34C’s and they were magnificant! They gave me great pleasure by virtue of just being. Pert, voluminous, firm, globe-like and yet so soft to the touch. They were such a novelty and I was very appreciative. I do love a good pair 🙂
I think breasts are one feature of women’s bodies that they really know well. We know what they look like, we know what they feel like, we know how to dress them up and dress them down. We know how we feel about them. You know now how I feel about mine but as another example, a colleague recently told me that she can’t stand the thoughts of anyone touching her breasts and she was pretty sure too. She’s happily married and the mother of three strapping boys.
The really interesting thing for me about my breasts is I never knew what they were capable of when I was busy admiring them. Yes, as a part of your body they are a beautiful thing to look at and touch but oh my do they come into their own when mother nature calls them up to the front line. It’s like they’ve been sitting there patiently waiting for their potential to be unleashed. Boobs HD.
I didn’t suffer from breast tenderness in my early pregnancy. Or maybe I did but I was too busy puking to notice. It wasn’t until I was about three or four months in when my breasts started to change: growing literally like water balloons with royal blue veins appearing and spidering under the surface of my skin. But the biggest change, and surprise really, was in the few days after my baby was born and my milk started to come in. Suddenly my breasts had a scale of textures. Whereas up until that point in my life they always felt the same, now as they filled with milk they could feel literally rock hard and when the baby finished a particularly long feed, they could feel like a flabby belly and there were many levels of texture in between. I remember when my sister came to visit not long after Baby S was born, I burst open my shirt and said “Look! Feel my boob!”. She looked at me like I had two heads :). I was mesmerised – and I still am – by how something that had been the same for so long had now sprung to life so to speak, to fulfil their true destiny.
Breasts are amazing. Women’s bodies are amazing. Men must be so jealous of us really. We are amazing.
There’s a few themes I’ve had in the back of my mind on breastfeeding for a while now and what better time than the 20th World Breastfeeding Week to flesh them out!
So I wanted to kick off with a special apology to the La Leche League. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before but a few months ago, when Baby S was ten months old, I became a card carrying member of La Leche League of Ireland. Nothing remarkable about that, says you, but it was a long curving road of avoidance on my part before I finally got there.
Even before I was pregnant, never mind breastfeeding, the La Leche League was something that I associated with extremism and militant practices. I thought they were a lobby group who pushed their ideologies on others. Of course this opinion was grounded in no fact whatsoever. I only knew people by two or three degrees who had any dealing or association with them. When I was approaching the end of my pregnancy and in the first couple of weeks after Baby S was born, a number of health professionals listed their services for breastfeeding support but on at least two occasions whispered that they wouldn’t recommend them because they were very extreme and had had clients of theirs in tears. Sure I lapped it up and stayed well away. I was more interested in cuddly, relaxed breastfeeding support, why would I darken their door?
I was very lucky that I never required any breastfeeding support services outside my local health clinic and my booby group of new mums were a great support as we helped each other through the difficult days and nights. Mostly nights though, let’s be honest. Even though the regular LLL coffee morning were mentioned occasionally, I wasn’t a bit interested in attending.
The truth is I was WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. Standing on the other side of 13 months-plus breastfeeding and surveying the land, I now know that if I was casting bad guys in a breastfeeding movie, it would be the health professionals who urged caution against messing with those LLL folk and then continued to let me down one month after another as I kept breastfeeding and they kept questioning by motivation, my reasoning, my parenting style and they exposed their extremely limited knowledge of breastfeeding beyond the first couple of months.
But the La Leche League, wow, they welcomed me with open arms. When I was going back to work and really struggling with reconciling fulltime working with breastfeeding, I reached out to them and they pulled me straight into their bosom of support. One counsellor in particular managed to not only convince me that everything would be fine and explain how exactly it would be fine – because this was the crucial bit for me – but also succeeded in completely turning around my thinking so that the last few weeks of my maternity leave felt like a holiday rather than a dreaded countdown to something awful, all in one phone call.
She invited me to come to some meetings so I did. I don’t know what exactly I was expecting – and I laugh at myself now because I realise in the eyes of a lot of people I’m an extremist hippie who had her baby at home and I keep going on about it – but I’ve only met other mothers having chats and a laugh who also just happen to be nursing their babies. Everyone is lovely and the structured meetings are so helpful. I’ve also learned that La Leche League Leaders know more about breastfeeding than the vast majority of health professionals. If a new mum I knew was struggling, I’d be sending her straight to them for the correct support and also the correct information. Something I didn’t know is that the La Leche League is not actually a lobby group, their role is to provide information and support mother to mother.
So ladies, can I just make an unreserved apology for thinking ill of you for so long. I think you are AMAZING. I love you guys 🙂 Do you forgive me?
If I were to add anything constructive, I think the La Leche League suffer from an image problem in this country. It’s not fair that they’re perceived negatively and you know, maybe the top brass (is there a LLL top brass???) should think about turning their minds to it because it would be a crying shame if women were avoiding their services due to a lack of understanding about what LLL do. I think a good way to start would be with the website. We live in a world now where most people research everything online before they even think about approaching a service. Most people I know check a restaurant’s online menu before they make a reservation. If the LLL had a good, regularly updated and interactive website, I think it would make a real difference. A good Facebook page or Twitter account responding to queries would be phenomenal.