Thursday, 31 January 2013

Should you breastfeed in front of strange men?

Yesterday I went to a baby group that I attend on occasion.  As usual (especially with added new baby influence) we were running late.  Not only were we cutting it fine, but I realised I needed cash on the way, so it was a bit of a frantic drive.  On arrival I leapt from the car, bundled the baby under one arm and dragged the boy by the hand.  I tried to make it a game by giggling and shouting in a high pitched voice, 'Quickly, quickly', where actually I wanted to shout 'hurry the hell up!!'  We just made it and settled down in the ring of other toddlers.  There were around 7 or 8 mums, and, a dad.  One of those wonderful men (like my husband) who happily goes to baby groups when they are available to do so (of course, many are at work and so don't have the opportunity).  I like seeing men at baby groups and I wish there were more.  I worry that some are concerned about entering this traditionally female environment.

My son started playing and having a nice time.  The baby was sleepy, but then started to whinge. Judging by the fact that she was trying to suck my arm off, I was fairly convinced she had just decided she was hungry.  Well, that was OK, surely.  I had fed at plenty of baby groups.  But, oh no, there was a man!  'Oh well',  I thought, 'that's OK, I have my breastfeeding apron'.  This piece of equipment was such a lifesaver with my son.  My husband's Grandma bought it for me and it was easily the best present I was bought.  In those awkward early breastfeeding days it provided me with a cover that wouldn't fall off and allowed me to see what I was doing.  Seriously, I can't recommend it highly enough.  However, in my haste I had left all of my stuff in the car, including the apron, muslin cloths an d a baby blanket, all of which I could have used. I wasn't able to go back out to the car.  I suposed I could use my coat but that was a little conspicuous.  I decided it would actually draw less attention if I just got on with it.

So, that;' what I did.  Now, being ever unconventional, I usually pull my top down to breastfeed rather than up.  This developed because I do not wear nursing bras, so it is easier.  However, it also is far more revealing.  This time, in the name of modesty I went under my T-shirt.  I felt totally covered up.  There is no way anyone could see anything that way. 

The dad didn't really bother me ultimately.  He was at a baby group.  Baby groups are normally full of mums, so inevitably there are going to be mums breastfeeding.  I don't think then that a man at a baby group could be uncomfortable with it.  Anyway, if he was I didn't sense it.  In fact, I relaxed immediately since I felt covered up. 

It was still a milestone.  I have never fed my baby uncovered in front of a man other than my husband. I generally don't worry too much when in all-female company.  But, I have never breastfed in front of my brother, my dad or my father-in-law, let alone a stranger.  Should I feel this discomfort?  Does it make me sexist? Or is it respect for their comfort?  I honestly don't know. But funnily enough, feeding in front of a strange man worries me a lot less than feeding in front of male family members.  I think it's because of the whole 'I'll never see them again' idea.  So, maybe that's the next step, feeding in front of men I know, but if feels like a big step.

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