Saturday, 24 August 2013

breastfeeding in front of my big brother

I feel that I recently overcame a big public breastfeeding hurdle.  I have previously talked about my reluctance to feed in front of men I know.  I have little issue with strangers, but am uncomfortable feeding around those I am close to.

In the recent scorching summer I spent a weekend in London with the family and my brother.  London always seems to be a bit hotter than the rest of the country.  All the time sitting on sweaty buses didn't help.  Understandably, baby girl wanted to feed more than usual.  It seemed quite simply cruel to cover her up, even with the lightest of fabrics.  So, I fed her uncovered, in front of my big brother.

Now this is even more of a big deal than it may seem.  My Dad, who I love dearly and have a great relationship with, has lived abroad since I was about 9.  Therefore, despite frequent contact, I was missing a physical male role model.  My big brother (10 years older than me) filled the position at once.  Sure, we are a typical sibling pair, we tease each other, we jabber on into the night when we are together, we drink together given half the chance.  However, for me, there is that aspect of him having been there as a guiding force in my life.

So, given how much my brother means to me, this is a big deal.  My brother, characteristically, totally ignored it.  So the rest of the weekend I could quench my little girl's thirst without irritating her with more layers.  Sometimes being forced into these situations makes you realise just how cool people are.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Things my son has taught me

Yesterday was my son's 3rd birthday.  It is quite unbelievable that he is so grown up, a proper little person.  Before he was born I dreamt of the things I would teach him - good manners, how to read and write, how to play musical instruments, how to be kind, how to swim and SCUBA dive..... the list goes on.  Little did I realise that he would teach me far more than I would ever teach him.  Here is a list of the things I have been taught
  • babies do not do as they are told
  • babies do not do as the books tell them
  • babies do as they damn well please
  • breastfeeding is not as easy as it looks
  • looking after a baby is not as easy as it looks
  • you do not know what tired means until you have a baby
  • you do not know what busy means till you have a baby (and this comes from somebody who worked full time, trained at karate, was in a band and did a part time MA all at the same time)
  • you do not know what love is until you have a baby
  • I have more patience than I ever thought
  • I need my friends and family more than I ever thought
  • Some of my friends were not really my friends
  • toddlers are cleverer than you think
  • just when you think everything has settled down, it all changes
  • I can think on my feet faster than I ever thought
  • I can apologise to a toddler when I have not behaved well
  • I can find the strength within me to protect my children where I wouldn't find it to protect myself.
  • I am better at multitasking than I thought possible
  • Take any chance to sleep
  • Without sleep I am a bad mother (see previous point)
  • Without food I am a bad mother
  • I do not need clean clothes or a shower (although it would be nice)
  • A bit of wee/poo/sick is not the end of the world
  • Always anticipate a bodily fluid incident (particularly when changing boy's nappies)
  • You forget the bad stuff and you miss the good stuff
Dear son,

Sometimes I'm not a very good student, but I have tried my best for 3 years and I will go on trying.  I love you more than anything little man.

Mummy x

Sunday, 4 August 2013

what's the point in 'The Big Latch On'?

This year was the first time I've joined a 'Big Latch On' event.  In the past I was always on holiday or not breastfeeding. n I jumped at the chance this year.  It was everything I'd hoped.  The normal good humour, older kids loving being a part of it all and husbands showing their support (even if some had been forced to come along :) ).  It was an opportunity for sharing tips as usual and cooing over all the beautiful babies.

But what's the point?  Other than it being a pleasant gathering, what's the big deal?

Well, in my opinion the biggest benefit is to raise the profile of breastfeeding in public.  I remember the first time I fed in public.  I went shopping with my in laws.  Initially I had to face the fear of getting my boobs out in public.  I gazed around looking for somewhere secluded and comfortable.  I spied a lady sat on a bench breastfeeding her baby.  I can still remember her face.  I timidly went and sat at the bench next to her and latched my son on.  She probably had no idea I was a public breastfeeding virgin.  However her mere presence acted as somebody holding my hand.  The more women breastfeed in public, the more we give each other confidence to do it.   Up to this moment I had never seen (or noticed) a woman breastfeeding in public.  I didn't know how to do it in an acceptable manner (if there is such a thing).  By gathering at a Big Latch On we are noticeably showing that it's OK.

We also fly in the face of people who think it is unacceptable.  A friend recently told me how somebody had muttered 'dirty' as they passed her feeding.  Until that moment she hadn't been inhibited.  I know I say it a lot, but it's all about normalisation.  The more we do it and the more people notice us doing it, the less people care.

When I fed my baby at the shopping centre that first time there was another issues.  Half an hour after he finished his feed he was up for another.  I was mortified.  People would realise just how much I fed my little boy and think I was pandering to him.  I was sweating and paniced.  I apologetically went off and fed him again.  But here's the other point - breastfed babies like to feed all the freaking time.  There's no distracting their one track mind.  So if you want to do anything other than go to breastfeeding groups then you need to breastfeed in public (unless you breastfeed in a car or a toilet, which is just a damn shame).  People who tut and shake their heads don't seem to realise that you can't leave the house unless you do this.  Also, going and sitting in a toilet every half an hour for 20 minutes pretty much makes me not want to bother going out, whereas sitting on a bench and watching the world go by is tolerable.  Once the public breastfeeding hurdle has been crossed you suddenly find you can shop, meet friends for coffee, go on holiday, whatever you want to do. 

When the 'Big Latch On' rolls round next year then try to go to/organise your own event.  It really is important.  And if you don't breastfeed, or are a man, a smile, a word or a thumbs up makes our day. Not just at an event, but everyday  Especially if we are all alone and looking worried.  It might be our first time.  I have been told that breastfeeding is beautiful by strangers far more times than I have been told it is disgusting and it makes all the difference.  And you know what, if I see a new mum breastfeeding I don't think I'll say a word.  I think I'll sit next to her and latch on my little girl, so I can give her the support of solidarity.