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.