Saturday, 22 February 2014

Breastfeeding, allaitement, nursing.....

Recently I travelled to France with one of my best friends, the husband and the kids.  A lovely wintery day trip was had.  At lunch time baby girl started to get whingey.  She was tired and hungry.  I knew that I had an easy way to stop her complaining and using her food as projectiles.... but I got cold feet.  I was under the impression that the French are not so 'boob friendly'  I was too afraid and held off feeding until I could secretly do so in my baby carrier as we strolled back towards the car. However, breastfeeding in public is essentially legal in FranceAlthough it is not generally as supported as in the UK so one could be subject to some prejudice.

Our little family has recently returned from California.  We had such a wonderful time.  On perhaps the second day we found ourselves outside.  Boy was playing in the park with daddy.  I was lounging with a fretful baby girl.  I wanted to feed her.  I was aware that by law I was OK, but I wasn't sure what the culture here was.  I faltered. 

There were two ladies and their kids sat near to me.  One of them started calling over her toddler (I would guess about 18 months). 
'Baby, you want Doh-Dots?'
(Toddler ignores her)
"Doh-Dots?  Come here baby, Doh-Dots"
I think to myself, 'she's got to mean breastfeeding'.  I couldn't think of anything else.  I start spying secretly.  Eventually toddler loses interest in whatever it was she was playing with and wanders over to mummy.  She promptly lifts her shirt snuggles up with toddler and they start nursing.  Mummy continues directing her other children and holding a conversation with a friend.

I smiled secretly.  At that exact moment where I felt unsure the solidarity of another mum had given me the confidence I needed to feed my baby - which I promptly did.  That just goes to show how important it can be!  On walking over to husband to tell him about my experience I spotted another woman nursing by the park, this time under a nursing cover.  I couldn't believe it.  2 in one park?  Plus me makes 3, that must be some new record!! (Having taken part in the Big Latch On I know that's not true).

Seriously, though, I have never seen so much open breastfeeding as I did in California.  It was awesome (said in an American accent, in case you are unsure).  Breastfeeding is protected by the Civil Code § 43-53 in California.  In fact in America breastfeeding in public is protected by law in most states in some form.

The following link shows the difference in perceptions of breastfeeding between the UK, the USA and France.

 I find these cutural differences fascinating.  I wander where it comes from, rates? Law? Health systems? Overriding political or religious sentiments?  But when travelling abroad a breastfeeding mother may feel unsure, even if she is aware of her legal status - yet another reason to breastfeed openly whenever possible, just in case a foreigner is feeling unsure :)

Monday, 17 February 2014

My how they've grown..

I recently went to a christening.  A friend of mine has a little two and a half year old boy.  He was bimbling around, content playing with the baby toys.  He was talking in stilted disjointed sentances.  He was popping out of the fire engine toy's roof and shouting 'DADDY, DADDY' until he was acknowledged.  I looked down on my lap where my three and a half year old sat.  He was grumpy because the toys were for babies (or so he claimed).  He chatters on all the time.  He has friends that he made himself.  He was disappointed that it's the school holidays because he wants to go to nursery and play all day with his new friends.  He is too big to go to toddler groups and has to be enticed with 'you can show your sister what to do'.  Yet when his sister was born he was like this other little boy.  Still in nappies, still not talking properly and happy spending all day playing with the same toys over and over. 

That same day my daughter took 4 steps.  4 steps!!  She can say mama.  She knows what she wants and asks for it.  Last night she went into her big girl bed.  We have been having issues at night as she wants to feed continually and my tolerance only goes so far.  However we have foud that if she isn't hungry she is just as content to have a big daddy cuddle. So, in her big girl bed, either I can cuddle her and feed her until I sneak away while she snores.  Or daddy can sneak in for a cuddle to soothe her tears.  She looks so tiny in her big bed.

It is so bittersweet.  Much as I love tiny babies they are just such heart rending hard work.  I am more comfortable with chatty playful toddlers.  Or even older (I teach at a secondary school -  a class full of teenagers doesn't bother me).  But I feel nostalgic for the old times.

  I am going to give away my rocking chair.  The place where I have spent countless hours nursing my babies.  Sleepy and dreamy and snuggly.  That feels like a big milestone, me saying that I don't need a place to feed my babies.  But I still have a place to feed my littlest toddler.  In her big girl bed (she is far too busy and grown up to feed in the day).

I know my breastfeeding days are numbered now. I know I am unlikely to ever hold my very own little newborn again. But I will have first steps, first words, first days at school, first friends and so on to make up for my unending sadness for the babies who are growing up.