• Akosua Acheampong

There’s no shame in whipping them out – is there?

For thousands and thousands of years, before modern civilisation, when men lived in caves and ate live animals for dinner, women have been whipping out their boobs left right and centre to nurse their babies. I’m sure it wasn’t so strange back then; neither did it cause onlookers any embarrassment as they walked around wearing loin cloths and bits of leaves to cover their nether regions. Fast forward to the age of technology, the internet and apparent forward-thinkingness and there seems to be something “unnatural” about a woman deciding to breastfeed in public.

World Breastfeeding Awareness week takes place in August every year in a bid to promote and support breastfeeding. Doctors and midwives will tell you that breastfeeding is best for babies as it provides them with all the nutrients and antibodies they will need to ward off illness and infection. It also cements that wonderful bond between mother and child which can last a lifetime and instill emotional stability, confidence and assurance in the child. It’s safe to say that all-round, everyone and their dog will agree that nature’s way is the right way on this front. A survey by Start4Life found that 72% of people support women breastfeeding in public so we as a society have progressed greatly in accepting the tangible benefits of this. However, the reality can be somewhat different for a lot of mums.

As I am typing, I asked my husband sitting across from me “before I become a mum, did you find it strange/uncomfortable when you witnessed a mother breastfeeding in public?”. To which he responded with “well…., (you can guess where this is going) “where you breastfeed matters. I wouldn’t feel uncomfortable per say but I’d try really hard not to look to avoid the woman being uncomfortable. If it was in a coffee shop, I would be fine, but next to me on a train would be weird for me”. This is primary research at its finest :). I am an avid believer in breastfeeding on demand; a lot of newborns feed on demand unless you are a strict parent who has them on a routine. I decided from day one that I would follow my son’s natural cues. He was a big foodie like his parents; I guess our love of food somehow infiltrated into our DNA as a dominant gene and got passed on to him. This meant he was feeding on the clock, day and night and occasionally required me to “whip it out” in the company of complete strangers and I could almost sense the tiny shift in the atmosphere. This could be explained by either one of two things:

1. My own consciousness that I have taken my breast out in public and I anticipate it may cause awkwardness

2. Genuine discomfort of those around me

Perhaps because breasts have become sexualised so much so that the core purpose of their existence in our anatomy is somehow lost. Even for us mothers. We shouldn’t have to second guess or resort to pumping and bottle feeding simply to avoid breastfeeding in public but maybe we have also allowed society to affect our psyche and acceptance that there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. I read that it is illegal for anyone to ask a nursing mother to leave a public space such as a café, shop etc which is absolutely great; one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind, so perhaps we are truly on our way to normalising breastfeeding.

That being said, if you are a nursing mother and are self-conscious, which I totally can understand, there are ways to cover up and still ensure your baby is not missing out on the bond and closeness associated with breastfeeding:

1. Nursing cover from Amazon – this is excellent for providing that privacy you want and comes in a pretty cool print

2. 100% cotton muslin squares by Marks and Spencer – these are much smaller and easier to carry around in your changing bag. Really convenient to take out as/when required. It also doubles up as a cloth you can use to wipe away any spill ups especially when you have to burp your baby after a feed.

After all is said and done, let’s continue to “whip them out”, whether covered or uncovered and unashamedly nurture our young ones to be bold and fearless.

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