It’s not often I get agitated and I can usually be found sitting on the fence (I like to think it’s because I’m empathetic rather than apathetic) but occasionally, something comes along that makes my blood boil. And there’s one term at the moment that is really beginning to frustrate me: ‘breastfeeding friendly’. Let me explain…
I love breastfeeding Pickle. It certainly wasn’t easy to start with and there were a good couple of weeks where my anxiety levels went through the roof every time I noticed he was hungry. But now that we’ve got the hang of it, I bloody love it. I don’t stick to a feeding schedule, I just feed on demand, whenever and wherever that may be. Who knew I’d be so happy to whip my boob out in public? Certainly not me, but you know… when baby needs feeding, you gotta do what you gotta do.
I don’t make a song and dance about it. I don’t draw attention to myself (I hope), and whilst I try to wear clothes that make boob access easy and as ‘discreet’ as possible it’s definitely for my benefit rather than worrying about offending anyone else. I don’t anxiously look around or care what other people are saying or thinking, I just feed my baby. Because that’s my job.
Recently, I saw a Facebook post where someone shared an app that recommends local ‘breastfeeding friendly’ places to go. I’d never realised until now that the term does my absolute nut in. As soon as I read it, I could feel my blood pressure rising. It reminded me of a similar post not too long ago when someone asked for a ‘breastfeeding friendly’ restaurant recommendation. It irked me a bit at the time but I couldn’t quite figure out why. I started to furiously type into my phone a response to this app that clearly stated how angry the term made me feel before I hurriedly deleted it not wanting to cause an uproar or upset. I know the person saying it was only trying to help other nursing Mums out and that my personal response was probably a bit weird and unnecessary but still… It annoyed me. Why? Because it implies there are places that are ‘breastfeeding UNfriendly’ and to me, that kind of insinuation is counter productive.
Three months ago, if someone had told me ‘oh, these are the breastfeeding friendly places to go to’ it would have made me nervous. What if I accidentally fed in an UNfriendly place? What if I wasn’t near one of these designated friendly places and my baby needed feeding? What should I do? Risk the wrath of unfriendly staff and consumers and dare to bare the breast somewhere else? Would I have limited the places I ventured to? Would I have resorted to feeding in toilet cubicles or stinking baby change units? I hope not. But I can see how new, vulnerable Mums might feel that way. Or how apps like this might encourage different feeding behaviour. Of course, some might see it as positively encouraging (and I’m sure most do!) but it just doesn’t sit well with me. It sends the wrong message.
This app’s website says:
Can’t find a breastfeeding location? Why not add your own and share with the Feed-Finder community!
Erm… sorry? Find a breastfeeding location? Wherever the nearest chair is will do. Or even a bit of floor. I’ve fed on the floor before now.
Perhaps I’m one of the extremely lucky ones. I’ve never had an adverse reaction to breastfeeding. I’ve done it where and whenever I’ve needed to and I can honestly say I’ve never been made to feel uncomfortable, like an exhibitionist or embarrassed. We all know how natural breastfeeding is. It’s just one way of feeding your baby. It should be normal. It shouldn’t raise eyebrows at all.
If Mums really need an app to help them decide where to feed, why can’t it just be a ‘feeding’ app? Why can’t it apply to both breastfeeders and bottle feeders? Why can’t it just be about how good and clean the baby-change facilities are and whether the chairs are comfy enough to hold a baby for a prolonged period of time? Bottle feeders don’t need their own app, so why should breastfeeders? It just fuels the idea of a stigma around breastfeeding.
I don’t feel ‘special’ because I choose to breastfeed, I don’t think of myself as ‘better’ or holier than thou… I don’t think I’m challenging social conventions or being outlandish. I’m just feeding my baby. Like everyone else. And I don’t need an app to tell me where’s best to feed. I’ll do it wherever I please, or rather, wherever Pickle pleases, thank you very much.