You will need:
One baby or toddler
Breasts (with milk)
Absolutely nothing to cover yourself with
Knowledge of your rights
What to do:
Take your baby or toddler out to a public place and, when required, feed him/her.
It's no secret how I feel about breastfeeding. After all, my daughter Pearl and I recently celebrated the six month milestone in our breastfeeding relationship. Most people I talk to and who write comments on social networking and newspaper sites are very pro breastfeeding - or so they claim. In the same breath as "I think it's great that women breastfeed" comes "but they should cover up or not do it in public because no one wants to see that!"
Here's one I made earlier...
As a normal human being, I have no idea where people's issues with breastfeeding come from. That's right - I'm labelling those with breastfeeding issues as abnormal. They make comments such as: "It's so embarrassing when women just latch the baby on in public as if there is nothing odd about it", "Keep your udders under wraps ladies" and "Does this mean we are going to see more and more women wanting to flop their breasts out in public?" (The internet is brilliant for finding these comments; most people wouldn't dare voice such opinions, but the anonymity the internet offers can be poisonously empowering.) I just don't understand these people, and nothing I have read makes me sympathetic to their small minded opinions. Intelligent people can justify their opinions, provide examples and use logic to form a well structured argument. These people can't. That's right - I'm calling them stupid, too.
This is why I have a lot of time for such Facebook groups as this - I hate it when people act like breastfeeding is obscene, GET OVER IT! It's about time that nursing mothers bit back, and this has started to happen with a variety of nurse ins (where mothers get together at a prearranged time and place to nurse all at once) and general outrage caused by nursing mothers unlawfully asked to move on.
Because it is unlawful. Not many people realise that; it's one of those unknown legalities that you only find out about when it actually affects you. The 2010 UK Equality Act - which you can read about here - says that it is unlawful to treat a woman unfavourably because she is breastfeeding. Unless she's nursing somewhere dangerous, like a chemical filled laboratory or a building site or somewhere like that, she has a legal right to nurse her child wherever the hell she likes. Oh, and the men's toilets. She can't nurse there, either. But who would want to nurse in there??
my Facebook page know that I've been trying to get hold of 'Breastfeeding Welcome Here' stickers to hand out to places in my local area and ask them to display them. In all honesty, as I will write about in more detail, I am loathe to admit that such stickers are necessary. But since breastfeeding is suffering with only a third still breastfeeding when their child is six weeks and just 1 in 100 mothers at six months, it's clear that we just don't see mothers nursing in public. Personally, I could count the number of times I've seen a woman nursing in public on one hand. This simply isn't the case with formula.
The WHO (World Health Organisation) and UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund) are trying to get more women breastfeeding. The UK's NHS tries to get more women breastfeeding; I know that from my experience in hospital. There are many reasons why the statistics are as they are today, but one of the key problems in the past has been the promotion of formula milk.
I've said before that I'm not wholly against formula. I have to be honest - I have had an easy ride when it came to breastfeeding. Not all mothers have such a nice time, and this leads to the majority of them giving up. There's absolutely no way that two thirds of the UK's new mothers are unable to breastfeed - although I understand that some are unable; I know a few such people and they tell me how sad they feel about it - which means that many people give up because formula seems like such an easy alternative, or maybe because, in spite of the advice, they always intended to formula feed because that's what their mum did. As I've said before, my mum breastfed, and whereas I don't always do what my mother did before me, we must all admit that however much we try to deny it, we are heavily influenced by our parents.
The WHO and UNICEF put together the International Code of Marketing Breast-Milk Substitutes in 1981. It prohibits the advertisement of formula milk for infants less than 6 months old. Such products are also banned from being a part of multibuy deals and discounts, and buying them won't get you a single point on your Boots Advantage Card or your Tesco Clubcard. Labels on formula milk have to state that breast is best.
But does it go far enough? I'd like to think that here in the UK we're all intelligent people. We do have the breast is best message repeated to us relentlessly in our days of pregnancy and once we get to hospital to give birth. I saw it on all the posters, and whereas (in my case) the midwives weren't exactly the kindest and most understanding I'd ever seen, they did try to help women who were struggling. But although studies have proven how much better breast milk is, how healthier our babies would be (going to ignore the comments of formula feeders who claim their child has never had a day's sickness in his life - they are exceptions to every rule, you know!) and how much the NHS would save due to a decrease in all sorts of things from minor ear infections to life threatening diseases, some women still choose to use formula. The damage that the formula companies have done - and continue to do - has had a ripple effect that has lasted for decades and will, I suspect, continue for a few decades more.
I say "continue" for their most recent advertisement campaigns. The way they scoot around the WHO code is sly, and how they include breastfeeding to piggy back their message is insulting. I'll give you an example...
"Breast milk is the best protection for your baby, and nothing compares to it. If you choose to move on, we've created Aptimil Follow On Milk."
...I'm sorry? What? Surely you mean, if you can't be bothered any more you can just switch to formula. After all, you've done your six months exclusive breastfeeding, surely you're sick of it by now? Actually, why am I talking to you? If you've been exclusively breastfeeding for six months you know how pointless and stupid follow on milk is and you're never going to buy this. I really ought to be directing my attention to those who have already been formula feeding, just to let them know that they can carry on buying my pointless products until they can have cow's milk in another six months' time.
As I said, the damage has already been done. So many people gave up on breastfeeding in the past, and this has now affected their own children. We're very vulnerable after we've just given birth, and only the very strong minded would resist such comments as "Why don't you just give him/her formula?" from our loved ones. After all, you trust your mother, don't you? If she gave you formula and there's nothing wrong with you, why don't you just do the same for your baby?
Because you're missing out. I'm not just talking about the emotional closeness, which is one of the best things, but think about your baby's health. Studies have shown how beneficial breast milk is, but those who couldn't be bothered with breastfeeding and somehow managed to get themselves columns in particularly bad newspapers are trying to tell you otherwise, trying to make you feel better about choosing an option which is, apart from all the money you'd waste and the sterilising you'd have to do, the easier one. You should have confidence that it'll get easier with time, that you and your baby will get better at it, that the growth spurts will pass, and at the end of it you will feel much better about yourself. Even better and more importantly, your baby will have had the best start to life that's possible.
Whereas breastfeeding rates are on the rise, I can't help but think that more can be done to promote breastfeeding. Obviously we get a lot of haters, us "Breastapo", but ultimately we are the ones in the minority. Haters gonna hate, as the saying goes, and I'm not alone in thinking that those who do feel hostile towards those who promote breastfeeding are just annoyed at being told what to do.
Ultimately, it's up to us to do what we can, and that's why I started this blog. In posting pictures of uncovered breastfeeding in public I hope to normalise it. If more and more people see it, then more and more people will realise that it's allowed and right. Children will be brought up being subjected to it, to understand that it's what mothers do.
Which brings me to my next and final complaint (for now)... Facebook. Don't get me wrong, I love Facebook. I've been a Facebook user since 2006, and as many of you already know, I have a Facebook page for this very blog. But Facebook has been guilty of hurting the breastfeeding message by removing and banning pictures of babies nursing, labelling them "sexually explicit" if they reveal a nipple. I mean, come on. Sexually explicit? Really? There's much more that Facebook is actually missing out on.
My only other complaint about Facebook is that I wish my mother didn't have one.