The booby trap

Mothering Heights - Claire Smith

Mothering Heights - Claire Smith - Credit: Archant

I have had my boobs out in public on many occasions and I’ve not even been drunk. My top has been up and my bra pushed down in front of my family, friends, in the eye line of strangers, at restaurants, parks and once in a crowded pub. My breasts have been seen on the hard shoulder of the M25 with Eddie Stobarts whizzing by because the car radiator was leaking and so were my nipples.

Yes, I was in full breast-feeding mode for many years. Not because I decided to nurse a child until he went to school, but because my three children were born within a period of five years. I was fortunate enough that breasts and babies clicked so, being a lazy parent, it seemed a lot easier than getting out of bed or off the sofa to make up a bottle. I didn’t really take on board the literature or the advice from the health visitor, I just turned to the option that I thought would require the least effort and the least washing up.

It’s as simple as this – I breastfed because I could. I had no opinion about it because I’m a member of the Whatever Works School of Parenting. Sometimes it worked because our car broke down and baby needed feeding. It was great to know that even if I ventured out, there was always a breast buffet available. Even I couldn’t forget my boobs when leaving the house. Occasionally it didn’t work – especially in Starbucks when baby decided to do that mucking about they often do in public and my nipple got caught on a cappuccino. There is nothing more embarrassing than jumping up in the middle of a crowded café with your 32Cutie hanging out, believe me.

The funny thing is – it really wasn’t the easy option. Breastfeeding can be time-consuming and, you know, sometimes it hurts. I was so clueless that I figured that I couldn’t go anywhere without the baby and I had no idea of routine. There was zero weight loss because for every calorie I burned feeding, I put on triple with the amount of junk I was eating. Not being a ‘whip-ya-boobs-out’ kind of gal meant that nursing in public became a circus of me trying to hide myself under a variety of blankets, muslins and clothes. Roll up! Roll up! Come see the amazing booby contortionist!

Breastfeeding. It’s such an emotive subject. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. If you want to feed and can then you’re fortunate, but some don’t like seeing it. If you try and fail, you feel terribly guilty. If you decide it’s simply not for you, people think you’re not doing the right thing for your baby. It’s the subject of many a debate on social media sites and everybody has something to say. Come on folks, at the end of the day this parenting lark is tough enough as it is, can’t we all just respect each other’s attempts and choices? It’s a booby trap for sure, and there’s no escaping it.

I’ve been thinking about my milky menology because, recently, a friend of mine was asked not to breastfeed in a hotel as it was “against hotel policy” and “might upset other customers”. The mother was hormonal, overflowing with oestrogen and unable to respond with anything except her tears. Which was frustrating because it’s usually her words that cause offence, not her breasts.

It’s interesting because out of all the scenarios when it comes to feeding baby, breastfeeding seems to bring the most negativity. It’s the most natural thing in the world, but so is voicing an opinion it seems. I’ve heard many horror stories of people being asked to move to the toilet, to leave a restaurant and “put them away”. Mothers have been told that they are causing offence, they’re disgusting and that they’re disrespectful. People like to assert their viewpoint on how long a mother should feed for. When Time Magazine featured a mother breastfeeding her four year old, it was one of the most controversial covers in years. Breast is best, but in some eyes, breast is A PEST.

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Well, I’m out of my hormonal rollercoaster and lactose lobotomy days. My brain is no longer in my breasts. Apart from attaching a plastic flower to the nipple and squirting milk through it clown-style, I’m pretty certain these responses might work. If I hadn’t been in that breastfeeding coma at the time, I’m pretty certain I would have used one of the following:

1. Funny that, because I’m offended by ignorance.

2. Breastfeeding is easier for me. I can’t hold a baby, a bottle and a wine glass at the same time.

3. The only tit I can see here is you.

4. Do you want this blanket to put over your head? Or in your mouth?

5. I was actually flashing you but this bad baby got in the way.

6. You think this is offensive? Wait a minute and I’ll show you what my stretch marks look like.

7. If you need a snack then wait your turn.

8. A solar eclipse is like a woman breast feeding in a restaurant. It’s free, it’s beautiful but under no circumstances should you look at it.

9. You wouldn’t like to eat your lunch in the toilet and neither would my baby.

10. No words required, just hand them the screaming baby who will not stop until fed – sure they’ll change their minds.

Being a good mother is doing the right thing by your baby and yourself, surely it’s nobody else’s business. As long as mums are making decisions about how to feed, there will be judgement and criticism. What a shame we can’t use a real booby trap on people who do this. I’m sure some 36Grenades could cause serious damage.

Let’s hope one day this will be a non-issue. In the meantime, let’s try to make it a 28AA one.

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