As a breastfeeding mum (four times over) I found it interesting to read Benenden’s World Breastfeeding Survey Results about attitudes towards breastfeeding that were published during World Breastfeeding Week.
I breastfed my three girls until they weaned themselves off naturally from between two and a half to three years of age. I only managed to breast feed my eldest son, Danny until he was six weeks old. This fact has always saddened me and I wish I had managed to do it for longer, but he had a serious heart condition and would tire easily during feeding, so it was decided that he would be better off being tube fed and later on fed high calorie food through a bottle.
Therefore I can understand why the 49% of mums that didn’t breastfeed had wanted to or tried to. There can be genuine reasons why mums are not able to breastfeed their baby and we need to be sensitive to them.
I was surprised however to find out that “16% said they chose formula feeding because it was more convenient” as having experience of both bottle and breastfeeding I definitely found breast feeding the more convenient of the two.
I always had food on me so there were less things needed to pack to get out of the house.
I didn’t have to sterilise bottles and prepare bottles of milk.
I saved money.
I saved time.
I found it also cut down on the “hunger crying” that comes when a baby needs a feed. As soon as my baby started “rooting” for food I could pop her on the breast and feed her calmly before she got frantic. Being able to satisfy my child’s basic needs so quickly and easily felt reassuring to me.
The “no having to get up in the cold middle of the night” to get a bottle was always a bonus to me too. We could stay sniggled together nice and warm in bed, which meant I wasn’t as sleep deprived as I could have been.
I was sad to read that a “shocking 1 in 5 mums” who completed the survey had experienced some negativity breastfeeding in public. I was lucky to be in the majority 4 out of 5. I honestly found that most people didn’t even notice I was feeding my baby, and of those that did they all reacted positively.
I have fed my babies in a variety of places, on the beach, Doctor’s waiting rooms, at the cinema, in the park, ar restaurants, at my children’s school and even in a church at a wedding. If a baby needs food, and I won’t deny that breastfeed babies feed often, then they need to be fed.
57% of women surveyed did not feel comfortable feeding in public and I think for these mums there should be more private places available for them. Not to hide them away, but for them to get the peace and quiet time they need while they feed. While out on day trips, I have been happy to sit on a picnic bench or blanket while I feed my baby but during bad weather I really appreciate an indoor space (that is not a toilet or corner!) to feed my baby. Our local theme parks have great family spaces with some comfy chairs, as well as changing areas and baby play areas which are breastfeeding friendly but can be used by both mums, dads and grandparents, anyone caring for a baby.
“Surprisingly, 16% of women believe that breastfeeding in public is unacceptable, compared to just 6% of men.” I admit that I find this statistic strange but aside from other breast feeding mums and family members, men have always been most at ease sitting in front of me breastfeeding and been more open to asking questions about it but I put that down to them being more curious as it’s not something they would get the opportunity to do for themselves.
“12% of women said that public breastfeeding would be acceptable if they were covered, either by breastfeeding under clothes or using a modesty cloth, whilst only 4% of men felt that this was necessary.” Personally I like to be partly covered by a sling, light blanket or muslin when feeding. I find it helps to keep the intimacy between mother and baby and helps the baby to concentrate on feeding when something distracting is going on. However, there are times when a baby doesn’t want a cover over them and they just throw it off and no mum ever wants her baby to get too hot, so I got used to feeding uncovered too during the warmer weather.
The statistics on how people’s age group affects their attitude towards feeding were interesting but could be more informative if they were broken down into more age ranges.
“The most lenient groups were the 25-40 year olds, with 90% of them finding public breastfeeding perfectly acceptable. The biggest percentage of those that found it unacceptable were over 60, 40% of whom deemed it inappropriate.” This may be because the 25-40’s have grown up during a time when breast feeding has been promoted positively again and the 60+ are from the era when formula food was being promoted. My children’s great Granny and Grampy were big supporters of my breastfeeding and had experience of it themselves as Great Granny breastfed her own babies. They are in their 80’s so I would like to see statistics specifically for this age range.
It seems location can also have an effect on attitudes towards breastfeeding.
“Of those that have experienced negativity when breastfeeding in public, 41% of them were from the south of England. Those from Northern Ireland seemed to have received the least amount of negativity from breastfeeding in public, with only 2% of people being affected.”
I can’t speak for everywhere but I have never experienced negativity breastfeeding in public in Pembrokeshire, I have only had positive reactions checking that I am comfortable and offering me water, but I would be interested in hearing other people’s opinions on attitudes in different locations. I was surprised to see Cardiff in the news with negative breast feeding in public stories as I have breastfed there positively many times before.
“It seems that whether people are deciding to breastfeed or not, there is still a lot of controversy surrounding breastfeeding in public, and despite the proven health benefits for both mother and child, these attitudes continue to put people off. But this modern world, where science prevails and health should be everyone’s number one priority, should this really be the case?”
I think that we need to show breastfeeding mums that they are welcome to breastfeed in public. Put up breastfeeding friendly signs, have comfy chairs and cushions available, offer mums a glass of water and never tell them to hideout in a public bathroom!
Sadly, my days of breastfeeding are over but I really hope everyone’s attitudes towards breastfeeding will be more positive in the near future and that breastfeeding mums continue to receive the support they need to become confident at feeding their babies (it’s not easy but with good support most mums can get there).
Survey was completed by 647 respondents during a one week period.
In association with Benenden