What's all this then?

I tweet too much. So I needed somewhere else to start storing all the words. This is it. Think of it as the external hard drive for my thoughts.

I don't have an obesssion, a dream, a fixation or a hook, so don't be expecting a focus here. It's like great big lumps of my twitterings. You may see teaching stuff, rants, maternal anxiety and occasional sojourns away from reality.

Anyway, I like a nice chat so we should talk. By we, I of course mean me...

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Adventures in breastfeeding

There comes a time after the birth of every baby when the lure of a morning on the sofa with Phil and Holly begins to lessen. Son of Bird is one month old today, and that time has come.

With the need to Go Out comes the need to feed. I'm breastfeeding, and SonofBird's two hourly schedule means that either I stay at home, always, or I feed in public.

This is my third time round with the old hide-the-nipple-from-Jo-Public malarkey, and you'd think it'd be no big deal. But breastfeeding isn't like riding a bike. In oh so many ways, but in this instance I mean that it takes a bit of getting used to. Feeding in public initially takes a bit of brass neck and stiff upper lip (as well as toughening up in other key areas of anatomy). It's daunting. To be perfectly honest, I am anxious about encountering a hostile stranger.

I know that soon it won't bother me, and in terms of putting areas of breast on display then Jo Public will just have to suck it up. So to speak.  I'm proud of my breastfeeding credentials. I've fed on trains, in classy restaurants, on the lawn in front of Sandhurst military college, and even (gulp) at my Mother in Law's house. I know I can get the job done discreetly and efficiently, with no casualties; something that I'm sure Sandhurst would have been proud to support, had they realized what I was doing.

I like breastfeeding, and after a couple of months when it's become a comfortable routine, I love it. (I know that breastfeeding just doesn't work for some women. However, it is right for me because I'm essentially very, very lazy and the thought of having to leave the bed at 2am to fill a bottle or to have to sterilise everything before every feed makes me groan half-heartedly... because I'm lazy, d'you see?) I think breastfeeding is important, and I'm glad that I can do it. I do wish though that it was more accepted as normal, positive, and brilliant in this country so you didn't feel uncomfortable when you do it in public. I've never felt like a freak, it's not that bad, but I do often feel like a bit of a show off, wondering if people think I'm only doing it to get attention. I feel more exposed mentally than I do physically. It leaves me seeking "safe" places.

There are some lovely safe places to feed, top of the list being John Lewis coffee shop. Aaah, lovely middle class John Lewis: a haven for all parents of children who know their fairtrade guava juice from their cherryade, but also a great place to sit undisturbed and feed your baby. In fact, most coffee shops are good for feeding. Breastfeeding can be heavy on the pocket as well as the bra if, when feeding time arrives, you make straight for the nearest decaff skinny latte and hunker down in a corner where people will discreetly ignore you, going to painful efforts not to be looking in your direction in any way at all. I use them despite the expense because I feel secure behind my coffee. And because of the muffins.

Imagine my alarm then to see the Starbucks refit in town today. Gone are the discreet little booths and benches, gone are the screened off areas. The whole shop is open to the elements and the view of all passers by. Plus, there is an excessive use of hard wooden stools rather than comfy chairs. And the stools are teeny, such as you could barely fit a thigh on. No good for the beginner breastfeeder. Oh well, I thought. I don't need coffee, I can find somewhere to feed that doesn't involve buying cake. This is how I found myself using the Marks and Spencers "Mothers' Room".

Oh, the horror. It was clearly designed by someone who got so far over their Oedipus complex that they set out to make life hideous for all mothers. It looked like the worse class of urinal and smelt of dubious surgical procedures, a smell backed up by the presence of one of those rolls of paper towel that you find on doctors' couches.  There were four bins. I only mention this because they outnumbered windows by 4. The room was tiled in three shades of vile green, from bacterial infection to 1950s institution. Here is a picture. Oh yes.

If you sat still, the lights went off. It must have been designed for women who like to do laps whilst they breastfeed. Depressing doesn't even begin to cover it. I think if you were having one of those vulnerable weepy days that come with the new baby territory, it would set you off a treat. But it's ok, you could wipe up your sea of tears with the surgical paper towel. There were two chairs, but I locked the door anyway, because the thought of having to share the experience with a stranger compared unfavourably with Beckett's Endgame for laughs and jollies.

It was also hotter than the sun, and I kept imagining SonofBird dehydrating at precisely the same rate as he was feeding, thereby ensuring I would never, ever leave the room. Again, enough to bring on the tears.

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad some shops provide places for you to feed. I just don't think they should be cupboards that would make Room 101 feel a bit inadequate or sap 30 minutes of joy from your life at a time when your reserves are low. Next time I want a quiet spot to feed, I will sit in a corner of the cafe, without an expensive coffee, and if anyone asks me what I'm doing I shall say "I'm waiting for a kind stranger to buy me tea and a bun."

Soon I won't need Mothers' Rooms, I'll have got my priorities straight, toughened up, and may even be wandering the shops with SonofBird on one boob, and a devil-may-care look in my eye. In the meantime, should you see a feeding mother who might be me tucked in a corner somewhere, feel free to buy her a cup of tea and a bun. It's always good to be a kind stranger.


  1. I remember this well. That initial stress, not helped by my mother saying 'you're going to feed her. Here. Right here. But people might see'. Oh, and not forgetting the nipple shield. Great post x

    1. Thank you! You get so blase after a while that you forget how it feels at the beginning. I'm now at the point of forgetting to do my bra up after, which is a whole other story...

  2. Birdy, birdy, you came back and I was not here. I well remember breatfeeding my daughter. Before I got good and brave at it, my parish priest banished me from church until my baby was weaned in case I had to feed her while I was at a service! As I fed her until she was 13 months old it would have been a long banishment. You will be pleased to hear that I found another church.
    If I see you, you shall have as much tea and cake as you like.


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