Rant Alert!!!!

I decided to breastfeed both my kids, and so far have been lucky enough to do so without any problems (thanks to some fantastic advice from my hospital midwife after the Big Monkey was born).

I know it’s not possible for a lot of women, despite their best intentions, so I’m really grateful that I can.

But this doesn’t mean I always find breastfeeding easy. Because, despite telling us, over and over, that we should breastfeed if possible, society still makes it bloody hard to put into practise.

I was shopping in my local high street shopping centre the other day with the two monkeys and it came time for the littlest one to have her lunch. I wandered to the nearest coffee shop, but it was very open, and there was a table of elderly men who, I’m sure, wouldn’t have been too impressed if I started feeding (albeit, very discreetly).

The second cafe was too crowded to navigate the double stroller, so I ended up heading back upstairs to my last resort – the women’s toilets. By now bubs was hungry, and wailing.

The regular toilets only had single stalls – no chance of fitting the double stroller inside. I checked out the shopping centre baby change room. DO NOT FEED YOUR BABY IN HERE a sign announced. Not that I couldn’t have anyway, as the room was already full with two other mums and their buggies, babies, and assorted toddlers.

I waited outside for a few minutes, the baby’s cries getting louder and more insistent. Then I spotted the disabled toilet, and asked the attendant to unlock the door, so I could use it.

The woman attendant stared at me for a while. ‘That’s the baby changing room,’ she said, pointing at the other door.

‘Yes, I know,’ I replied. ‘But it’s full.’

‘You can’t change your baby in there, it’s a toilet,’ she continued.

I couldn’t be bothered explaining that I wanted to feed the little one, and didn’t think it was her business anyway, so I told her I needed to use the facilities.

She kept staring. ‘But I just saw you in the other toilet,’ she went on. Who the hell was she, the loo police??

‘Can you just let me in please?’ I said again, getting really annoyed now.

‘But I just saw you in there,’ she repeated, pointing to the ladies.

‘Look,’ I finally snapped. ‘I want to feed my baby, OK?’

‘You can’t feed her in there,’ she said again. ‘It’s a toilet.’

No shit Sherlock. What gave it away – the loo paper dispenser? The sign on the door that read: Toilet?

‘Well, where can I feed her then?’ I said, through gritted teeth.

She shrugged. ‘We don’t have a feeding room,’ she answered.

Aaaaaaaaaaargh!!!!!!!!! Hence me being forced to feed my poor starving baby in a dingy disabled toilet! I wanted to scream.

I was so annoyed and embarrassed, and felt the tears looming. So instead of pointing out the ridiculousness of the situation, I just stormed off. Of course, bubs was still hungry, so instead of finishing my shopping (and netting the centre some more moolah – isn’t that what they should be encouraging in a recession????) I had to cut our trip short and go home.

It’s these moments that make me look enviously at Mums bottle feeding their babies. At least they don’t have to worry about flashing their bits, or making people feel uncomfortable, or getting disapproving glares from old biddies, simply for giving their little one their lunch.

I just don’t understand why mothers aren’t better catered for in modern shopping centres – especially since SAH and WAH Mums make up the huge majority of their customers during the week.

Does anyone else get frustrated by the lack of facilities when they’re out and about?

Anyway, that’s my rant over with for now. Don’t even get me started on the high street shoe shop that has no lift, yet has its children’s department down a steep, narrow flight of stairs…

27 Comments

  1. Mummy Mishaps aka Jenny Paulin - November 10, 2010

    I felt the same when I was breast feeding B. A few times i had to sit in the M & S. Disabled toilets and feed him! I also did not feel brave enough to sit in a cafe on my own and feed him so any a time I too had to cut short my trip and go home. I agree that more places should offer an area for bfeeding after all, we are told it is the best start for a baby!

  2. Hanzor - November 10, 2010

    I was exactly the same. I BF my daughter for a year, and felt uncomfortable every time I tried to feed her in public. Everywhere should offer facilities – I’ve lost count of the times I’ve perched on the edge of a loo seat to feed my baby.
    However, what I would say is that this stigma that’s attached to feeding babies in public should be banned. People shouldn’t look disapprovingly to BF’ing mums. Everyone came from and fed from somewhere. I’ve been so tempted in the past to just whack my nipple out in the middle of Starbucks and flash it at every single disapproving look. We shouldn’t have to feel uncomfortable feeding out little ones at all. I say just do pluck up the courage and feed them regardless. I know I will with my next one! x

  3. Glowstars - November 10, 2010

    Last weekend I whipped my boob out in the middle of Starbucks. Then, when the baby change there was out of order, I changed Li’l Mister’s nappy on the table. The way I see it, if they can’t provide appropriate facilities then they can’t complain!

  4. Kate - November 10, 2010

    I agree with all of the above but I think it’s important for bfing mums to be brave and just do it – the more that do the more commonplace it will be – which in turn will encourage others to do the same and might even result in better facilities…

  5. Sarah of 'Catching the Magic' - November 10, 2010

    Poor you! That’s absolutely disgusting! You should write to the manager of the shopping centre suggesting some changes.

  6. Anonymous - November 10, 2010

    If you decedie to breat feed your baby as I did with all three of mine – then no areas are barred! I bfed one of mine in a muslim country!!!!
    I really did not feel sorry for those who felt uncomfortable as I felt I was perfectly in my right to feed my baby as I felt was right – obvioulsy I was discreet but if I was met with menacing glares then they just were reciprecated. You need to feel stronger for yourselves and believe in what you are doing is the best for your baby

    Be strong

  7. Mummy's Little Monkey - November 10, 2010

    Thanks for all your comments – as much as it frustrates me to hear this is a common problem, it’s also nice to know I’m not alone in my toilet-feeding habits!!!! It’s so undignified, isn’t it? Perched on the edge of a toilet seat, just because we’re trying to do the best that we can for our kids. It doesn’t take much to set aside a small cubicle for feeding mums – like they have at Mothercare. Spesh since we’re the ones spending money in their stores!!!!! xxx

  8. The undomesticated scientist - November 11, 2010

    I was lucky and breast feeding was very easy for me. I have to say i have feed just about every where! any cafe how ever open, on a train, in the park, on a bench in the street! i did know where all the baby feeding type rooms where located (boots, mamas and papas) but i have to admit i wqas a stick baby up top anywhere person. i wasn’t one of those who made a loud noise about it and flashed every thing, i kept it quite and descreet and i think thats why i just got on and did it! those special feeding tops helped too! (the ones with the flaps!) it is silly though that they don’t provide you with somewhere! what do they think you should do!

  9. Paula Virgo - November 11, 2010

    I am currently breastfeeding baby number 6 and will do it anywhere regardless of disapproval, real or imagined. I have found many little ways to be discreet and I have never been challenged by anyone of the ‘get your fat tit out of that kid’s mouth’ mentality.The most I’ve ever experienced are curious glances. I love breastfeeding and refuse to made to feel embarrassed for doing something so natural, so right and so good. My baby’s best interest and well being will always take the highest priority.

  10. Being Me - November 11, 2010

    Oh you poor girl. It’s crazy to think that b/f mothers are made to feel like criminals or shady! I’m sorry she interrogated you like that, how weird.

    I agree wholeheartedly with Paula Virgo’s comment – I b/f my daughter for 14 months, in public if I had to. In the beginning, I was more prone to going to the changing rooms but by the time my confidence was up and she was feeding better, etc. (probably around 6mths) honestly I didn’t see the fuss in feeding wherever I was. I recall more than once checking with the waiter/waitress that it was ok for me to feed in their cafe (more a statement than a q ;), that way I figured if patrons had issues they could take it up with the proprietors for I had already sought permission.

    I’ve never fed in a toilet. You shouldn’t have to, and I think it’s others’ problem if they have a problem with seeing a b/f mother! But if it’s a matter of not feeling comfortable yourself, that’s different. Facilities just aren’t there and I didn’t realise just how absent they were until I tried to “do the right thing” by the general public before realising…. I am still a citizen and member of this society! I shouldn’t have to hide. Oooh obviously a sore point for me, sorry for long comment ;)

    Good luck.

  11. missielizzie - November 11, 2010

    I’m sorry to read you felt you had to use the loos to feed. That should never be the case.

    Maybe I just didn’t care, but I fed anywhere and everywhere. In fact, most of the time I was willing someone to say something negative to me – I had a whole arsenal of replies ready. But nobody ever did!

    You might just have been surprised by those old boys drinking their coffees. It was always the older generation who’d smile at me as tell me how nice it was to see a baby being nursed.

    Big hugs, be brave and don’t give a monkies what anyone else thinks ;0) x

  12. yummymummyquest - November 11, 2010

    On occasion I fed my Boo in a loo! Just hideous that you almost had to beg to be able to perch in a stench-filled room to feed little one. I hated this, but I couldn’t and wouldn’t have been able to sit in a cafe comfortably, that’s just me. Total respect if you can, but I guess everyone has their own little ways! Probably didn’t help that MIL had set me up in a special little back room for me to do it in at their place! Talk about ‘keep it out of my sight thank you very much!’!

  13. nappy valley girl - November 11, 2010

    Poor you! I think I might write to the shopping centre and complain. That’s not a great attitude.

    I used to feed my babies in coffee shops all the time – Starbucks, Caffe Nero, you name it, I got my boobs out. I don’t think I ever got funny looks, you just have to be a bit brazen about it.

  14. imperfectpages - November 11, 2010

    Well, missielizzie has said just about everything that I was going to! I’m another one who will happily feed their baby in public and have done so in lots of random places. I agree that elderly people will often be the ones with an encouraging smile or comment. I honestly can’t remember even getting a disapproving look, and I fed my first up until he was 15 months.

    Personally I hate feeding rooms as they tend to be tiny, airless and stink of nappies. But I can see that they’re valuable for some women, especially new breastfeeders or others who are less confident. To be honest, I like feeding in public as I feel I’m doing my bit to make breastfeeding seem more normal and maybe make some other women feel more confident or consider breastfeeding when it otherwise might not have crossed their mind (not that I deliberately go out to coincide with feeds, lol!).

  15. Anonymous - November 11, 2010

    Oh no! I just feed her wherever and whenever she needs it! The other day that happened to be on a stool parked between the instant photo machines in Boots. No one said anything! John Lewis always has a feeding room & I think a lot of Mothercares do as well. X

  16. life in a pink fibro - November 12, 2010

    I hear you! It’s been a while since I’ve been in that position, but we’ve all been there. I used to take the baby to the car if it was desperate. Better than a dingy old toilet. I don’t know why breastfeeding is such a crime. We can put sexualised billboards from here to Timbuctoo, but god forbid you discreetly breastfeed your baby in public.

  17. Lori @ RRSAHM - November 12, 2010

    Oh darling. That is just so bloody rude. Have you thought about making a complaint? Even the sign “Do not feed your baby in here”- I’m fairly sure that’s against the law. The can’t deny you the right to feed, any where, anytime.

    I’m so sorry this happened. What a world.

  18. Maxabella - November 12, 2010

    Grrrrrrrrrrr… this makes me so furious… grrrrrrrrrrr…

  19. Tenille - November 12, 2010

    It’s ridiculous that we should feel embarrassed about feeding a child, but I understand how you felt. I’ve retreated to the car a few times too, but other times I just used a shawl.

    If it helps at all, just try to remember that you aren’t doing anything lewd, rude, or unnatural. It’s actually one of the most natural things you could do.

  20. Glowless - November 12, 2010

    You’re not allowed to feed your baby in the baby room? How stupid is that?!

    I feed anywhere and everywhere. It was hard at first but I’ve managed to get it down to a fine art. However bubs is now at the stage where he likes to pull on the shawl and look around… so I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be so carefree.

    I also know my rights and am willing to very nicely share them with anyone who would ask me to ‘move along’.

  21. Mummysquared - November 12, 2010

    I tried really hard to be a devil may care, feed anywhere and everywhere, I’ve got lovely boobs and I’m going to get them out kind of mum… but it’s pretty hard in practice when you get stares and glares. It’s hard to be right on about your rights when you’ve got your bits hanging out!

    Great post – clearly got the mummy bloggers up in arms! I say we storm the shopping centre with our buggies and boobies!

  22. Looking for Blue Sky - November 12, 2010

    I wasn’t able to breast feed, but if I had I would have been so annoyed by this sort of treatment – maybe you all need a ‘reclaim the streets’ kind of campaign for breastfeeding mammies: here in Ireland a bloggy friend of mine @mammydiaries got about 100 mums breast feeding in public in Cork to celebrate breast feeding week there recently – it was a huge success!

  23. wendy_mcd83 - November 12, 2010

    You poor thing. I’m currently feeding baby number 5 and will feed him whenever and wherever needed. Thankfully I’ve never been challenged and have enjoyed a positive experience. Let’s hope that the new laws will path the way to provide better provision for all nursing mums, so no one has to feel the way that you did. xx

    http://www.maternityaction.org.uk/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderfiles/breastfeedingpublicplace.pdf

  24. Baby Weight and Beyond - November 12, 2010

    That’s horrible! I’m in Canada and most places have somewhere quiet where I can nurse. If I can’t find somewhere I ask to use the changing room in one of the stores!

  25. Mummy's Little Monkey - November 12, 2010

    Thanks again for all your comments – it’s been really interesting to hear your perspectives and your experiences.
    I think we’re all pretty much in agreement that we shouldn’t feel embarrassed or awkward. If someone gives us a hard time, it’s their problem, not ours!!
    I’m going to try my darndest not to feel self conscious in the future. My baby comes first. xx

  26. Cate - November 15, 2010

    I used to feed everywhere – standing in the queue for the Barbie exhibition at Fed Square, church, centre court stands at the Aust Open…I was always more than willing to assert my rights! (But I had a lot of support from my mum the first time ’round which gave me a lot of confidence).
    Although with my 3rd I was a less willing to display all my bits, so discovered b’feeding tanktops (which pull down from the top) meaning my wobbly tum could stay well hidden, then I’d just drape a little blankie over my shoulder – and I think most of the time people didn’t even realise I was doing it :-)

  27. Ailbhe - November 25, 2010

    I fed my babies anywhere and everywhere, but I think it’s *essential* that there be private, comfortable spaces for mothers and babies who don;t want to do that. Some babies refuse to eat properly if there’s anything distracting, so even a nudist can’t feed them in public!

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