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…