See last week for the second installment of this story
Louisa sits at a cross-road, unsure of her next move. As she admits ‘I wanted to think about how I could influence Karen in particular to change her attitude’, but after much thought admits ‘I’d love to talk to Karen, but feel that in this instance she’d just justify how wrong I was’. In protecting herself Louisa does not feel emotionally ready to approach Karen, an attitude I empathise with. Aware of how all-consuming this episode has become, Louisa is searching for a more therapeutic, constructive way of moving forward.
She could contact her local La Leche group for more formal support in a nurturing atmosphere. She could also become involved in campaigning for breastfeeding women’s rights at a local level, by talking to local business owners about the legal position of mother’s nursing in public places. Being proactive within a supportive environment of likeminded mums may increase Louisa’s confidence and friendship group, a way of turning a traumatic experience into a more positive one.
Writing to the local press, or local council, would also raise awareness of this issue. She could write a polite, informative letter to Karen informing her of the effects of her words and of the law, one way of offloading some of her pent-up feelings. Or Louisa could simply re-develop the confidence to nurse in public places again, feeling this is a sufficient way to move forward from this experience. However Louisa chooses to pursue this event, she knows she has my constant support, as well as that of many of her friends, her family and dedicated parenting groups.
In unpicking this episode and its aftermath, I have attempted to illustrate how one thoughtless comment can have such a profound effect on someone’s life. It is easy to understand how some women would simply give-up breastfeeding after such a traumatic experience. This is an example of one of the many barriers to breastfeeding which countless women still face in our society. This discrimination needs challenging head-on and dismantling. Whilst we now have legislation in place in the UK at least, it is time to transform our cultural attitudes, in order to create a more open, friendly, safe public space in which all mothers feel they can nurse their children free from hassle, judgement and discrimination.
I look forward to the day we can nurse our children with openness and pride in a society which will not condemn, but applaud, our actions. To the day breastfeeding is simply normalised. It is to Louisa’s credit that she continues to nurse her son, one of the most precious gifts a mother can offer her child. Let’s hope she is one of a tiny minority who still experience this discrimination, not yet one more in a long-line which has no end in sight.
Postscript: moving on
Three months on, Louisa has updated me on her situation. In her own words;
‘I’ve been out and about walking in nature and have grown confident breastfeeding in the countryside with Digby. Nature is so giving and it was on one of my walks when I felt comfortable to sit on a bridge overlooking a stream and nurse. I call it the breast-feeding bridge and stop there most days now. We started going swimming together and I’ve even breastfed in the pool , as it’s very tiring and makes Digby very hungry!!!
I have also done a day’s business training in London for a well known Prince of Wales Charity. I explained beforehand that my partner and baby would be coming and be nearby, and that I would need to feed every hour and a half. Carl and Digby walked up and down the canal and came into the office three times for feeding breaks. We had a wonderful day. That started the turnaround for me. I have also since then made a couple of breastfeeding friends and have gone out with them. Safety in numbers!’
Maternity Action Breastfeeding in Public Places (UK); http://www.maternityaction.org.uk/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderfiles/breastfeedingpublicplace.pdf
La Leche League GB breastfeeding in public places resources; http://www.llli.org/nb/nbpublic.html