THE REALITY OF BREASTFEEDING

 

DISCREET NURSING

 

The idea of nursing your baby in public can be a bit daunting. Try: Practising in front of a mirror, Taking a shawl - to put around you and the baby, Not looking people in the eye in a public place, On a bus or train take a window seat and face the window while nursing, Feeding the baby BEFORE he cries and draws attention to you.

It is sad that we feel we have to cover ourselves while breastfeeding, but if we want to feel as relaxed as possible I reckon it’s worth the effort of not antagonising if we can. Having said that I feel that if we are discreet then we should be able to nurse anywhere. This is the society we live in so let’s deal with it how it is while we work on how we would like it to be. Some people will notice whatever you do. These are usually mothers who have breastfed themselves, know the tell-tale signs like gulping noises, and are really supportive. Children will want to know what you are doing. Be prepared for the probing questions of the children of bottle-feeding mothers. They will ask what you are doing and when you tell them they will look disbelievingly and ask where the bottle is. A survey of Scottish children recently discovered that a proportion of them do not know that people are mammals.

Carrying your baby while nursing can be an answer to the busy mother who has a baby who likes to constantly nurse. Wrapping a baby Welsh fashion in a shawl was shown to me when I had my third child and I found it useful. You can do almost anything while wearing it because it leaves both hands free. The women used to work in the mines wearing them! You need a big shawl, folded diagonally. You hold the baby in one arm, wrap the shawl around both shoulders, wrap one end right over the baby and tuck it under your arm and the baby, the other shorter end you pull tight and push under the same arm, using the weight of the baby to keep it in place. Like this, you have one arm free and one hand free. The woman who showed me demonstrated how she could cook while carrying her baby. The shawl is a lovely way to carry a child while you are outside, especially if the child is feeling unwell. An antenatal teacher I have worked with recalls being carried Welsh fashion by her mother until she was about two. There are also some baby carriers that it is possible to discreetly nurse in, the La Leche League supply a selection.

I find it fascinating though to learn that in some countries where the women cover their heads and their bodies in public they can expose their breast to feed their baby. It shows how cultures vary. It wasn’t always so in this country either. Until 1945 women openly breastfed on trains in front of strangers.

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CATHERINE HOLLAND
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