Lucy Corkhill

By Lucy Corkhill

01st August 2013

Several years ago, I went out with a group of female friends for a meal. Most of them were mums; two of us were not. One of the women brought her newborn son, and she breastfed him during our meal. The little guy was quite content and we were quite content to share an evening of food and friendship with this newest arrival. At least I thought we were, until the friend of mine who also wasn’t a mum whispered to me quietly whilst the others were talking; ‘I wish she didn’t do that at the table, don’t you? Not while we’re eating.’

Lucy Corkhill

By Lucy Corkhill

01st August 2013

Lucy Corkhill

By Lucy Corkhill

01st August 2013

I was flabbergasted, and wanted to come up with something wise to say, but the conversation moved on to include us and I was left feeling I’d let my breastfeeding friend down by not standing up for her.

First off, in case you don’t read all of the following article, I want to start with urging you to watch this. More on this amazing spoken word poet later.

Fast forward a couple of years and I am in a café with the friend who didn’t like breastfeeding at the table. We both have children now, she has a daughter who is a couple of months old. And she is breastfeeding her. At the table. We never mentioned that conversation again, I’m guessing because she understood my shocked silence to convey I didn’t agree with her sentiments. And I’m happy that she has come to learn, through her own experience, that a baby breastfeeding at the table is perfectly normal and natural. But a thought did cross my mind: what if another person reacted in a hostile way to her breastfeeding as she once had? How would she feel? And it made me realise how important it is to educate everyone – not just people with children – about breastfeeding.

How do we sway public opinion about breastfeeding? It seems to me we need to flood the media with images, stories and articles about breastfeeding in much the same way the media is currently inundated with sexualised images of breasts. Okay, we might not have the influence of Rupert Murdoch, but the more breastfeeding is kept in the public eye, the more normalised it becomes. Those who are confident about breastfeeding do those who are less confident a huge favour by breastfeeding in public as often as they can.
World Breastfeeding Week runs from 1st to 7th August and this year’s theme is Breastfeeding Support: Close to Mothers. Taking into consideration the way urbanisation has changed where we derive breastfeeding support from, the week aims to raise awareness of who should be offering it. On the website, you can find the Five Circles of Support. With Women in the centre circle, there are five circles around them comprising: A Woman’s Family and Social Network; her Healthcare Systems; her Workplace and Employment; Government and Legislation and Response to Crisis and Emergency. Consistent, positive support is the key to a woman continuing to breastfeed. Though many women start off breastfeeding, a large proportion tail off in the following weeks and months. One of the most common reasons cited is lack of support from those closest to her. All those seemingly minor influences, from the partner who seems slightly embarrassed by public feeding, to the friends who make you feel uncomfortable, to the midwife who suggests formula might be an option, to the person across from you in the café who glares, to the family member who repeatedly asks you when you’re going to wean the baby – all these add up to a sense of alienation and loneliness. Eventually, many women succumb to the pressure and buy formula to feed their baby, rather than feel uncomfortable enjoying normal everyday life with their child.

That’s why performance poet Hollie McNish’s poem Embarrassed has struck a chord with so many women. Hollie spent the first six months of her daughter’s life feeding her in public toilets when they went out, rather than deal with the negative comments and verbal attacks. It was whilst her daughter slept on her lap in a public loo that she wrote this poem and I think you’ll agree it’s a pretty powerful piece of art. McNish has become a bit of a media sensation with this poem and rightly so. With people like her championing the right to do something so normal and natural – and the 1,950 comments (at the last count) mostly thanking her for verbalising such a deeply held frustration and sadness – it feels like there’s a bit of a revolution going on. Let’s help this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KiS8q_fifa0 reach as many people as possible as an important reminder that those sensationalising breastfeeding are the ones making money out of formula feeding.

And if you know of a mother who could use some support in continuing her breastfeeding journey, why not point her in the direction of the World Breastfeeding Week website. Make it your mission to raise as much consciousness as you can between 1st and 7th August, by talking, writing, and posting about breastfeeding in as many places as you can think of.

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