Keeping Abreast

So, there’s been this thing in the news (national and local) about a woman branded as ‘a tramp’ for breastfeeding in public. Her picture was taken and sent around social media, making her into a modern-day, one-woman Victorian-style freak show.

A local woman led a demo in support of this lady yesterday in County Durham (see this news article here: )

Read that? Great. Now, for your own amusement, read the comments as well. (I have come to the conclusion that the handful of people who comment on the Northern Echo news page – and there seem to be five or six regulars and not many others – are some of the nastiest, most unpleasant internet trolls I’ve ever seen: but that’s by the by. Let’s get back to the subject of breastfeeding).

So. Let’s say it again. Let’s break it down and analyse it.


Breast. Feeding. Feeding from a breast. Giving your infant the nutritional support he/she requires and which you can hopefully provide. It’s not a choice for all mothers, and despite the endless banging on about it by those who decree what is right and wrong in parenting, it’s most certainly the most traditional method of feeding your hungry baby. A personal word of advice though – find what works for you and don’t ever let anybody tell you that your choice is wrong.

So. It seems that, due to the blatant over-sexualisation of the female breast in our ‘enlightened’ world, the sight of a woman engaging in probably one of the most natural, healthy things in the world is enough to cause Outrage™.

It’s an interesting debate, isn’t it?

Most of us who have been, at some point in our lives, breastfeeding mothers, can tell you that it’s the most difficult thing in the world to be ‘caught short’ with a hungry baby when you’re out with them. It’s an even more difficult thing to find somewhere discrete to go to tend to that child’s needs. Especially as a new mother, struggling with a gazillion new things in your world.

In the days before they seemed to close every shop they had, Mothercare made great provision for nursing mothers. Many local public conveniences have ‘parent/baby rooms’ where you can go to feed/change your child in a slightly less uncomfortable space that being squashed into a toilet cubicle offers. But sometimes – just sometimes – you have no choice but to get on with the process where you happen to be.

And it’s entirely possible to be discrete. If you are, say, in a restaurant, you simply turn away from the rest of the room, or you drape a shawl or whatever over your shoulder to hide your unfortunately-exposed flesh from the world. The baby doesn’t care. It just wants food. The mother, more often than not, will be far more embarrassed than the people offended by the sight.

Mind you, most people who see a mother feeding have the common decency to not gawk. To give the poor woman the privacy she needs to deal with what is already an uncomfortable situation.

As with so many other things in the world, this sort of debate will always bring up the militants on both sides of the fence: the fiercely ‘pro-public breast’ and the vehement ‘anti-public breast’ brigades. Both of these groups need a lesson in how to communicate with each other. The ‘pro’ group need to listen to and respect the concerns of the ‘anti’ group. Meanwhile, the ‘anti’ group need to learn just what problems the ‘pro’ group are facing…

Wait. I’m talking about being sensible and logical, aren’t I? My mistake.

As you can probably tell, I support breastfeeding in public for the majority of considerate mothers. The people I do NOT support are the ones, as mentioned in the comments on that news thread, who make no effort whatsoever to be discrete and who do the breastfeeding equivalent of jumping up and down waving a sign that says LOOK AT ME DEFYING SOCIAL CONVENTION, AREN’T I DARING?

No, love, you’re just making it harder for the rest of us. Now cover up. You’re putting Mr. Average Citizen in the corner off his Ploughman’s.


8 thoughts on “Keeping Abreast

  1. Tony Lane says:

    I tend to try and live by a rare and controversial method of living called “Not being a selfish, ignorant and obnoxious piece of pond scum”. It isn’t easy at times. Like when the midwife reduced my wife to tears, or when people moan about people making loads of money out of housing benefits (they are not generally talking about the slumlords that actual make the money).

    Why is this even an issue? It isn’t a new thing. It is about as natural as you can get. It doesn’t hurt or damage anybody else. UNless of course you are ultra-conservative and believe a woman should not leave the home. In which case I might have to break my aforementioned way of living.

    Sorry, rant over.

  2. David says:

    I believe the classically trained English actors who have taken to reading YouTube comments aloud need to be directed to that page.

    As to the issue at hand: Shortly after my son was born, I stumbled into a “feed in” at the mall with roughly a hundred women breastfeeding at once, and after I got over the novelty it just looked like a lumpy shirt convention. If Miss McNeil possessed a light blanket I doubt many people would even notice what she was up to.

  3. I agree wholeheartedly, except for this little bit:
    “The ‘pro’ group need to listen to and respect the concerns of the ‘anti’ group. Meanwhile, the ‘anti’ group need to learn just what problems the ‘pro’ group are facing…”

    I’m going to boil my objection down to a simple point which I’m sure most people can understand: What is more distracting, annoying and so on? A squalling baby or a woman sat quietly whilst her child suckles?

    It’s the baby, isn’t it? That sound that goes through you like a hundred thousand razor blades, each dragging a hammer behind it.

  4. I honestly, truly want to understand why it’s an issue. I’m not trying to be obtuse.

    I’m not saying we should all be walking around with our wangs out (though even that was fine for a squillion years and it’s not like just seeing the naked body makes you a sexual mentalist, so whatever) but I think there’s a huge difference between breastfeeding and “Look at those big-ass titties”.

    Are streakers considered a similar threat to society, or still just harmless British nonsense? Is it just babies that don’t get to eat in public, or do I need to stop scarfing down Quavers? I do sex stuff with my mouth sometimes, so should I cover that up even though I just use it to talk most of the time?

    What, exactly (and without citing religiously-based societal constructs or anything as stupid as “it’s gross”) is the actual problem with breastfeeding in public?

    • Absolutely nothing – which is kind of my point. If anything, the publication of that poor woman’s picture on the internet is a gross invasion of her privacy and she should be able to legally punch the people who took it.

  5. What gets me is that the modern world seems to NEED something to Rage (TM) about. People seemingly WANT to feel indignant about someone else’s personal choice. So what if this lady chose to feed her child that way, what has it got to do at all with the casual onlooker… is it boobs? Let’s take a look through their Internet history and see if there’s anything possibly double-standard in there…..

    These people should try to live by the Bill & Ted mantra for cosmic fuzziness. “Be excellent to each other.”

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