Why I will not be staying at home to breastfeed my baby

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Dear Natali,

I read your article in The Independent today, and to say it made me angry is an understatement. I’ve watched the responses unfold on Twitter, both in support of and against your view that breastfeeding mothers should stay at home with their babies, and have found myself quivering with rage.

I imagine you thought, with public breastfeeding a hot topic in recent weeks, that it might be a handy way to garner publicity for your forthcoming novel.

And I’m sure you’d tell me to lighten up, to not take your words so seriously. You tweeted after all that your intention was to be ‘tongue in cheek’, to be funny.

The problem I have though is not only that your words contain only the barest hint of humour, but that also the issue of breastfeeding – public or otherwise – really is no laughing matter in this country.

I wonder if you stopped to think for a moment about the realities we are facing. That despite the NHS recommending exclusive breastfeeding for six months, only 1% of British babies are exclusively breastfed for that long (with only 34% still breastfed at all at that stage). Not forgetting the WHO recommendation that babies are breastfed for at least two years. I can count on one hand the amount of mothers I know who fall into this category, and I have no doubt many eyebrows would have been raised if I had been breastfeeding my (very well behaved) 23-month-old over afternoon tea at Claridges.

But I would have done, because I know my rights and I know what’s best for me and my son. I have, to date, breastfed him in a number of establishments you would I’m sure have denied us access to – backstage at gigs, fancy restaurants and yes, swanky hotels. I have yet to be challenged, and I hope if I was I would have the courage to stand my ground.

The thing is though that there are many, many mothers who would not feel the same way. Numerous women who would read your article and nod sadly, convinced that their desire to breastfeed their child is not compatible with any kind of social life, concerned that they would be subjected to the judgemental gaze and comments of people like you. I have come across many cases where it is precisely this that leads women to choose bottle over breast, leading them in turn to miss out on the myriad of physical and emotional benefits breastfeeding offers them and their baby.

You say that you are qualified to pass your judgement – indeed are an ‘expert’ – by dint of having once breastfed yourself, but that doesn’t wash I’m afraid. Much as homophobia is still unacceptable when it comes from the mouth of someone whose ‘best friends are gay’, you don’t get to tell breastfeeding mothers to stay at home just because that is where you felt most comfortable.

You refer derisively to the fact that the breastfeeding mother whose mistreatment you were responding to burst into tears when told to cover up by staff at Claridges. This surprised me, as surely being a mother of two yourself you remember the cauldron of hormones of the early months? Or maybe you don’t. Having read this and some of your other articles it’s clear that you practise detachment parenting almost religiously.

It’s sad, really. Almost a reason to feel sorry for you. Apart from the fact you’ve chosen to express your views so publicly in a supposedly respectable newspaper.

The Independent of course has a case to answer here too. In a society where bare breasts are fine as long as they’re being used to sell something and yet establishments from local cafes to world-class hotels openly discriminate against breastfeeding mothers despite this being against the law, it is a travesty that a newspaper that prides itself on its liberal views can give yours air.

But it is you whose words made me so very angry. On the blog you contribute to you proudly refer to yourself as a Selfish Mother. And sure, there are times when us mums need to put ourselves first. But to be so selfish as to advocate denying mothers the right to leave the house and to contribute to the incredibly damaging dialogue that denies women the freedom to choose the best start for their babies? That, I’m afraid, is a step too far.

Yours sincerely,

Sophie

Linking up with Sara at Mum Turned Mom for her prompt: ‘I read the news today…’

mumturnedmom

4 thoughts on “Why I will not be staying at home to breastfeed my baby

  1. maddy@writingbubble

    I wholeheartedly concur with you! I’ve seen the pictures on twitter and the mum was feeding her baby incredibly discretely. No customers had complained – I seriously doubt they had even noticed! I’ve breastfed all over the place without people even realising. You’re right, we need to support mums to feel confident to breastfeed, not suggest they should hide away at home! Breastfeeding mums should feel as confident as bottle-feeding mums to take their babies out and about. Well said Sophie! #theprompt

    Reply
  2. Sara (@mumturnedmom)

    I couldn’t agree more Sophie. I breastfed all three of mine, and I fed them wherever and whenever they needed to be fed. I’m fairly sure that most people never even noticed I was feeding them, a baby feeding looks very much like a sleepy baby snuggling! I saw the photos of the poor mum in question, and she was feeding so discretely. And, as you rightly point out, this discrimination is against the law! Well done for writing this post, more needs to be done to help mothers breastfeed, not make them feel that they shouldn’t. Thanks so much for sharing with #ThePrompt x

    Reply
  3. Mummy Tries

    Oh Sophie you already know I’m totally with you on this. It’s absolutely appalling that women (mothers!!) are making these sorts of public statements. That she claims to have breastfed herself makes the whole thing even more outrageous. Where’s the sisterhood solidarity?

    I didn’t realise that stats were so low, and only 1% of six month old babies are exclusively breastfed. Makes me proud to be a part of that percent. In fact i’m writing as my almost 10mo has his evening feed!

    Reply
  4. dadblogukJohn Adams

    Oh whow, I just had a read on that article in the Indy. That is quite a piece of work. As a stay at home dad, however, I possibly hold a few colourful opinions on this subject!

    Firstly women should breastfeed wherever they wish. By suggesting mum stays at home, you do very little to help FATHER and child bond. So dad is supposed to run all errands and leave mum at home? The family is not supposed to go out together because baby needs feeding? It’s a non-sensical suggestion that does little to help a family socilaise, bond and work together as a unit.

    Breastfeeding is a fascinating subject that men, for some unkown reason, never seem to comment on. The child is, after all, ours as well and we should have a say in how it/they are fed.

    I also come at this as a father of two kids who were (essentially for medical reasons) almost exclusively bottle fed. No, i didn’t have to get my breasts out in public but I have admistered many a bottle feed in public and felt very happy doing so. Not the same thing by any stretch but I always assumed I would get some grief for doing so but I’m pleased to say I never did (…aside from being told once or twice that I was “babysitting” which was charming).

    This then becomes an argument about sexism. Would I, as a bottle feeding dad, have been told by Claridge’s to put the bottle away? I wager not… #theprompt

    Reply

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