Nursing in public and the Breastfeeding Pyramid Scheme

I can’t help but be a little riveted by little Prince George and his mama, Kate Middleton (oh, it isn’t Middleton anymore is it? She obviously didn’t read my post about women changing their surnames. HUH. I think she is now Kate Wales or something? *confused face*) You can probably tell my interest isn’t about the royal thing (I don’t dig everything a monarchy means for the chances of ever reaching equality) or even a celebrity thing. I think (I hope!) it is just the interest in the story of a new mother and a freshly minted person, and a throbbing pity I feel for them having to do it all so publicly.

I have been puzzling over something I read about her choice to breastfeed. This is brilliant, but the article went on with a royal aide – that is, that man in the same Facebook group as the woman whose cousin walks the Corgies-  saying “But don’t expect Kate to be photographed breastfeeding. She doesn’t want to be a pin-up for the breastfeeding lobby.”

Well!

There are two things that have been flicking around in my head since reading this, like a pair of ping-pong bats swatting around a ball of breastfeeding. The first is: A breastfeeding lobby? Really? What is with people so happily projecting breastfeeders as a well-funded band of propagandists? They can only be talking about breastfeeding mothers as I look around and don’t really see many health professionals or organisations banging on about it. In fact, it has been Doctors and Midwives and Health Visitors who have been the LEAST encouraging about breastfeeding my daughter beyond 6 months (you can read about that here.)

It is much touted sentiment. Someone complained to me of “militant breastfeeders” the other day. Just because mothers chose to breastfeed in public doesn’t make them “militant.” There is nothing militant about breastfeeding. It is the opposite of aggression. It is gentle touch. Loving nurture. The most nutritious cuddle. Adoration in milk form.

Actually we do have quite an aggressive lactating lady living locally. She approaches people, gets lary and then squirts her milk in their faces. It’s not an urban legend, I swear; it happened to my friend Mel outside McDonalds.

But for the most part it really is rare to use one’s boobies as weapons of not-so mass destruction.

Breastfeeders aren’t militant. They aren’t a lobby. Nursing in public should be no one’s issue apart from the mother’s- whose problems; her soaking through milky shirt, her baby nursing upside down whilst singing Wheels on the Bus, her uneven- one-empty-one-engorged breasts, are all her own.

But then. But THEN. Mothers who nurse in public are a lobby or sorts. And here we get to my second ping-pong bat that arose from Kate’s non-mate talking in the above rag.

I was at the outdoor pool a couple of weeks ago, nursing Juno, as I mostly am. Someone passed me and said “Fantastic breastfeeding! You are a picture of summertime motherhood!”

You see, we don’t need a “pin-up girl for breastfeeding” – every nursing mother is one. We are our own ambassadors by simply being out and about, nurturing our tinies and not-that-tines in front of people.

Lobbyists influence decision makers. They create change. And I am convinced that every mother who shrugs off embarrassment and nurses her child in public makes it more possible for other mothers to do so. One nursing mother helps ten other mothers, in a kind of beautiful breastfeeding pyramid scheme.

(It might not be one to ten as I just made this concept up. Number schnumbers. I’m terrible at always forgetting actual facts and plucking them out of the air instead and only my husband calls me out on it. “Chocolate provides 76% of the minerals we need? Lucy, are you sure about that?”)

It was spending time with brave mothers and their unshy breasts that heralded my own promotion from nursing-in-a-smelly-alleyway-to-get-away-from-staring-eyeballs novice to Top Agent in Normalising Breastfeeding Corpwho is happy to brazenly whip them out at the lido.

(Hehehe. Did you just google that company? It’s an enterprise I’m working on, ooh yeah, another kind of pyramid scheme thingy… the babies all pay 50p to nurse, no, erm… the people who get offended by breastfeeding have to pay ten people 50p… er.. GAH. I don’t think Dragon’s Den will go for this one.)

Nursing in a public space and Instagramming / Facebooking our beautiful breastfeeding experience isn’t a violent campaign to make people feel uncomfortable or bad. But it is a movement of mothers who know that breastfeeding is not a thing to hide and who will make it easier for new mums to enter their gentle breastfeeding relationship without shame and with ease.

We don’t need Kate to be a pin-up girl as it is the daily collective experience of breastfeeding that will create the change our babies need.

And if Kate does feel able to nurse while out an about as a result of mothers trying to normalise breastfeeding then we’ll end up with a high profile President of Normalising Breastfeeding Corp after all, but mostly it’ll be little George who will feel all the benefits of that wonder-milk on tap.

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19 Responses to Nursing in public and the Breastfeeding Pyramid Scheme

  1. VicG says:

    The thing I fould interesting about the said article by Kate’s non-mate was the wording: Catherine has chosen to feed George naturally rather than by bottle!

  2. Sammy says:

    Awesome! Love it! Brought back memories of breast feeding zac … and the facination I had with the distance I could actually squirt my milk … one side of the room to the other … booyah! Have to confess at times I did use it as a weapon against husband! Sad to hear that health professionals aren’t supportive of it over there.

  3. Dummy Mummy says:

    Ooh you clever lady you summed up, extremely eloquently and wittily, my thoughts on this! I’ve long been confused by the use of such harsh terms like ‘breastfeeding Nazi’ ‘mafia’ ‘bullies’ etc to describe a most natural, nurturing act. I feel it says much more about those who use those terms than those who partake in the act of breastfeeding. Although, this then reflects back on society in which Public Breastfeeders are very much in the minority.
    I have to say I have squirted milk at random strangers on several occasions, but never in rage, only ever by a distract small person leaving the boob at the point of rapid let-down!
    And yes, poor Kate, the most wonderful yet difficult and confusing time of her life, spread all over the media for the entire world to share. Hopefully there is a royal lactation consultant on speed dial should she need it!
    Dummy Mummy recently posted…The Last Month (Mainly) In PicturesMy Profile

  4. Louise says:

    I suspect that Kate just wants to be a mum first and foremost like the rest of us :-) It’s got to be hard for her as I’m sure it’s abundantly clear that every mothering move she makes is being analysed and scrutinised. Shame that she can’t just be left in peace. After all what is she going to do if she finds herself out and about with George and he really needs to nurse?? I guess she can’t lock herself away for the next however many months/years, can she?
    Louise recently posted…Back to school – Oliver & S School Days JacketMy Profile

  5. Lyndsay says:

    Great job Mama! Love the nursing pics. So sweet. :)
    I think it is great that Kate is nursing her little one, but do not blame her for wanting her privacy. ;)
    I nursed all three of mine for at least a year. A year was my personal goal, then I let them wean on their own after that. They all ranged anywhere from 14-20 months.
    I think back on that time fondly. Enjoy your time.

  6. Janine says:

    Yeah, I don’t get it when people say breastfeeding advocates have some agenda. Um, the agenda for healthy babies? Formula companies stand to make millions while BF advocates are usually not paid at all.

    I hope Kate gets her privacy, although I doubt that will happen. As for royalty, I hate that crap too. They are just a (maybe?) classier version of the Kardashians as far as I’m concerned.
    Janine recently posted…10 Tips for a Smoother New Sibling TransitionMy Profile

  7. I hate the way that anyone mother who chooses to breastfeed is labelled as ‘mafia’ or like you said ‘militant’. I totally get it’s a choice but it seems that a lot of people don’t feel happy about their decision to bottlefeed and therefore feel bad when people are positive about breastfeeding. It makes them feel guilty so they focus on getting angry with the breastfeeders instead of dealing with their own issues. And it’s true what you said, the more people feed in public, the more women who will see and feel confident doing it themselves. It’s a choice and that’s fine but I’m not gonna lie, I don’t know how I would parent without breastfeeding! I mean it solves ALL problems!! x
    Mum2BabyInsomniac recently posted…Fairy Wands And YoghurtMy Profile

  8. It really is odd how the onus has become on breastfeeders to justify their existence and public practice, rather than on everyone else to justify why on earth they would object to something that is the epitome of ‘natural’. Sigh.

    Thank you for the gorgeous photos, for your ongoing advocacy and this hilarious post. Many giggles.

    Someone on my fb page asks where you got the green stripy singlet, but I’m guessing it’s a charity shop in the UK, so not much use to her in Dunedin!
    Thalia Kehoe Rowden recently posted…Talking about Baby Loss: Stephanie’s Story [Guest]My Profile

  9. Just to throw something into the mix – i did find that I felt immense pressure from health officials to breast feed. I stopped early on and one midwife literally had me in tears for swapping to a bottle. That said, I think that the pressure I felt is a separate issue from breast feeding in public. I did this in the first few weeks -never had a problem and love to see it too. Anyone with an issue about public breastfeeding needs a kick up the bum if you ask me! however, I was sad that some friend’s response when I went to bottle was “oh no! What a shame” etc etc. A shame my baby is fed and loved? Eh? I wish mums would give each other a break in general with the whole feeding thing. X
    Waterbirthplease recently posted…Blog On.My Profile

  10. This is lovely–and echoes my sentiments exactly! Every breastfeeding momma IS a pinup for breastfeeding! And a much-needed one!

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