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.”
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.
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 Corp™ who 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.