One of the BEST things that can happen to a human baby is that it's mother manages to breastfeed it. Despite plummeting breastfeeding rates, some women manage to overcome the obstacles and ignore the naysayers and people giving detrimental advice and actually feed their baby from their breast as nature intended.
Now politics aside, because I know this topic gets heated, let me say that I have nothing but love for mothers who did not manage to breastfeed. I know how hard it is and I know how impossible it can be to fight off all the stupidity surrounding breastfeeding and get the right support you need to do it. For those who made the call not to try, I have no right to question their motives. But this post is also for those mothers. If we were more inclined as a society to support breastfeeding, those mothers would mostly have succeeded in their efforts. If more people applauded breastfeeding, maybe those who had no desire to do so would not have developed any bias against it.
What I am writing about today is the IRE that fills me every time I hear of a woman being asked to feed their baby elsewhere. Today that ire has been invoked by a kiddies restaurant franchise which has branches countrywide, that has in two of their branches in recent months, asked women to leave or feed in the toilet. These are restaurants that market themselves AT parents with young kids and provide play areas and kiddie themed menus, that advertise images of their restaurants as safe and fun spaces filled with kids of all ages.
But then when said parents come in, with children, young, dependent, hungry children, they are told "oh no, that child can't eat in public, go to the toilets please."
I am just gobsmacked. How is it in this day and age there are still cretins out there who think it's sanitary to send a woman with a small baby into a germ infested toilet to feed it? What if she has older children? Should she leave them playing unsupervised or should she take her whole family into the stall with her? What about her food? Should she leave it to congeal on her plate. What right do these people have to shame her for feeding her baby? Especially as they have gone out of their way to attract these customers to their restaurant. It's a slap in the face. If CHILDREN FRIENDLY restaurants still think it's okay to marginalise new mothers and discriminate against tiny children then this society has some very serious problems.
What we need is MORE breastfeeding, not less. Not shaming mothers for doing the very best for their kids. When i was asked (in a "child friendly" restaurant no less) to go to the back room to feed my 8 month old baby 6 years ago my first reaction was incredulity, my next was crushing shame. It took all my courage to feed my baby the next time I was out in public. I was lucky, I was supported by an amazing network of family, friends and midwife, all of whom were cheering me on and telling me that I was not the one in the wrong. That I was doing the right thing. That breastfeeding is good, it's amazing, it's incredible. That we should NOT be marginalised by a society steeped in Victorian prudery around womens bodies. We should not have to leave the room like naughty children doing something shameful. We should not have to cover our babies up while they eat. we should not have to feel any shame about doing what we all know is the best thing for our children.
If more women fed without any self consciousness in public we would start to see that it is simply a baby eating. It's not sex, it's not urination or defecation, it is a child getting the best possible start in life. You were a baby once. Have some bloody compassion.
Edit: The restaurant chain in question, Spur Steakranches, replied to my queries on their breastfeeding policy with this -
Thank you for your email.
I will be away on leave from tomorrow until the 12 January 2015. Upon my return I will address your concerns with our Regional Managers around the country. We don’t have a “formal” policy as there has never been a need to put a policy in place to govern the feeding of babies in-store.
I will be in touch with you during the 12 – 16 January 2015 to provide more feedback.
Have a happy and safe festive season,