Wednesday, 9 May 2012

The Lesser Spotted Breast Feeder

Whenever I see a fellow breast feeder Out and About I do “the stare” and I throw in “the smile” for good measure.  But first I usually get the David Attenborough of spying breast feeding mothers, Mister Husband, elbowing me in the ribs to inform me he has found a Lesser Spotted Breast Feeder. We must make a right pair.  I love to see a teeny tiny newborn baby enjoying their breakfast/lunch.  It’s enough to put the yearning on me!  But it’s becoming increasingly rare to see anyone feeding their baby in public.  I know lots of us still do it, I’ve chatted to you, but it must all be under the cover of darkness.  Where are you all?   Are we a dying breed; reluctant to feed our older children in public because society might frown upon it?  I get that because I was that Lesser Spotted Breast Feeder some years back.  When Screecher Creature No. 1 reached toddlerhood I was reluctant to feed him in public.  I used to bring a bottle of expressed milk for him and keep the cosy, uninterrupted feeds for at home.  Similarly when he was but a babe in arms, the day arrived when I was about to feed him in public for the first time. Again, I was very nervous, on edge, waiting for someone to pass a negative comment.    I selected a seat in the corner of the room and sat with my back to everyone.  Mister Husband was with me and I looked down at my feet the entire time.  Even though I was discreet, I felt every eye in the room was on me.  Of course that wasn’t the case at all.  We were in a public place and I would be willing to bet that no-one noticed me at all.  Hardly anyone does unless they’re familiar with “the hold.”  I discovered this when I had a friend visit me and I happened to be nursing. As is normal for a newborn, he was enjoying a lengthy feed and remained latched on for the duration of the visit.  She wasn’t even aware that I was feeding him and it only occurred to me afterwards that she was dying for “a hold.”   Another time with another Screecher Creature, I was signing some legal documents and the solicitor almost gave himself whiplash, recoiling when he realised the boy was having his lunch.  He, the solicitor, had leaned across to hand me the writ and copped a discreet eyeful.  I did laugh a little.  Today I would not hesitate to feed Screecher Creature No. 4, who is 13 months old, in public if he wanted.   I just challenge anyone to come within spitting distance of me with either a negative comment or so much as a disproving look.  Mama bear will come out in full protective force and that person could very well feel the taste of my wrath. But it has been months since he nursed in public.  He is just too afraid he will miss anything and I kind of miss it.  See, I’m a lot more confident about breastfeeding in pubic now and I also know my rights.  It sounds crazy but there is actually a law in place to protect mothers who nurse in public and might have the misfortune to encounter another who is not so comfortable with this normal way of life.  The first time I heard about this law I was a little relieved to be honest.  In a crazy kind of way I was thankful to have something there to speak out for me in the event that I wouldn’t be able to myself.  But then the other part of me, the one that can see the bigger picture, was all, “What?  But that’s crazy?  Why would there be a law for nursing mothers?”  It’s there because, unfortunately, some women have had to defend their right to breastfeed in public.  I remember hearing of one lady being asked to stop nursing her baby in a swimming pool because, wait for it, there was no food or drink allowed on the pool side.  I kid you not.   There are two pieces of legislation that protect breastfeeding mothers from discrimination or harassment whilst breastfeeding; The Equal Status Act (2000) and The Intoxicating Liquor Act (2003).  In a nutshell, a mother can nurse her baby whenever and wherever she needs to and with this law on her side, she can have anyone who discriminates against her or harasses her for doing so, removed from the premises.  If she is not protected from this harassment by management of the establishment, they, the management, could find themselves with a date for a hearing at a District Court for failing to abide the law.  Unfortunately for some, this isn’t sufficient enough to make them comfortable about nursing in public.  It’s a pity but there are lots of people out there doing wonderful things and not shouting about it publicly.  I suppose breast feeding in the privacy of your own home is just an extension of that. 

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