A NI mum has shared top tips on how to breastfeed in public as part of World Breastfeeding Week.
The celebration runs from August 1 to August 7 every year to generate public awareness and support for breastfeeding.
Mum-of-two Ruth, Founder of Boobingit, had two very different journeys while breastfeeding both of her children which made her decide to be a breastfeeding peer supporter.
When the pandemic hit, she wanted to do more to support new mothers who are learning to breastfeed as most face-to-face support was taken away – starting her online platform and writing a book.
The Belfast mum told Be : *It can be so hard, especially when it is your first baby and you just do not have a clue. We are more accustomed to seeing babies being formula fed and bottle fed than we are to breastfeeding these days. Decades of formula use means that breastfeeding awareness and knowledge has been eroded.
“A lot of us don’t grow up to see our mother or our grandmother breastfeed. That’s why peer support and any type of breastfeeding support is so important these days.”
Ruth with her two kids
Ruth shared some tips from breastfeeding mothers on how to feed in public with confidence.
- “Look for the ‘Breastfeeding Welcome Here’ sign in the early days – that’s what I did because I was initially very hesitant about feeding in public. Knowing that a venue actively encouraged breastfeeding made me feel more confident.”
- “Take a friend if need be and fake the confidence ‘til you make it. I have fed for 36 months in total and I have never had any negative comments from anyone.”
- “Focus on your baby rather than the people around you. The baby will feel your calm and relax as well.”
- “Once you get the first time down you are fine. I tried a cover but it was awkward and I feel drew more attention to me. With the right clothing, it can look like your just cuddling your wee one.”
- “I found the big muslins to be very good at the start when I was more self-conscious about feeding in public. I preferred to use muslins as they were nice and light so didn’t overheat baby but still covered me well.”
- “Get a cover if it makes you feel better. I didn’t have any issues BFing in public but preferred to have the privacy of a cover.”
- “I’m very large chested so found it difficult at the start to latch baby discreetly. Someone told me to roll up a muslin and put it under the breast to help position baby which really helped.”
- “The Can I Breastfeed In It? group is a godsend. Thanks to the group I discovered the discreet one top over and one top under method and have been using it since.”
- “I found if people looked, I would just smile back, showing that I am comfortable, therefore there’s no reason they shouldn’t be.”
- “Just do it! I was so self-conscious at first but the more I did it the more I stopped caring and I generally found most people I came into contact with were supportive of feeding in public.”
Ruth also said how important it is to have a week dedicated to breastfeeding awareness.
“If you are not in that breastfeeding sphere, you don’t really hear about it. It is so big that I think other people beyond new parents hear about it. It’s so important to get the breastfeeding message out to wider society, to the likes of the older generation as well so that they know how to support people.
“A lot of new mums aren’t getting that support from family members and wider society…. that’s where the fear element comes from.
“It’s not just about [breastfeeding] in public, it’s in your own home, it’s breastfeeding in front of your parents or in-laws.
“At the end of the day, what’s most important is that you are feeding your baby. You cannot decide when your baby needs fed.
“The more people see people breastfeeding, the more normal it is, the more it becomes accepted. It’s crazy we have to even talk about this as it is the most natural thing in the world,” she told Be.
The breastfeeding peer supporter also revealed things some mothers have had said to them whilst breastfeeding, that you should “never say”.
- “Don’t let the baby use you as a soother”
- “Your nipples aren’t long enough”
- “Don’t bother breastfeeding if you’re in pain”
- “You had a c-section, your milk won’t come in for ages”
- “You’ll never be able to feed a baby that size”
- “Oh he’s feeding AGAIN? You’ll make a rod for your own back”
- “Don’t feed him every time he cries”
- “If you formula feed, other people will be able to help you”
- “Cluster feeding means they aren’t getting enough”
- “You need to get them on a feeding schedule as soon as possible”
- “Give him a bottle of formula before bed and he’ll definitely sleep through.”
- “Oh you can’t pump much, must have low supply”
- “Stop now, you’ve done your bit”
- “You’ll have to stop when he gets teeth”
- “There’s no nutritional benefit of breast milk once baby starts solids”
- “Breastfeeding past one is more for the mum than the baby”
- “When are you going to stop?”
Ruth advises to try to be positive, supportive and helpful and says a few kind words can go a long way.