Local mom Kim recently wrote to us to share her experience of breastfeeding in public in South Africa. We're sure it's one that many moms can relate to:
"First off, I have to say, given my initial breastfeeding experiences with my first child - difficulty latching, excruciating pain every feed despite everyone who is an ’expert’ telling me the latch was perfect, leading to having a breast abscess requiring surgery to drain a month in, and a later diagnosis of postpartum depression that was missed for more than a year - I never thought I’d ever end up responding to a breastfeeding article... but here we are.
My experience with breastfeeding with my second child was totally different. From the start, he latched on almost perfectly by himself, there were virtually no issues, and after his tongue-tie was corrected there was also no pain.
In comparison, while I barely managed to breastfeed my first child to a month, and severely damaged my mental health in doing so, a la un-diagnosed postpartum depression, I was able to breastfeed my second almost exclusively until four months, when he decided by himself that he was done.
Also read: There’s no question: moms are badass
But the most striking thing for me, of relevance to the referenced article, was my experience of the matter. With my first child, where I struggled majorly just with the basic mechanics of attempting a vague attempt of breastfeeding, I never considered attempting ‘public’ breastfeeding.
But with my second, maybe it was the decreased pressure and increased familiarity, having done it before, or just not struggling with breastfeeding, but I had no issue with breastfeeding in public with him.
No plain sailing
But it didn’t mean it was plain sailing as far as public breastfeeding went.
My second child was ten days old when I first attempted a ‘public’ breastfeeding session - latching him in the changing room of the family farm area we were visiting (that did not have a feeding room facility), and then calmly strolling back to our table with my son happily breastfeeding, while I had a light muslin blanket thrown over him and my shoulder to protect our modesty.
Given my experiences with attempting to breastfeed our first child, at the time I was just thrilled that I was able to cater for my second bubble without a problem. But I still received disapproving stares while sitting in the restaurant area and breastfeeding my newborn -even with the modesty blanket.
It wasn’t the fault of that particular restaurant, in my opinion. They did nothing that made me uncomfortable, beyond not having ideal facilities for breastfeeding. But time and again I encountered the same issue: where public facilities had a decent ‘feeding’ room, we managed our visits just fine.
But when there weren’t decent private feeding areas and I decided to feed my child in public - even with a feeding shawl thrown over him and my shoulder, I’d inevitably receive dark stares when I dared feed my son in the natural manner.
I think the difference for me, second time round, was that I was so thrilled to be able to properly breastfeed my child that I was more than willing to take the public’s disapproval. But as a first time mom, I would’ve been (and had been) absolutely crippled by the prospect.
Quite frankly, more family friendly facilities in restaurants and facilities would help immensely- and not just for moms but for dad’s too.
But also, in my opinion, a more visible display of a restaurant/public place’s breastfeeding policy would also help. In that manner, if the new mom could just direct attention to the policy board, it would ease a lot of pressure.
In a nutshell, the more open and appreciative the community is, the more supportive it will be for the broader community."
Was breastfeeding your baby as easy as you hoped it would be?
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