I had a really interesting morning at toddler group, today. My usual side-kick has gone back to work so Maya and I were flying solo. Time to make some new acquantences!
There’s a lady at the group, I have actually noticed in previous weeks, due to the fact she reminds me so much of my older sister. Doesn’t really strike you as a mum. Very glamorous! Full make-up, flowing, and might I add, perfectly highlighted, hair. I don’t know, just not quite as tired as rest of us. This one definitely looks after herself. Makes you slightly jealous. In a good way!
What’s her secret?
Where does she find the time?
Cue dreaming of days gone by, where you would spend a good hour, at least, pampering yourself every morning, not a care in the world.
Anyway, I noticed her again, once more, today. She was trying to settle a crying baby in a car seat, in the corner of the room. I couldn’t help but sneak a few looks and I noticed, what looked like, a bit of cry-it-out session, going on. I wondered, why? – Not in a judgmental way. Becoming a mother has made me realise you never know what is going on in someone else’s life. But, in a genuinely curious way.
She’s right there, I thought. It’s a playgroup. I wonder why she’s trying to keep him in the car seat? Perhaps, it’s nap time?
The crying got pretty bad and the lady just kept holding him down, as he tried to wriggle his way out. I really couldn’t watch it. The sound of a baby crying, goes straight through me and makes me feel a bit sick. So, I left the area and moved over to the forming circle of mums and little people, in preparation for Song Time.
Just as we sat down, Maya began tapping my boobs and whining, so I got comfortable and started nursing.
Just as we had started, the lady and the baby came and sat next to us. “Don’t mind me! Just keep doing what you’re doing!” I laughed and thanked her, as she moved her chair out of my way, noticing she was now cuddling a very distraught little boy.
“He’s not mine, he’s a friends.”, she said. “She’s trying to get him off the boob so, I’m helping her out. He’s 8 months old. He doesn’t need it anymore, he just uses her for comfort, he’s not getting anything from it.”
It blew me away.
I couldn’t believe this person had just sat next to me. My heart started to race a little.
I’ve prepared myself for this for a long time, meeting someone who knew so little about breastfeeding, yet felt compelled to voice such a strong opinion on it.
Having only just met her, I didn’t feel I could correct her, just yet.
Of course, he would still be getting something! Human milk doesn’t just stop being nutritious because a baby is over 6 months. I mean, what would it be replaced with, formula? Cows milk? Of course, if dried-up cows milk is nutritious, then human milk most certainly still is!
I stayed quiet, though. Gave her a half smile. Enough to be friendly but not too much. I didn’t want her to think I agreed with her.
Song time pursued and after joining in for 5 minutes, Maya wanted more milk but a few minutes into feeding, everyone started singing her favourite song, “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands!” At that, she popped off and shot up, with a huge grin on her face and began clapping her hands. The lady tossed her hair back, laughed and said, “She prefers the music to the boob!” I laughed again, nodded, smiled. Trying to work her out. Was that friendly or a dig at breastfeeding? Am I being paranoid, here?
On the one hand, I love people who are relaxed about me breastfeeding. On the other hand, it was clear she knew very little about it and had some judgements of her own. I know this type of person and I prayed she wasn’t about to fit the stereotype.
Song time ended and off we went to play again. I noticed the baby boy’s mum had returned. She was walking and hugging him tight. She looked very stressed!
I wanted to go over and offer my sympathy and support. Perhaps, some advice. I could tell her about the Breast Buddies group on Facebook, I thought, and she could get tonnes of advice on gentle-weaning strategies and maybe, then, she wouldn’t be so stressed.
I almost went over but stopped. What if she thinks it’s none of my business? What if the other lady shouldn’t have been telling me what she was doing? I thought it best to leave it.
I regret that now.
We enjoyed snack time and before you know it, we bumped into each other again. I looked for her friend with the baby but they were no where to be seen so, I asked her, did she know if her friend was in the Breast Buddies group?
She wasn’t sure so, I explained, it was full of women who could give her some great tips and that weaning didn’t have to be all or nothing. She could offer expressed milk or formula, along with food during the day and still offer the breast on a morning and at bed time. This might make the transition less stressful for the baby and for mum to endure the crying. There are also options to give milk in a cup, if he won’t take a bottle, I went on. I asked her to pass on the name of the group, as well as my name and if I see a post from her, I will link her up to some good articles.
She seemed thankful for my advice and promised to pass on the information.
Proud moment. I did good, I thought. I was just about to go about my day with that good feeling that changes everything when you’ve done a good deed, when out of no where, there it was. A plethora of breastfeeding myths and criticisms, rolled off her tongue one by one.
“I’m all for breastfeeding but there’s a way to do it discreetly..”, “Some women do it just so they can get their boobs out.” I was quick to defend this one and said I don’t think anyone ever breastfeeds a baby just so they can get their boobs out. However, she was quite persistent and proceeded to explain she once seen one, in the shopping centre. “…and you should have seen the size of the kid, at least 2!”
So, I’m stood here thinking, I’ve waited for this moment, say something clever, tell her about the World Health Organisation and that they recommend feeding until 2 and beyond! Tell her!
I managed to push out that feeding until 2 or 3 is quite normal. Disappointing stuff.
I fake smiled and pretty much gave up on trying to convince her. I just didn’t know where to start and figured it would take more than a few minutes to educate this lady on the truth. So, I just reminded her to pass on my message, smiled and said goodbye.
To be fair, she was very honest and I appreciated her honesty. I didn’t, personally, feel offended by her opinions on breastfeeders. I’ve heard it all before, mainly in the comments section of breastfeeding articles, online. However, this lady represents a much bigger problem. It is seemingly harmless comments, like hers, that can destroy a mother’s breastfeeding relationship.
Critisisms like “he doesn’t need it” or “he is using her for comfort”, suggests there is something wrong with a baby breastfeeding for comfort. Actually, it’s a very normal and natural thing and not only do I love that side of it but once they’re older, you get to use it as a great parenting tool! It’s literally the answer to everything. Anytime Maya falls and bumps herself, I get the boob out. Teething? Boob. Sick? Boob. Upset? Boob. You see where I’m going with this…
Yes, some women use breastfeeding as a means to provide their child with the comfort they seek from their mother. Much like a hug, a feed can provide security and help the child to feel loved and cared for. Very important to a child’s emotional development. Would you deny a child a hug?
So, that was the last I seen of her. I tried to forget about it and carried on playing with Maya. We were just about to start getting ready to go, when a lady behind me exclaimed just how beautiful Maya was!
We got chatting and as it turns out, I had managed to park myself next to the other breastfeeders in town. I suddenly felt at home!
What lovely, ladies they were. We got chatting about breastfeeding and how there really isn’t enough support for those mums who really want to, but struggle and that many end up left, feeling failed and guilty that they didn’t do a good enough job or are now unable to nourish their baby with their own breasts.
Another mum interrupted at this point and explained that is exactly what happened to her and that she had failed to breastfeed. We all piped up straight away and told her she didn’t ‘fail’ she was failed by the people that were supposed to help her.
The conversation really lifted my spirits and reminded me that while there are still some uneducated people out there, contributing to the discrimination women face for breastfeeding, there are also the people like us. The ones who will never judge a mum on her decisions with feeding her baby, who will never throw such strong, uneducated opinions at vulnerable mums, looking for help and support and who will always offer ideas for gentle methods and give their support to a mum-in-need.
Keep up the good work you people! It’s working. One boob at a time.
And if you’re reading this, mum, please get in touch. I’d love to chat! 😊
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