The Crunchy Mum
Breastfeeding in public
Being a crunchy mum, I was determined from the start to breastfeed Nathan for as long as possible. It’s been quite a journey and I’m proud to say that it’s now been 8 months and I’m still going strong. However as I pause to reflect on my breastfeeding journey, there have been some struggles and difficulties I had to learn to deal with in the early days – one of which is learning to nurse on the go or in public.
I think all new mums feel a little uncomfortable and intimidated with nursing in public at first. I myself was very self conscious in those early days especially since I was still generally new at the whole breastfeeding thing and still learning to latch baby on and hold him comfortably as I nursed.
I believe Australian society is generally quite accepting about mothers nursing their babies in public (as long as they are sensible and respectful in the way they do it, of course). Unfortunately I did encounter one bad experience that shook my confidence quite a bit…
Nathan was just around 2 months old at that time. I decided to venture outside with him to run some errands and do some shopping. We were inside a major departmental store when Nathan started to fuss. I knew it was close to his next feeding time so I looked around for a parent’s room or a place where I could nurse him. I asked one of the staff members for help and she directed me to their “parent’s room” which actually turned out to be a disabled toilet which had a change table attached to one of the walls. Needless to say, I walked straight back out.
Being a weekday morning, the place was not busy at all, so I decided to ask if I could use one of their changing rooms instead. The response I got was “no you can’t do that for hygienic reasons”. I was taken aback. Hygienic reasons? Is breastfeeding supposed to be some kind of disgusting act? So I asked her what I should do since my son was hungry and I needed to feed him so I could continue shopping at their store. The staff member told me to try somewhere else and suggested another departmental store located just down the street.
You can imagine my embarrassment. But I decided not to create scene and walked out. However after my burning cheeks cooled down and I was able to think clearly, I knew that it was wrong of the staff member to treat me that way. When I got home, I wrote an email to that departmental store via the feedback page on their website. I never received a response from them until now but I decided not to pursue the matter.
Although the experience shook me a little, I have not allowed it to hold me back. If you are a new mum, I hope you never have to go through the same experience as I did. But rest assured, you can breastfeed in public – really you can, as federal laws have now made it illegal to discriminate against breastfeeding mothers. Nevertheless, I doubt most women want to be that angry mum making a scene loudly demanding her right to feed her baby whilst citing the Federal Sex Discrimination Act. So if you do encounter such an experience, do not allow it to discourage you.
Since that incident, I don’t visit that store anymore. Perhaps my one email was not enough to make a difference to them and perhaps a single customer’s patronage can’t make that much of an impact on their business. However I just thought I’d rather not visit a store that doesn’t have the facilities and support for a breastfeeding mother like me.
Thankfully that was the one and only really bad experience I've had with breastfeeding in public. I'm glad to say that most Australians are very understanding, supportive and sensible people. So if you're a nursing mother don't stay cooped up at home but get out there with your baby - here are some tips on nursing in public to get you started.
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