Sunday, 6 October 2013

Why I'm not writing about National Breastfeeding Week

I've chosen not to partake in a blog march about National Breastfeeding Week this year, nor did I last year. The simple fact is that I'm "over" it. It's not a fad or a passing phase in my life, it IS my life. I've been breastfeeding continuously for a 7th of my life, 5 years and 3 months. It's like loading the dishwasher or brushing my teeth. It's a chore sometimes. It's non-negotiable, nobody's gonna do it for me, I'm not paid to do it, nobody thanks me for it. More notice is taken of my mac and cheese for God's sake.

And that's exactly how it should be. I should not be making a song and dance out of it. It should be as unremarkable as dressing my kids each morning,  as brushing their hair... and it is. Until I step outside my front door and have to wonder who's going to witness me breastfeeding my child, is what I'm wearing "discreet" enough,  can I stall my child until the vibe improves. .. this pisses me off no end.
You can say "get over it", " don't mind them", "ignore them" until the cows come home, but the reality is that I've been told off and insulted while breastfeeding my children. I've had looks and stares as if I have two heads. I've been laughed at, sniggered at and I've felt so uncomfortable on so many occasions I've been reduced to tears.
 I'm not even talking about breastfeeding a toddler or an older child, most of these encounters happened  while my kids were infants, under one year old. And the hostility came not just from strangers, but from family members too.

Ireland is not a welcoming place for breastfeeding mothers. There are fantastic voluntary groups doing amazing support for mothers, notably La Leche League, Cuidiu, and Friends of Breastfeeding. They are chipping away at a huge glacier of mistrust and disgust at the female body. I don't envy them. I could never do what they do. I could never answer my phone and give unjudgmental support to a mother who is trying to breastfeed despite being told by her family that she needn't/shouldn't/won't. I'd want to run round there and bash their heads together, then whisk her off to an island where boobs are honoured and babies are cherished and not put in their own rooms at one week old.

I can't cope with all that. It brings me to a horrible place where I feel like children are treated like second-class citizens,  their needs unvalued, their wishes unheard. When I go there I just want to run away, shut the door on all the ignorance and misinformation and sing "lalala" while I go about my merry business.

So National Breastfeeding Week will come and go again, the converted will preach to the converted . Possibly a few more mothers will feel more empowered, and then it'll be back to business as usual, pointing mums to a feeding room, increased use of nursing covers, and more and more formula ads on my tv.

It's sad, but this is how I feel. I've gone from "epiphany-trying-to-spread-the-word" mama to jaded mama in 5 years, beaten down by the mass-mentality of the general public. Meet me now and tell me your breastfeeding woes and I'll nod and commiserate, and accept that sometimes things just don't work out. I used to be the one proclaiming how things can be different, just read this article, trust in nature etc. This little corner of the internet and a couple of close friends are the last "safe" places for me and my nursing children. I am truly sick of being a breastfeeding mother in Ireland. Heck, even the supposed "safe haven" of an online breastfeeding support group turned nasty on my family so I left it. And my husband got kicked off it. Petty. Bitchy. That's the unfortunate reality.

So there you have it. I may have ruffled a few feathers with this post, but this is how I'm feeling at the moment, and I wanted to share it.

Nee x


  1. I'm sorry you are feeling like this... I've been breastfeeding for sixteen years, and have just had to wrap us in a mental security blanket and shut out what everyone else says or thinks. Hugs to you xxxx

    1. Thanks for the support Emily, wow 16 years is some achievement! Hope to meet you in real life someday as you are a real inspiration to me! X

  2. Ah, I do sympathize. I'm an extended bf'er, but I really don't know if I'd have done it in Ireland. Being away from friends and family, a "stranger in a strange land" gave me the freedom to blame whatever I was doing on being a "crazy foreigner", and I was the only one who knew that my native land was even more hostile to bf'ing than anywhere I might have been looked askance at in the States.

    As it happens I've never had a hostile comment anywhere, but I was always a lot more self-conscious and circumspect about bf'ing in public whenever we were in Ireland than I would be over here.

    Thank you for posting this. It's important to share the honesty.

  3. Niamh, it is understandable that you are jaded. And totally allowed. I just wanted to say that you do make a difference. Your appearance on TV inspired Aideen to start EBI. And it's because of EBI that I'm still feeding my now 21 month old. And there are literally hundreds of people in that group who are having better and more extended breastfeeding relationship because of that group. I wanted you to know that xxx

  4. I'm breastfeeding my 13 month old while reading this. I just try to ignore the bitchiness and stupidity of others (although it is hard at times) and remember that I'm doing what's best for MY daughter. Good for you for sticking it out...and England is just as crappy a place to breastfeed but hey, what can you do?

  5. Brilliant. I love the comparison to everyday household chores - as it should be though - a normal part of everyday life. Thanks for sharing.

  6. I'm a mum to a 5 month old and we've fed everywhere and I've never had any negative comments, sometimes quite the opposite. I adore our bond from feeding, I can see his face change when he sees me and how he's started pulling at my clothes and often 'helping himself' whenever he gets the chance.
    I agree, even in this short time it's just become part of our day and I can't see a time, yet, when we'll stop.

  7. What Office Mum said is amazing. What a testament to the power of one woman blogging.

  8. Hi Niamh, I too have been breast feeding for just on five years and felt isolated in this choice until I started reading your blog nearly two years ago. None of my Mum friends, who I mostly met at a breast feeding support group when my first daughter was a baby breast fed for longer than about a year. Most finished much earlier. I fell into continued breast feeding through finding what worked best for my baby and me and being lucky enough to meet people who has breast fed for longer than the supposed cut off point of six months and my eyes were opened. I was happy enough to go my own way but reading your blog showed me I was not the only continued breast feeder. What I love about your blog is your confidence in your choices and life style. After all it is perfectly natural and as it should be to breast feed for as long as you and your baby/child desire. It is as you say an everyday thing. No bigie. It is dreadful and sickening that others have knocked you. I preferred to be fairly incognito in my continued breast feeding and not to set myself up for debate as to how I fed my baby so I really admired your honesty and candour. Just wanted to let you know that your blog has meant a lot to me. Thanks.

  9. I agree. I think there are lots if us in the middle ground. I feed my three year old- so bloody what! I am glad to hear of friends and family choosing to bf but if they opt otherwise that's their choice- and I truly respect it. My aim regarding normalising bf is just to feed and talk about it when asked. I too have had bad experiences but hey more fool the eejit who needs to comment. I also think the pro bf/ anti formula stance can leave you feeling persecuted as a bf. I choose now to assume those disapproving looks are from people with other issues going on and I do my damnest not to take it personally


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