Maternity campaigner Jessica Ormerod responds to the UKIP leader’s statement that breastfeeding mothers ought to ‘sit in a corner’.
(Pictured above is Nigel Farage attempting to eat a bacon sandwich – a sight that is infinitely more troublesome than any mother breastfeeding their child.)
When did breastfeeding become such a sensitive issue? It’s not just Nigel Farage who gets a bit hot under the collar at the thought of a bare bosom let alone the thought of a naked nipple. I’m actually quite surprised by the UKIP leader’s prudism when he said that ‘mothers should sit in the corner when they breastfeed’ except that it fits in with a general societal assumption that breastfeeding is only acceptable if it’s not seen and definitely not heard.
And yet, around the globe, breastfeeding is the most common and the most healthy way for mothers to feed their offspring. It’s free at the point of delivery, clean at source and accessible any time, any where, any how. So what on earth is the problem?
Women are instructed by midwives, nurses, doctors, the NCT, that breast is best. FULL STOP. Failure to breastfeed your baby will result in your little bundle not achieving maximum intelligence, reduced emotional development, impaired language skills and, mummy, should you fiddle with the formula or bop with the bottle your place at your local playgroup will be as a social pariah. Get used to the disapproving glare of the motherhood masses.
Breastfeeding is no mean feat. No matter what they say, it is an art that doesn’t always come naturally and experienced support is thin on the ground. Women are given such incredibly differing and conflicting advice that many women cannot help but reach for the bottle as the cry of their baby is much louder than the tutting of the health profession.
So for the 26% of women who are still breastfeeding their young at six weeks you’d think society would give a hearty cheer of congratulations and welcome them to eat, drink and be merry. However, as it turns out, a hearty cheer is the last thing a woman can expect when nursing her new born in public. Despite the fact that most of the time even the most piercing glare won’t notice a baby suckling at the breast while mum chomps on a little dim sum, women are told that if they’re not discreet they will be sent to the loo to feed their baby or asked to don a napkin for fear that a little flesh might be glimpsed. What are people doing in restaurants? Why aren’t they concentrating on their expensive meals or engaged in frightfully absorbing conversation? Why are they looking at random women’s chests in the first place?
It’s very strange that in a country that still prints Page Three and abounds with nearly naked women from lads’ mags such as GQ to family shows like Strictly Come Dancing that we can’t cope with a mum, totally clothed with a baby lying prone across her body, with said baby’s head covering her breast. Even Facebook has got over its coy boycot of breastfeeding mothers. When are the rest of us going to manage it?