You know the ones I mean. A woman is breastfeeding her baby when an ignorant stranger starts to harass her and try to make her feel uncomfortable, then a wonderful, kind person steps in to come to her defense and save the day. These kind of posts quickly go viral on mums groups and then in the comments below are hundreds of other people telling their similar stories. Don’t get me wrong, it must be horrible to have something like this happen to you and I get that you would want to vent and get it off your chest but I really think that reading all these horror stories can have such a damaging effect for breastfeeding mothers, particularly those who are just starting out.
When I was new to breastfeeding, I would read all these stories, feeling like I was arming myself with the knowledge of how to cope if I was ever in a similar situation. I felt riled up to confront anyone who confronted me for feeding my baby. But it also made me feel that it was really likely to happen. When you see all these people telling their stories you can begin to feel like it is the norm, that every breastfeeding mother will at some point receive abuse from an stranger or dirty looks from a group of old men.
But in reality, they are the minority. The majority of us go about breastfeeding our babies in peace. I’ve been breastfeeding for 9 months, and feeding in public for around 7 months and I can honestly say I have never had a negative reaction. I’ve breastfed in pubs, restaurants, parks, a church, basically anywhere! Most people won’t notice what you are doing, those that do probably won’t acknowledge what you are doing, and those that do acknowledge you are most likely to give you a knowing smile or a nod of approval.
These stories are often shared with the focus on the people that come to the defence of the breastfeeding woman. These people are amazing and should be celebrated, but I don’t think that sharing these stories has a positive effect on breastfeeding as a whole. They make you believe that you are likely to have a negative experience and therefore are more likely to hide away at home or in public toilets rather than risk this humiliation. This isn’t true, you are so unlikely to have a negative experience it’s not even worth giving it any thought. They have the opposite effect to the ‘normalise breastfeeding’ movement, and so that is why I have stopped paying any attention to them and I hope that anyone reading this will too.