Does Brisbane celebrate or condemn mothers who breastfeed their children in public? Here, Brisbane mothers share their stories with us and set the record straight.
Breastfeeding in public is in act engulfed in controversy.
It shouldn’t be,of course, because goodness knows we all need to eat and breastfeeding is the way many babies get their nourishment. Yet there are still a large number of mothers who have faced everything from verbal abuse to vicious stares while feeding their children in public.
Thankfully it’s not all dark clouds and wrath, however, because for every pointed comment and withering stare, there are acts of solidarity and kind words of encouragement. In fact, the latest public figure to come out swinging in support of public breast feeding is none other than the reigning pope of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis.
On the weekend, Pope Francis celebrated the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord by baptising 33 babies in the Sistine Chapel. During the mass, the Catholic leader encouraged the infants’ mothers to breastfeed their babies.
“You mothers give your children milk and even now, if they cry because they are hungry, breastfeed them, don’t worry,” Pope Francis declared in his homily, which made news around the world.
Social media giant Facebook has come under fire for removing breastfeeding photos and there are many instances of women, both throughout Australia and across the world, being asked to leave establishments due to breatfeeding. So, with that in mind, how does Brisbane stack up against other cities when it comes to supporting a mother’s right to publicly breastfeed?
We spoke to mothers from every corner of Brisbane, who shared with us their own experiences. The good, the bad… and the ugly.
Laetitia Coles, mother to Sasha, nine, and Oliver, seven
“At a cafe with my newborn, another mum with older kids came up and said to me how awesome it was to see me feeding in public. She then started militantly ranting about how important it is for me to continue to do this in public because there are “too many women” bottle feeding.
“Then, at another cafe with my second child, hubby and I were having a coffee and I was feeding my bub and an older lady came up to me (with her husband standing awkwardly in the background) and said rather loudly ‘don’t you think you’d be more comfortable doing that in the feeding room or at home?’. The feeding room at this Indroopilly shopping centre seriously smelled like wee and old nappies. For real. I blank stared her and didn’t speak.
“My husband said ‘I think you should leave my wife alone thanks’. She huffed, turned and left. Very awkward situation. I laugh now but then I felt kind of winded. I mean, I take my kids to the newsagent and they are fully pummeled by tits and arses on the covers of magazines. I’d be more comfortable if they sold that stuff in a toilet away from my vision.”
Belinda White, mother to Sara 12, Jorja 10, Talen 5 and Alexia 3
“When I had my first, I was only 18, and breastfeeding was difficult. I was in the eatery of our local shops, with a blanket over my shoulder and bub, trying to get her to latch. A man at a table in front if me said, in a fairly aggressive tone, ‘why don’t you go do that in the toilets no one out here wants to see you do that! You couldn’t see anything, except my hands and bub moving under a blanket.
“It shattered my already wavering confidence. I had my mother with me and she saw my reaction. I was having a hard time adjusting to parenthood as it was let alone having this stranger have a go at me. She replied as loud as she reasonably could. ‘Well my granddaughter is hungry and she will eat her food out here like every other person. If you don’t like it then you take your lunch and go sit on the toilet and eat it.’
The man became quite embarrassed and left. We then had women come up and congratulating mum for what she said and myself for being brave enough to feed in public. Four children later and I can say I successfully breastfed each one in public, without altercation again.”
Myjanne Jensen, mother of Audrey, two
“I’ve never had any negative experiences, although I have at times had people look briefly.But, it’s never made me feel uncomfortable. I’ve always used a sheet to cover myself. Not so much because I’m worried about offending others, but more because I’m shy and I don’t really want to flash everyone my boob.
“Audrey has just turned two-years-old and I actually still breastfeed her. Sometimes people act a bit surprise that I still feed her, but then everyone says how cool it is that I’m still doing it.I definitely haven’t had any negative experiences regarding my choice to continue to breastfeed. I didn’t think I would still be breastfeeding her at this age but she really loves it and it doesn’t look like she wants to stop any time soon. I’m therefore hoping at some point she will wean herself without me having to force her because I tried that once (just because I’m a bit over it) and she was very upset for days so it wasn’t worth it.”
Diana Kircher, mother of Chanel, ten
“I was a new mum at 24 and I needed to go to church. I hadn’t been to church in years and I was in an emotional place whereby I felt that I needed to go to church.
“I went to this church in Mount Gravatt and I breast fed discreetly at the back of the service. Afterwards the old priest referred me to another church and tried to say ‘oh that will help your child get into (a Brisbane) school’. I could tell he was telling me to move on for breast feeding . I never went to church again after that.”
Jasmine Kelly, mother of Sebastian, 12 weeks old
“Personally, in the 12 weeks since I had my boy, I’ve had no specific positive or negative experiences breastfeeding in public. I’ve done it several times although, if there is a comfortable parents room nearby, I choose to use it as I find it physically more comfortable. I’ve always used a feeding cover in public as I am naturally fairly shy and private person so it has been for my benefit, not because I’ve been too worried about what others think.
“What I have noticed is the reaction I get when feeding him expressed breast milk in a bottle. I have done that a lot also, for various reasons. I have been questioned on many occasions as to what type of milk it is, and generally the response is ‘thank goodness’ when I say it is breast milk. As if I would be a bad mother if it was otherwise, which is rubbish. I truly wish we could all judge a little less and leave every family to choose how and where they feed without expecting any feedback based on others different opinions.”
Ruth Schultz, mother of Sophie, almost three
“I haven’t had any particular positive or negative experiences regarding breastfeeding in public. Though, after the first month or so, I never covered up or went anywhere other than the nearest place to sit. The only reactions from strangers that I remember were smiles. I did have a few friends who didn’t know where to look when they came over to say hi to my baby and then realised what she was doing.”
Emily Minton, mother of Jack, nearly two.
“I always used a cloth or a scarf to cover up as that was how I felt comfortable. But I would feed in Brisbane cafes and restaurants and in the middle of shopping centres. Other mums in my mothers group were comfortable without covering up at all and I think that is great too.
“I did have one incident when we were in the UK for wedding and had left Jack ( who was four months old) with my in-laws about an hours drive away from the venue. I had expressed milk ready to go but Jack wasn’t having any of it and wouldn’t stop screaming. They ended up driving him out to meet us ( with him screaming the whole way) and I snuck out of the wedding to feed him. He stopped crying as soon as he saw me and I then feed him in the back of the car with my silk Saba dress up around my neck. Fun!”
What do you think about breastfeeding in public? Do you have a story you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below!