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Should women breast feed in public?

NO - It's easy enough to exercise a bit of discretion if you choose to breastfeed your child, but no woman should be bullied into it, writes Marisa Mackle

Breast is not always best. I stand by that. It certainly didn't work for me. After two weeks of breastfeeding, my tiny premature baby ended up in an incubator in intensive care as I watched helplessly through the glass. He was starving and very underweight. It was devastating that I had not been able to feed my son and give him the nourishment he so badly needed, but I wasn't producing enough milk to keep him alive.

After enduring several blood tests by junior doctors, my baby son was then referred to the consultant paediatrician who advised me to stop breastfeeding immediately. From then on my boy was bottlefed in intensive care by the nurses until he improved. Overall, a traumatic experience.


I remember at my first hospital appointment, the midwife gave me the statistics about how 99pc of women in Norway breastfeed and how not enough women here breastfeed. She seemed to talk about nothing else and then asked me if I was going to breastfeed? I said I would and with a satisfied smile she put a tick by the question in my file.

Soon after giving birth, I was lying in the hospital with everyone fussing around me talking about breastfeeding. All I wanted was a Panadol to stop the pain of the Caesarean wound. Two other women in the same ward, who were bottlefeeding, were completely ignored. It was as though they didn't matter because they refused to be bullied into breastfeeding.

Every woman should have a choice to either breastfeed or bottlefeed with no pressure from anybody. I am no less of a mother because I didn't breastfeed.

Like many people, however, I am uncomfortable with public breastfeeding when everything is on show.

The first time I saw somebody breastfeeding was at a kiddies' party. I was about six years old at the time and I didn't like it one bit. I'm now grown-up with a child of my own and that feeling still holds. Then again, I don't like topless sunbathing either. I believe baring your breasts is something to be done in private.

When I was in the ward, breastfeeding my baby, the midwife pulled back the curtain around my cubicle saying that the cleaners were coming in. I was furious. There was a man sitting at the end of the opposite bed literally staring at me. He probably didn't mean it but I found his staring terribly intrusive. People do stare. They can't help it. When I was little, I unintentionally stared at that nursing mother at the party. Several of my pals breastfeed. It works very well for them. Discretion is key.

I recently sat beside a woman who breastfed all the way to London. We got talking about babies and obviously had much in common. As she wore an elegant pashmina scarf I barely noticed her breastfeeding. Neither did the businessman sitting the other side of her tucking into breakfast. She was a lady. And a shining example of how to do it properly.