Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Guest Post: Jay on Breastfeeding in Mothercare

I'm pleased to share a guest post by Jay, a mom who lives in England with her husband and two young sons. She blogs about motherhood at Mocha Beanie Mummy and can be found on Twitter as well. Jay wrote this post after attempting to breastfeed her youngest son Isaac at Mothercare, a British retail store that specializes in products for parents and parents-to-be that is similar to Babies R Us in America.

[Jay+&+N.jpg]My husband D, Isaac and I decided to brave a shopping trip to treat and enjoy ourselves. We took Isaac mainly because he was on boob juice, I didn't want to leave him with a bottle as he was only a few days old and we knew we wouldn't get much alone time with him. Needless to say, right after D and I had lunch, Isaac was ready to feed. First port of call? Uh, find somewhere to feed him. A huge shopping store in a town not far from us has a full parent and baby room, with bottle warmers, changing mats, breastfeeding areas, toilets, etc: basically everything a parent with a baby/toddler could ask for.

The town we went to (UK's second capital city, I hasten to add) has...nothing. When Noah was still nursing, I would go into public toilets to feed him, because there was nowhere else to go. These toilets were "supposedly" suitable, but usually meant cramming myself into a tiny cubicle with a toilet, sink, changing table and a fold down chair (because there wasn't enough room for a regular chair). Oh and also, a disco ball suspended from the ceiling. And they smelled. Bad.

Then they built a huge Mothercare, the biggest one I had seen for some time, where you would ASSUME there would be a parent and baby room. There was. And of course, it was out of order (the plumbing was screwed apparently). So I asked if there was somewhere I could nurse my (now screaming) baby. "Yes of course!" they said. "You can use the changing room. There's a chair and plenty of space."

"Um...ok thanks..." Not convinced, but it was better than out on the street.

I was in there maybe 15 minutes, sat on a single chair, no pillows, very dim lighting, feet perched on the wheels of the pushchair, hunched over the boy trying to get a good position. No luck, but hey, he fed. Outside I listened to a woman looking through bras and struggling because she didn't have a clue what size she was, despite supposedly being measured only a week ago.

As I was putting myself back, D came to the door and said there was a customer waiting to try on stuff. As I came out, I apologised to her and said there was nowhere else to nurse. At which point (and forgive me if I start typing in caps here, I get a little, um, IRATE with this), she accused me of being SELFISH for feeding my baby in the changing rooms when there were other people (who were nowhere to be seen, I saw only her) waiting to try on clothes. Also, that she was now very late for whatever, because I'd been HOGGING THE CHANGING ROOM, and she's a mum too so she understands, but I should GO SOMEWHERE ELSE to feed my child instead of causing problems for everyone else.

I (amazingly calmly) told her that I had ASKED PERMISSION from the staff to feed Isaac and they had advised I used that (ONE AND ONLY) changing room.

Even as I'm typing this, I'm struggling to avoid tensing up completely and throwing something quite heavy.

She continued to moan and complain. Directly at me. Not at the staff. The staff who were pretty slow to defend me. I went and complained to the staff that I had just been bollocked by a customer for their incompetence, and that they might want to think carefully about their facilities, and that as a shop devoted to parents and children, they SUCK.

I was so livid, they pee'd me off so much I can't believe it, and I'm the one left feeling crap just for trying to feed my child without disturbing/bothering other people. I've actually decided that the next time I'm out in public with Isaac and he needs feeding, I will plonk my ass in the middle of WHEREVER THE HECK I LIKE, or if I can be bothered to make the walk, in the middle of ANY nearby Mothercare and feed right in front of everyone.

The irony is, I have no issues with feeding in front of people. I'll feed wherever and whenever, that's my attitude to breastfeeding. It's the most natural thing in the world. My baby wants to eat, I will feed him. Do people go and hide in toilets/changing rooms to feed their kids solids? No. So why should it be any different for me?

So let's see. Was I right for complaining to the staff? Should I have humbly apologised and walked away, and just left it there, let it go? Should I have kicked up a huge stink, for being told off for something so natural and not getting any support for it, to make a statement? I feel like I was in some kind of no-win situation, despite being, what I thought, the innocent party.

Breastfeeding: it's not a crime. Or is it?

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