In 2018, around 300,000 Australian women will become mums. Some will be first-time mums and some will be seasoned welcoming their second, third, fourth or even 10th baby.
But all of us will have one thing in common … the desire to do what’s best for our babies. And to do it without being judged for our choices.
When it comes to breastfeeding, 90% of new mums experience problems. These challenges often arise from supply and demand issues, sore nipples, engorgement and mastitis (ouch).
But another major issue mums face is society’s interference with whether a mum chooses to breastfeed or not.
Many mums choose not to breastfeed, especially in public, simply because they don’t want to be judged.
Medela Australia recently surveyed 4000 Australian mums to discover attitudes toward experiences with breastfeeding and who they turn to for parenting advice. The responses may shock some, and for others, will not surprise at all.
“Australian society still has a long way to go in fully supporting the women providing the breast option for their babies – despite it being 2018!”
“Whether it’s Qantas getting into trouble for breastfeeding conditions on a flight, or another café turning away the boob at brunch, there is the need for our society to welcome and accommodate those who simply want to feed their child – with confidence.” Medela Australia
Mums admit breastfeeding still brings shame
Breastfeeding is talked about a lot these days, so it may surprise you to know how many mums still experience judgement for breastfeeding in public.
Elsa, a mum from ACT, reveals, “I was breastfeeding in a park and a man started smoking near where I was feeding. I did ask him to make some distance but he asked me to move if I had a problem.”
Another mum, Dee, from New South Wales, shares her story: “While at the shopping centre I needed to breastfeed my child because he was hungry and very restless. I sat down on a chair in the middle of the centre, covered the baby and started to feed him. Soon after I was approached by a security guard from one of the shops and told that I was not allowed to breastfeed there and needed to go to the ladies’ room which didn’t have a chair or changing table. I felt very humiliated and left the chair and proceeded to the car park to feed him in the car”.
We need support, not shame, for breastfeeding (and bottle feeding) mums
This kind of stuff shouldn’t be happening. So how can we stop it? Here are a few recommendations from mums.
1. Better signage and improved facilities
Where can you breastfeed without dirty looks? Or not surrounded by dirty toilets?
“Better signage about breastfeeding and parents’ rooms and making sure all staff are aware of facilities so that they can better direct frazzled mums,” suggests Rebecca, from Victoria.
2. Confidence and acceptance
There is still a stigma surrounding breastfeeding, one that often stops mums from feeding in public or switching to the bottle once bub isn’t so little anymore.
“Breastfeeding is between a mum and her baby. The more women who breastfeed and feel confident to do so in open spaces, in public domains, around our friends and strangers,” says Georgia, from NSW.
3. Honest advice and home support
Breastfeeding is bloody hard! But just because it’s not easy, doesn’t mean it’s not for you.
“I wish I had more warning that breastfeeding could be really hard and painful in the beginning,” Sally from NSW explains.
“Babies do not always know how to latch. It’s not as easy as just nature,” adds Queensland mum, Lisa. “You have to build up your supply sometimes by pumping and being patient with your baby learning to feed.”
4. Breastfeeding support education and awareness
There are a number of different organisations dedicated to helping mums gain the courage and get support they need to breastfeed with confidence, regardless of where they are or how old bub is. But we can always do more.
“Extra education about the benefits of breastfeeding and exposure goes a long way,” says Andrea, from NSW. “Educate with context and change the attitudes to breastfeeding.”
Of course, all mums want to be respected. We want to feel like we are doing the right thing, especially when out in public. And we don’t want to come home feeling ashamed or judged because of the way we feed our children.
Whether a mum chooses to breastfeed or not, it shouldn’t matter to others. At the end of the day, fed is best. And we mums deserve support, not shame, for our choices.
To find out more about breastfeeding support and to share your own breastfeeding story and what you’d do to make it easier for the next generation, head over to Medela Australia.