Oh to live in Europe, where I could get my boobs out anywhere, anytime and no one would give a blind bit of notice. But here, in dreary wet England, I am full of inhibitions and feel every disapproving glare as a prod in my side. I have a friend, who I have huge admiration for, when she breast feeds she is all grace and no anxiety. I have seen her breast feed her new-born whilst leading a toddler around a play area, or managing to feed on the school run, whilst collecting many children. She has developed an art. But her secret is to remove any inhibitions and just enjoy that she has content babies. Her boobs are about an eight of the side of mine as well, I do think this helps.
The more children I have, the more I have learnt to relax, but still I have hang ups, it doesn't help that my boobs often resemble pumped up watermelons when breast feeding and seem to have their own agenda to expose themselves, or that I have listened to numerous, small minded people and their ridiculous hang ups on other women breast feeding in public. I mean, what would people prefer, to sit in a cafe, with a SCREAMING baby at the next table, or to sit in a cafe with a content baby feeding from their mother? When a child is feeding, you can't see anything anyway, maybe a small patch of flesh, which would be less than you see on most women, under the age of 30, walking down the high street.
Being a people pleaser I tried to breast feed with discretion. I would cover my feeding baby with a blanket, which was draped over my shoulder, until my brother-in-law commented that it reminded him of one of Michael Jackson's babies. Certainly didn't want any of my parenting techniques to be linked to his.
Then, when out in public, I would often pop back to feed in the car. This was quite successful until when in a retail park car park, my other half locked me in, therefore any small movement set the alarm off, which without the keys I could not turn off. So, I sat breast feeding, with a huge alarm blurring, resulting in every passer by peeping in! Ironic huh?
I found the sling/baby carrier a marvellous device for feeding in public, until... When walking down a local high street, passing a sandwich shop, an ex-pupil clambered down the shop's steps,he waS not looking where he was going due to the concentration it takes to stuff a whole sandwich into one's mouth. He literally fell over me. I stumbled forward, managed to stay on my feet and stop the baby from tumbling out of the sling. However, the baby unlatched from the boob. A very apologetic 16 year old boy, suddenly realised it was his old teacher he had fallen over, "Oh hiya Miss. Sorry. Is this your new baby?" he said peering into the sling locking eyes with my exposed nipple spraying milk. We all blushed. Even the baby.
I thought the layering top was fool proof - you know one top underneath, to cover post-baby belly, then accessing boobs from under the upper garment to ensure minimal exposure. However, an old friend recounted her experience to me:
"I was doing the old 2 tops thing for breast feeding without showing everyone my belly. Got hot and bothered when out shopping, so took the top layer off, and only, when I saw my reflection in a shop window, did I notice that I had my skanky maternity bra on display to all! I'd failed to pull the bottom layer up after the last feed."
So this time, when my third child is born, I am torn between just walking around topless to breast feed, or popping over the channel, where feeding your own child is celebrated not condemned. Both of these may be a bit tiresome though. Could England just lighten up instead?