Shamed for sexual nature of breastfeeding

When you’re a new mum, and you’re learning the ropes of breastfeeding, the whole thing can be quite daunting. Even if you have read all the literature and watched the DVDs on how to latch a baby, it’s quite a different thing to be latching a real baby to your breast. I remember trying to arrange myself and baby, feeling like I needed a third hand and a hand mirror to figure out if the baby’s mouth was latched on right.

I also remember how helpful and supportive the nurses were while I was recovering from labour and how much their advice and guidance helped.  We got through the initial strangeness of feeding in front of people and our breastfeeding journey was strengthened by that experience. All other feeding moments, even in the oddest situations, went smoothly because of those first moments.

When I read about Darcie Pennington’s experience at hospital, I felt a bit sick on her behalf. Now, she wasn’t a patient. Instead she was a visitor. On 30 April 2016 Darcie Pennington was visiting her Nan at Royal Liverpool University Hospital. She had her four month old son with her. As babies that age do, he got hungry and needed to be fed.

Pennington says that she was approached by one of the nurses who told her she needed to sit in a private room. She continues, “I explained to the nurse that I am well within my legal rights to feed my son in the most natural form wherever and whenever he needed feeding”. In this situation it was great that she knew what her rights were and felt able to express them.

Another nurse became involved and when pressed about it, the nurse told Pennington she was protecting her dignity. Pennington says, “I then asked her if I was feeding him a bottle would I receive the same treatment to then she went on to say ‘bottle feeding isn’t sexual’…” Woah! That one sentence winded me when I read it, because of everything it suggests about breastfeeding.

I can only speak for myself in this situation but it’s hard to feel attractive, trying to latch a baby. It’s hard to feel like a sexual being, when your body belongs to a small person who both needs milk and wants to be nosey. There is no blanket that will remain overhead once they are that old. It’s hard to imagine that one looks ‘sexy’ in that situation too.

‘Breast is Best’ is one of those inescapable messages you often see posted around hospitals. So, it boggles my mind that anyone working in a hospital would make a mum feel bad for doing the natural thing. The hospital has apologised and is now investigating the complaint made.  Hopefully they find a way to re-educate staff on the rights of breastfeeding visitors as well as patients.

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