Before M came along, before we decided that his name would be M or even knew he’d be a he, before the idea of kids was realised, I knew I wanted to breastfeed. While pregnant I was terrified of being unable to do so, and also, increasingly nervous of feeding outside the house. Four months in, thanks be to God, we’ve had no issues feeding – from the start it’s been a pleasure and treasured moments in the day. As we’ve settled into our feeding groove, feeding M wherever and whenever he’s hungry has become so normal, so natural, I no longer think of it anymore.
Before M came along, I’d never thought about how being a headscarved woman would impact my mothering ability, or parenting style. I can’t say whether the attitude that breast is best was one I grew up with thanks to Mum feeding my siblings and breastfeeding therefore being on my radar, or if it was the culture of the UK at that time, but seeing women nursing their babies in public was a perfectly normal sight. I didn’t really think anything of it, or the logistics of it, until I was about 8months pregnant.
One of the blessings of being a Mum today is the access to other Mums and twenty-four hour support at our fingertips. I’ve been lucky enough to find a wonderful support network of women all over the world thanks to twitter, and through these women I’ve learnt more about the attitudes of cultures to breastfeeding than I ever would have thought. While I mused on the difficulties I’d face as a hijabi breastfeeding, I realised that however you dress, wherever you live, there’s a breastfeeding hurdle, fuelled by stigma to cross. And whether your hurdle is trying to remain covered as you wrestle out a boob, or fighting for your right to feed where and when your baby needs to, jumping through that mental hoop adds an unnecessary complication to the most natural act in the world. And that sucks. (Pardon the pun.) I’m grateful for having the support and inspiration of so many awesome women who fight through these stigmas and give their babies the best start they can.
Feeding in public hasn’t been as difficult or as complicated as I feared it would. In the beginning we used a nursing cover, which was an enormous help as I tried to find my groove with unclasping nursing bras under tops and maneuvering M’s head to get a latch. But though the cover hid the act of feeding my child from public view, it also drew attention to us, too. I don’t bother with the cover nowadays. Most of the time, I’m babywearing M when we’re out and about and both wraps and ring slings are fantastic for discreetly breastfeeding a baby. I wear a long vest under my shirt, lift up the shirt and pull down the vest and there’s no flesh on show. M sits happily inside the wrap or the sling and if I need to, I can use the tail of the sling as additional cover. On the rare occasions we’re out with M in the pram, I will carry the nursing cover just in case we’re struggling but more often than not the two-tops combination works well – especially as I always have a scarf on hand to drape over the top!
M has fed everywhere from walking around a shopping centre,to a bench next to the sea. After getting over my own mental block, i havent felt conspicuous or uncomfortable feeding him and I actually think it’s very rare that people note what’s being done. It’s starting to draw more attention now as M wriggles as he feeds, kicking up his legs and tugging at my scarf and the older he gets the more difficult it’s going to become to remain concealed as he feeds so we’ll have to readjust the status quo, but for now I’m simply reveling in making memories like this and watching my baby grow.