How to be present with a woman breastfeeding in public
I didn't know
how to show up for
a woman that was breastfeeding in public
before I had kids.
I was so uncertain of what I could offer
as I passed her by.
At the shopping centre, sitting on the park bench.
To look, to smile, to not-look-and-not-smile.
And because I never made a conscious choice around it
I settled for pretending I didn't notice
what was clear to see.
I ignored that woman
and moving on.
Told myself I was being respectful of her privacy.
Now I know I can do better.
Having fed my babes in public now hundreds of times
I have a more complete understanding of
what women crave
when they are breastfeeding in public.
Safety and respect as a minimum.
But there really is so much more.
It is not enough to just not be the idiot that is publicly shaming her. We can do better than being the bland neutral.
In these moments
we have the opportunity to
show up for her.
That mama sitting there -
she wants to be recognised as a living being.
To be seen,
She wants to exist just as if she didn't have a bub on her chest.
That is to say,
it is okay to engage with a breastfeeding woman
as though she is just a regular person.
Because she is.
Perhaps make eye contact and give her a smile.
A thumbs up.
Tell her well done in words or with kind eyes.
'Hey, we see you, we see your hard work, great job.'
Whatever feels right.
If she looks flustered,
is struggling, or looks exhausted
all the more important
to acknowledge her and
hold space for her.
to ask if there is anything you can do to help.
It's okay to
pick up the baby shoe that has dropped.
To open her water bottle for her.
Don't be afraid to offer her a helping hand.
She might so desperately need it.
You know that saying 'everyone is fighting a battle we know nothing about?'
Yep. Especially her.
And if you don't feel comfortable
or it doesn't feel right to talk to her,
feel free to pick a flower and leave it on the hood of her pram.
That's okay too.
Any tiny piece of encouragement, kinship
To show her that you see her.
That she exists.
That she matters.
That she is doing a ripper job.
And how does this advice change for bottle feeding mamas?
I'm so glad you asked.
Because she is also dropping baby shoes.
She also might not be able to reach her water bottle
as she feeds her baby.
And she could most defiantly do with an anonymous flower on the pram,
or a high five.
That is to say, for bottle feeding mamas, it doesn't change at all.
Kindness for all.
Especially those that are building our future
in the most intense and beautiful way.
Breastfeeding in public isn't always easy.
Breastfeeding in general isn't always easy.
Showing up with kindness - that's easy.
Feel confident to acknowledge her.
To mirror back the success that you see in her.
Some days she will need that more than you will ever know.
Hell, some days these exchanges will be the most memorable part of her day.
When you see a woman breastfeeding,
Just see the woman.
See your sameness,
not your differences.
Society will have you believe that these are
But to look the other way
is an opportunity missed
to support a fellow human
doing a marvellous job.
She is nourishing our future.
Find your courage.
Give her a smile.