Only a couple of weeks after National Breastfeeding Week comes a video that, for me, perfectly sums up the stigma attached to breastfeeding in public. Poet Hollie McNish wrote a poem, entitled Embarrassed a few years ago, as a new mum. But it was only recently that her partner convinced her to release it on her YouTube channel.
In the poem, Hollie describes feeding her daughter – who is now three – in toilet cubicles, for fear of offending people by breastfeeding in public. She explains: “I wrote this poem in a public toilet after my 6 month old baby fell asleep. I was in town on my own a lot with her and the first time I fed her, someone commented that I should stay home.” Hollie says she was embarrassed and the comment was enough to put her off breastfeeding in public. “For 6 months [I] took her into toilets when I was alone without the support of boyfriend, friends, mum etc. I hate that I did that but I was nervous, tired and felt awkward.”
Hollie continues by saying, on her YouTube channel that the media should help to normalise breastfeeding. “I find it weird that our TVs, media etc never show breastfeeding in soaps, cartoons, anything. That we and the US are so bloody scared of it. It’s weird.”
But Hollie McNish isn’t against bottle feeding, more the reasons that some mums choose formula over breast. She says, “I hate the divide created between mums because of this issue. So many friends of mine swapped to formula because of embarrassment and no other reason. That makes me really hate our culture.”
Now Hollie’s YouTube video has gone viral, with over 250,000 views since she posted it last week. A link to the video was even tweeted by singer Pink. “I just hope it helps other people realise they’re not on their own for feeling embarrassed about something they know they shouldn’t,” she says.
I personally LOVE the poem. Hollie sums up how embarrassing it is to breastfeed in public, but how ridiculous that embarrassment is. Why should new mums have to hide to feed their babies to spare the blushes of people who should frankly just grow up and learn to deal with seeing a bit of flesh? I was embarrassed to feed in public and tended to seek out feeding rooms in shopping centres, but really I should have just braved it in public. What do you think – do you think Hollie’s poem will give new mums confidence to breastfeed in public? If you haven’t already seen it, watch it here…
It makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end and my eyes fill with tears. With my first daughter I had to ask the shop assistant in Mothercare to unlock their ‘feeding room’ which basically consisted of a over filling nappy bin and plastic chair. I was so insulted that I asked to move the chair out of the room to the shop floor. I was told I couldn’t as it had to stay in that room. Disgusted I left and fed in a local cafe. The breastfeeding culture is so far behind anything we can openly admit I’m not sure it will ever change in this country.
Blimey, that is AWFUL Clemmie. Makes me so sad. I was always rubbish at feeding discreetly, whereas some mums can do it in a cafe and you’d hardly even notice.
Is it awful to say I almost wanted someone to have an issue with me breast feeding where ever and when ever my baby needed feeding?
Just so i could tell them – the problem was theirs and to shove it.
I fed him, mostly, cafes, once on a beach, bars, parks, benches when the weather suited.
I never had any intention of ever feeding my baby in toilet or a ‘feeding room’.
No one ever said anything.
Mothers should never ever feel embarrassed – Hollie’s message is excellent, but we need to be prouder for our babies sake and for the sake of the women in the developing world that she speaks of.
This is SO moving! What a brave and beautiful and talented mum, such an inspiration in all kinds of ways.
I saw this a few days ago and it made me cry. My parents were slightly uncomfortable with it when out of the house at first but after a few days my father was proud that I took no notice of any stares when we were out. He used to join me in smiling inanely and starting a conversation with people who seemed to have a problem with it. *Proud daughter*!
Not everyone is so lucky and unfortunately all the laws in the world won’t change this country’s attitude towards breastfeeding mothers. We all need to be more confident about it – that doesn’t mean we have to whip our tops off and bare all, most of us don’t want to (!) but being politely firm in any confrontation should become the norm rather than us all running and hiding.
Hollie McNish writes the most beautiful poetry, and this one is no exception. It took my breath away and made me cry when I listened. I can relate to all those feelings age expresses, and the topic is something I feel very strongly about. I wrote a post about how disgusting a lot of facilities for breastfeeding women are:
If breastfeeding in public is to become a more comfortable experience then there needs to be a huge cultural shift with regards to how we view the female body.
Breastfeeding is seen as something that shouldn’t be done in public in the UK and something to be embarrassed about, but what really gets me is the double standards with all the rubbish ‘get your baps out for the lads’ publications like FHM, Nuts, The Sun, The Sport…..it’s ok for boobs out in public when it’s for men’s gratification, but not to feed a baby. 🙁 Hollie is brave to talk about it, always good to raise this subject.
I saw this poem on Facebook and thought it was fantastic. Yet also really sad. As someone who is in the middle of their breast feeding journey, and for who it is going far too quickly, if like to think that I would stand up to anyone who confronted me. But in reality, although I’d be fine if I was with friends, if I was on my own I can imagine I would be very upset and embarrassed. It is so sad that we live in a culture where certain members of our society feel this way about babies feeding and drinking milk. I have fed both Mads and LL everywhere- on benches, picnic blankets, cars, cafes, restaurants but I am a lot more relaxed with LL, whereas with mads I did sneak off to a feeding room a lot in the early days.
Thanks for this. Hollie is a really talented lady and performed a number more of her poems about babies in my film Babyhood. Check it out!