Thursday, 24 July 2014

Breast Versus Formula: Whose Fight Is It Anyway?

Not for the first time, I‘ve found myself at the centre of a media breastfeeding storm.  The catalyst this time?  The following sign…

After this picture and my corresponding post went viral earlier this week, with over 334 thousand likes at The Huffington Post alone, there has inevitably been quite a reaction.

There’s been a lot of this:

So refreshing!”
What a step forward!”

And of course, there’s also been a fair amount of this:

But what about formula feeders?”

And so it begins.  Or should I say continues?  The all-out Breast versus Formula war.  The ‘Pick A Side And Slam The Other’ debate.  The ‘Us versus Them’ mentality.

Enough.  Enough, already!

A café opening its arms to a breastfeeding mother is not by default closing its doors to formula feeders.  Or anybody else outside of this specific group for that matter; like fathers, or grandmothers, or nurses just finishing a night shift…or even young couples high on Honeymooning and totally unaware of the minefield of political correctness that embeds itself into the world of parenting…

Because supporting breastfeeding does not go hand-in-hand with hating formula feeding.  It is in itself, a perfectly legitimate position to take; an independent cause to fight.

And by fight, I do not mean against you, kind formula feeding mama; you who sings lullabies to delicate and tiny ears, who kisses squidgy baby cheeks and who also, just like me, has broken up with Sleep.

By fight, I mean fight with you, sweet sister.

Because formula feeding mothers can also fight the fight to normalise breastfeeding.  The fight against shaming, against discrimination and against the over-sexualisation of our maternal bodies.

And believe it or not, breastfeeding-supporting formula feeders do actually exist.  In real life.  The proof?  The picture that sparked these comments was taken by a formula feeding mother.  Yes, you read that right.  She took it not to share on a hate site or to agonise over the unfairness and selectivity of free cups of tea.  Instead, she took it to share the joy, the acceptance and the progress of the drive to normalise nursing in public.

Unfortunately, this drive is still needed.  Every day I see stories online of mothers asked to cover up when their little ones start to root.  I can still see the disgust in strangers eyes from my own early nursing in public adventures…but gone are the days where I would hide away to nurse my daughter…I found my confidence and somehow, quite unexpectedly, I’ve turned it into a voice.

And so it seems that this voice is getting louder.  But just because I’m shouting ‘boob’ from my virtual platform and have the ‘equipment’ to cash in on free hot drinks from one enlightened British café, doesn’t mean that I’m cursing formula feeding in the same breath.

And so I’m not going to get into the ‘I bet they have bottle-warming facilities’ argument, or the ‘but you don’t begrudge students their discounts’ mindset.  I’m only going to say one thing: thank you.

To every supporter of breastfeeding – whether you are lactating or not - I say thank you.  Thank you for seeing this café’s sign as the positive step forwards that it is.  Thank you for seeing it as a simple gesture of support for nursing in public and not a low-blow at tired and thirsty formula feeding mothers.  Thank you for seeing it as a small but important step towards normalising the normal; towards normalising breastfeeding.

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  • Photo credit: RefreshMe/Facebook

Monday, 14 July 2014

Café Says Relax

Photo credit: RefreshMe/Facebook

I love this sign.

I love the simplicity, the hurried writing and the little smiley at the bottom.  I love the Britishness and most of all, I love the message.

This is the chalkboard hanging outside of a café in Cheltenham, England; proudly and reassuringly supporting breastfeeding mothers, because in all seriousness, breastfeeding is thirsty work.

In addition to the exhaustion, near-dehydration and actual munchies that so often accompany a breastfeeding mother on any expedition into town, there are often times when worry comes along for the ride...

Will I see a sneer of disapproval after finding a seat at a café and unhooking my nursing bra?

Will I hear a ‘tutting’ noise as my baby roots for milk?

Will I feel a rush of adrenaline instead of oxytocin, as eyes burn holes into my back and the tutting gets louder at the very thought of the minuscule amount of areola that’s actually on display?

In the UK, it's illegal to discriminate against a breastfeeding mother, but this café has taken the idea of acceptance to a whole new level.

They are waving the flag, raising a glass (of milk) and supporting breastfeeding with cute smileys and magical words like relax.

Let’s just hope that the mothers of Cheltenham are feeling refreshed after such refreshingly uplifting and supportive words.  And let’s also hope that the 'sneerers', 'tutters' and general ‘disapprovers’ take note of the overall message…because really, it's all so very normal.

After all, it’s just a boob…relax :-)

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Monday, 7 July 2014

10 Alternative Names For Breast Milk (Toddler-Style)

Mama, I want some milk.

As I look at my daughter, my ever-growing and ever-learning little bean, it becomes ever more apparent that she is no longer the baby I once cradled in my arms.  Her baby-squidge is being replaced by cheekbones and her proportions are slowly but surely becoming more child-like.  Gone are the days where all she had to do was turn her head to root for milk, or a little later, drum my chest with a knowing smile.  She has words now and she isn’t afraid to use them.

So when I asked on my Facebook page about the names that other nurslings have for breast milk, the following gems (among others) brought nothing but smiles to my day...

1.  "Mine"  -  Enough said.

2.  "Muk"  -  Cow’s milk is “muk on da table”.

3.  "Drinkles"  -  Cuteness.

4.  "Eats"  -  Solid food is “bites”.

5.  "Side"  -  Accurate.

6.  "Nice Nice"  -  Because it is.

7.  "Buddy"  -  Everybody needs a friend.

8.  "My Booby"  -  See number 1.

9.  "Milkies"  -  The familiar.

10.  "Mama Milk"  -  The original.

What do your nurslings call their mama milk?  Join the conversation with Mama Bean on Facebook and Twitter.

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Thursday, 26 June 2014


I used to think that I was strong; level-headed and logical, driven and determined.  But now that motherhood has wrapped its arms around me and held on tightly to my hand, I can see that I am a different kind of stron­g; I see now that I have a different kind of strength.

This strength cries.  This strength worries.  This strength is physically stretched and drooped and aching.  This strength is fuzzy round the edges and has lost track of time; of night and day.

This strength, this quiet kind of strength that barely speaks above a whisper, this strength was forged out of love.

This strength is real and grouchy and vulnerable.  It is high, low and everything in between.  It is every colour of the rainbow and every shadow, note and pitch…and our children see it all.  They see through the tired façade even when we cannot.

Our children don’t see the exhaustion, they see the mama, always here.

The mama; strong enough to grow, birth and nurture her baby.

The mama; strong enough to bid farewell to sleep and prioritise little people with big needs above all else.

The mama; strong enough to kiss away scrapes and soothe bad dreams; to build hope and peace out of doubt and chaos.

The mama; strongest of them all.

Because the minute that I held my daughter in my arms, my whole sense of self changed forever.  “I” became “we” as I would forever feel what she feels.  And no matter how hard or how low I may ever fall, I know that I will forever spring back up to meet my child with open arms and eyes of wonder.  I know that no matter how broken I may ever feel, I have an inner strength to build me up again and pull me through.

And we can all draw on this strength, each and every one of us.  Because this strength, this new and magical kind of strength, is always there; patiently waiting.  Because this strength, which we barely even notice or expect…this strength is the strength of motherhood...and our children see it all.

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