I mentioned in a previous post that we'd just returned from a family holiday to Co Clare on the West Coast of Ireland. Well, here's a story I brought back with me that I thought may interest all you breastfeeding mothers!
On the second day of our holiday we were all feeling a little peckish after inhaling the fresh sea breeze and dallying along the shore for a short while. As we wandered aimlessly up the hill towards town, we decided to pop in for a quick (it's always quick when you have three children in tow!) bite to eat in a quirky little cafe we'd noticed on our way.
As we found some seats, another couple and their beautiful little baby sat behind us. Now Jack, our two year old, is going through a clean phase, which I'm sure won't last for long, and he was busily rubbing his hands together and repeating, "Wash hands, wash hands" as he tried to get the sand off them! Well as you can imagine this caught the attention of the other family and it wasn't long before we got chatting. We discovered that, like us, this family was also on a rather rainy holiday with their five month old daughter, a very alert and pretty little girl who was taking a great interest in her pram toy and who Jack was rather taken with!
After chatting briefly about where we came from and places to visit, our food was served.
As we proceeded to eat, out of the corner of my eye I noticed the baby next to us getting a little restless. "Hmm," I pondered, "I wonder if she's a breastfed baby..." but I refrained from asking as I didn't want to be nosey!
Funnily enough it wasn't just the baby's behaviour that made me think this but also the reaction of her parents. As the mum of three breastfed babies I've always noticed how they got restless the moment I even thought about eating! And as a breastfeeding mother whose babies often wanted fed in places where I didn't feel particularly comfortable about feeding, such as in a cramped and packed tourist cafe, I instinctively felt that perhaps I was right!
However, what happened next really gave the game away... the baby's parents began speaking to one another in rather urgent hushed tones and I got the impression they were just waiting for the baby to start howling. And since I've been in that very same situation oh-so-many-times myself I couldn't help but feel sincere empathy for them both.
In the same situation I often found myself swinging between thoughts of paying for the untouched food and dashing for the privacy of my car to feed my hungry baby or gulping down the food whilst trying to hold off the battle-cry with any and every implement of distraction at hand!
Even in a packed public place like the one we were in, I often felt very much alone as I wrestled with my conscience over what was the right thing to do - should I just go ahead and breastfeed knowing probably no-one would notice and even if they did, so what? Or should I just try to get out of the place and feed somewhere more private and less intimidating for me and my baby?
Ironically as I sat there relating to our new friends, Jack was displaying his own breastfed baby behaviour - tugging at my tea-shirt, breathlessly pleading for "Mama Juice" whilst my husband and I both tried our own distraction techniques - "Look at the wee baby, Jack... Aww isn't she lovely?" "Mama Juice, Mama Juice..."
These days, because of Jack's age however, I rarely dare to feed in public anymore - partly because I've never really felt entirely at ease doing so, partly because we're in serious weaning mode right now (which is not going down too well with him!), but mostly because I realise for Jack breastfeeding has really become more habit/ comfort than actual hunger or thirst (ie, he often polishes off his dinner, downs a glass of water and then sidles up to me with an adorably cute smile on his face and whispers his favourite words!)
When we'd finished our meal and got up to leave, I turned to say goodbye to the family and we got chatting again. As I was telling the mother of the baby how I'd had an early start with Sarah waking me at 5.45am demanding breakfast and that Jack had been up a few times too, she questioned why Jack had been up. As I proceeded to confide that Jack was still breastfeeding her eyes lit up as she too confided that her baby was was also breastfed and that was what had been wrong with her during the meal. We both laughed as I told her of my suspicions that her baby wanted a breastfeed and we joked how easy it must be if you could just have a bottle at the ready for those awkward moments!!
When I mentioned that I ran a breastfeeding website and gave her my card she exclaimed with amazement that she'd already come across it... What a truly small world we live in!
So if you're reading this Mary, I trust Isabel is keeping well and that the breastfeeding continues to go wonderfully for both of you! Who knows - perhaps we'll bump into one another again somewhere a bit warmer and drier next year!! And maybe Isabel will still be breastfeeding and you'll be another breastfeeding mum with an uncanny ability to pinpoint all the breastfeeding families around you!