Breastfeeding Welcome… Will remain to be seen!


The second question/assumption after my due date enquiry by my gp was ‘I assume you are breastfeeding again this time’ This made me a little mad the first time and a litter madder this time. Don’t get me wrong, I like my gp I had a good breastfeeding experience but that may not have been the case and I can tell you one thing whilst it might be the best route of possible it most certainly ain’t the easiest but more on that later. I find this question funny because the assumption is that you will, but the support and facilities are not there to support women who actually do choose this path. 

Earlier in the year stats were released that stated only 55% of women choose to breastfeed and that is the lowest uptake in 27 high income countries, reported The Irish Times.  I would also say this statistic is one that is written on a form when baby is born and when mum and baby leave the hospital and the reality of breastfeeding kicks in with the massive changes that have just occurred in your life this percentage easily drops. 

You regularly see articles about women being shamed when breastfeeding publicly and this is most certainly a hurdle you have to overcome on your first. Again it must be back to our culture but you certainly feel a little uncomfortable ‘whipping them out’ in a cafe, albeit subtly on those first few occasions. When you think of it, it’s a little ridiculous and such a shame as when it works breastfeeding is such a miraculous thing really and should be applauded not hidden behind big shawls and uncomfortable facades. 

I write this piece due to the recent talk of ‘Breastfeeding Welcome’ signs being introduced as reported by The Journal and with the initiative coming from The First 1000 days, if you haven’t heard about them until now you should definitely check them out. 

The First 1000 Days 

I think this would be welcome but what does it say about the establishments that choose not to display this sign or take this approach. Hmmm is all I have to say to that. 

I have always thought that there should be no divide between breast feeding mamas and bottle feeding mamas. I met some wonderful women at my breastfeeding group who still remain great friends but in the early days all mamas need support and there wasn’t one bottle feeder at our group. Having said that establishing feeding yourself definitely merits more support that may not always be there. The hospitals are overrun and don’t have the time to dedicate the time needed for those crucial first few days. Support groups are hit and miss depending on your location and you may also find that family may not be as supportive as you hope having come from a different generation and perhaps taken a different method themselves. 
I was very lucky, I was with the Domino scheme so whilst I left hospital very quickly I had midwives call to me every day for 6-7 days after Josh was born. They had the time to answer questions, listen to your concerns and give tips on how to get it established. I got engorgement, cracked nipples and felt for those first few days and weeks extremely overwhelmed by being one little precious persons primary food source. My own mum struggled seeing me suffer in pain and suggested bottles early on but one thing I really believe is if you want to give it the best shot you need to push through those first few tricky weeks. Your supply and your baby needs to settle and then once this happens it does become a lot easier. We chose to give Josh a bottle for his last feed at about 4 weeks for a number of reasons and this again worked well for us. It gave mama a little freedom and some extra rest too. It gave Ian a chance to feel like he was helping as dads can feel a bit unnecessarily useless those first few weeks and finally it got Josh used to a bottle early which was helpful later on. I avoided the dreaded mastitis and went on to feed Josh for almost 10 months. 

Just for the record I do plan to feed number 2 myself but I will be returning to work earlier so weaning will have to happen earlier too. Josh just naturally stopped which also made this transition seamless for all. Yes the statistics also show that if you can, especially in those early days if you can feed your baby breast milk that is is hugely beneficial to both you and them but as the saying goes.. Happy mama means happy baba and if things don’t work out for you, you don’t have the support network you need then a feeding method that works for the whole family is the best one to choose. 


Hidden Memories


One of the newer features I really enjoy about Facebook is when they show you memories from several years ago some unexciting but some funny & some poiniant.. Yesterday whilst feigning off what seems to be weeks of fluey symptoms this article popped up. A dear family friend had written it as part of her column for the Irish Times just before Josh was born. 

At the time, ahead of his arrival into the world it made me very emotional to read back on what was an accurate and emotive piece about my childhood. However reading it last night brought new emotions, it brought a clarity and re assurance, a thankfulness I suppose. I feel so blessed to have the life that I have. It made me realise what a lucky little boy Josh is too and in his almost 2 years in the world how much good stuff he has already experienced. He grows up in a warm and stable home, he ‘drives’ his parents 4×4.. Then I realised he is the child that Hilary describes as the ‘privileged’ child and whilst I so want & strive for the security for him in the future that perhaps I never had I do also want him to have empathy and compassion to those, like, both his mother and father, may not have the privileges he is so lucky to have. As a parent you do the very best you can, as my own mother did and those experiences made me the person I am today and I can only hope that the experiences we give Josh now and into the future make him a wonderful boy and man that he currently seems to be. 



Hilary Fannin

First published:

Fri, Oct 25, 2013,

A young friend of mine is about to have her first baby. We had breakfast together recently in her calm, sunny home. Her wedding photographs were on the wall above the table where we ate. She married in Italy; her groom arrived at the ceremony on a Vespa, she wore white. She is dark and lovely. In the photographs she looks so happy she lights up the Tuscan night. There were photographs of her bridesmaids, brightly wrapped, leaning against a drystone wall, laughing, their beautiful brown legs coltish in their delicate towering shoes.

My friend took me upstairs to see the nursery: a sturdy cot, a rocking chair and, on the floor, a soft rug decorated with coloured buttons. I brought her tiny yellow wellingtons that her baby can one day wear to splash in puddles. They sit on a shelf, expectantly.

I got married because my brother offered to babysit our children for the weekend. We signed on the dotted line at 3pm one day in an Edinburgh registry office, drank a bottle of champagne with a handful of mates in a bar next door at half-past.

But my young friend grew up in a different era. She grew up in the din of the economic boom, when some folk flew to New York City to buy their winter coats. She came of age among tribes of young girls wearing furry boots and baggy sweatpants that cost more than a well in a desert; girls who sucked on the ends of their two-tone locks, shrugged their spray-tanned shoulders and got bored easily in their mothers’ bull-barred 4x4s.

My friend was not so privileged. Her childhood did not include professional mummy and jogging daddy and brother in a scrum and sister in a strop and purring car and barking dog and twice-yearly flights to a turquoise swimming pool.

She grew up with her mother in a damp and funky old flat on a Dublin square with a bicycle parked in the driveway. She had a flat-nosed cat that sneezed into its food, and on birthdays and Halloween and Valentine’s Day she would decorate the strange old flat with balloons and paper hearts and plastic skeletons and acres of tea lights and ribbons and bows; on those festive occasions the dark house would glow from the inside out.

I lived upstairs on the second floor with my flatmate and his cat, a nervy moggie who used to pee in other people’s bags; not the most alluring prospect for our occasional gentleman callers. We were an unlikely family in that cold old house: the two of us upstairs with the urinating cat and our big ambitions and our sporadic work; my friend and her hardworking waitressing mother downstairs in the firelight.

We shared our lives, the four of us and the sparring cats. If one of us had luck and a few extra quid, we all benefited; if one of us had a broken heart or a new bicycle pump, that went into the mix too. We didn’t have cars or central heating; we were left wanting in the white-goods department. I don’t know about the others, but I thought about money when it completely dried up, and then the two flats pooled the contents of our larders and we got by.

Someone once abandoned a broken Triumph car outside our gate, and my young friend used to sit in it after school and turn the wheel and sing songs out the window and pretend to drive. And when I babysat for her and her cloth bunny, while her mother worked a late shift, she would tell me that when she grew up she would drive a shiny car and live in a sunny house and have a lovely job and wear pink shoes and see the world and fall in love and have a sweet baby.

She was a sweet baby herself; loved. The future she talked about was unimaginably far away. But she did all of those things she had planned, shrugging off the cowl of arty hippiedom that we shrouded her in, to navigate a sharper, tougher world.

I wonder if our resistance to the world that was mushrooming up around us during our years in that house spurred my young friend on; it is the job of the young, after all, to oppose what went before. That she managed later to survive the crash of boom-time assumptions and remain as optimistic and lovely as she ever was fills me with hope.

She waits now in her light-filled home for another future. The wheel turns. Fingers are crossed.

This piece is thanks to  Irish Times Archives