Breastfeeding Stations: Show of Support or Telling Mothers to Feed in Private?

My wife and I recently attended Abergavenny Food Festival. Whilst there we saw something that I no doubt many others have seen plenty of times before: a breastfeeding station. My first thought when I saw it was “oh look, that’s awesome” but when I really started to think about it, I started to question what message it was really sending.

breastfeeding station at Abergavenny food festival
the aforementioned breastfeeding station

Are Breastfeeding stations a helpful show of support or an indirect way of telling mothers to breastfeed in private?

That’s the question that came to my mind when I saw this. Are these breastfeeding stations merely a very subtle, even accidental, way of telling mothers that they should breastfeed in private? Or are these stations genuinely a helpful thing and a sign of support?

First up, I’ll give Props where they’re due

First of all, I should say that this tent technically occupied a space at a festival that easily could have been used for another stall, therefore bringing in more money. But instead someone thought about having a place for breastfeeding mums. I might be sitting on the fence of whether it’s a good idea or not, but there was still thought there, which is good.

I’ll be honest, we did briefly use this breastfeeding station whilst at the food festival. We only went in because Isabelle, our 17 month old toddler, was due her nap, and there were a lot of distractions outside in the festival. That and we were slightly curious as to what was even inside. Just a bundle of hay to act as a seat was the answer to that question.

Maybe it’s just about peace and quiet, not about being hidden away

From the aspect of peace and quiet something like this might actually be a good thing. Sometimes you need somewhere free of distraction to settle a feeding baby. But then we didn’t need a specific place for breastfeeding, we just needed somewhere away from the hustle and bustle of a busy festival.

I understand the need for feeding stations in general, but a breastfeeding station? Most feeding stations obviously have things available to warm up bottles and are of course needed and helpful to mothers. As for a breastfeeding station, what is it that you exactly need specifically for breastfeeding?

Nothing.

There’s a part of me that thinks these stations are accidentally sending the wrong message. Maybe they’re inadvertently telling mothers that when it’s time to breastfeed you should find somewhere less public to do it. They’re literally going “please cover up and hide away in here so no one can see you.”

Either that, or they’re just providing mothers with a secluded place to feed should they want to do so.

Despite the fact my wife doesn’t need this now, she would have wanted a breastfeeding station in the early days

The early days of my wife’s breastfeeding journey is vastly different to what it is now. Back in the day she would have been praying that something like a breastfeeding station was available wherever we went. She really didn’t like breastfeeding in public, and having somewhere private to do it was exactly what she wanted.

But now? Well she’s learned to feed with confidence and just go for it. These days a breastfeeding station is completely irrelevant for someone like her for a general feed.

Breastfeeding in public: Feeding with confidence
Breastfeeding station? No need. Just do it wherever we’re having food

But there are many women who don’t like to breastfeed so publicly. And that’s totally fine. I think for some women it does take a while to build up the confidence and get used to breastfeeding out in public. It took my wife quite a while before she ditched the cover and just started feeding like she is above. Part of that was down to the fact that she saw so many other mothers doing it that she had the confidence to try it herself.

How are mothers going to gain the confidence to breastfeed publicly when they don’t really see it all that often? The more you tuck people away in little hidden places, the less normal breastfeeding becomes, and the longer it takes for mothers to gain that confidence. You’re also exposing breastfeeding to the public even less often and making the whole thing a lot less normal.

Despite my reservations I still don’t think that Breastfeeding Stations are necessarily a bad idea

We might never really need to use a breastfeeding station anymore, but that doesn’t mean someone with a two week old baby won’t want one. I think these stations are for the mother who doesn’t want to battle with a latch with everything on display to an observant public. Sometimes it’s nice to just have some privacy.

Breastfeeding in public
My wife doesn’t really feel the need for privacy anymore when you can barely even tell she’s feeding like this

My wife didn’t want to feed somewhere privately in the early days just to avoid pissing off a member of the public. She did it because she wanted the privacy. Some women don’t like to get their breasts out in public, especially in those early days when more is inevitably going to be on show. Which is totally understandable. Prior to my wife breastfeeding I don’t think either of us ever saw anyone else really do it – at least not to our knowledge.

Maybe a Simple Name Change would solve all the issues

Perhaps rather than labelling this as a breastfeeding station, it could simply be called something else. Parent and Baby Area, Feeding Station, Quiet Zone. These speak to more than just the possible needs of a breastfeeding mum, and also say that it’s somewhere to go if you just want to chill out from the chaos of a festival.

Maybe the idea of a breastfeeding station speaks to society’s thoughts on breastfeeding at large. People don’t really have a problem with it, so long as they don’t really see it. People will accept someone feeding like my wife is above, discreetly and without anyone even being able to really tell. What they might not want is women who are a little more brazen with how they do it. Or someone who is battling with a newborn to get them to latch.

It shouldn’t matter how a mother chooses to breastfeed. Whether she wants to mess around with nursing-specific clothing or just pull out a boob without a care in the world. That mother should feel free to do so without the need of a place to hide away.

Breastfeeding Stations are coming from a good place, even if they might be sending a mixed message

It’s hard to criticise something that is coming from a good place. I really don’t think people thought up the idea of breastfeeding stations to protect the general public from feeling uncomfortable. They likely did it for the benefit of the mother. Just perhaps we’re missing the mark on this one. The only way breastfeeding is going to become normalised is if we see it as part of everyday life and is something that is done publicly. These stations might have their use, but it’s a shame that they’re something that the public feel is needed.

I’m happy as always to hear your thoughts on this. Have you used a breastfeeding station before? Are they something that you feel are helpful for mothers, or are they just sending the wrong message?

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Breastfeeding Stations: Show of Support or Telling Mothers to do it in Private? This is a post just looking at whether or not breastfeeding stations are subtle, almost accidental, ways people are telling mothers to cover up and feed in private

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Ross

I’m a 26 year old married father of one. I started blogging after suffering postnatal depression when Isabelle was born. These days I talk about much more than just that.

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1 Comment

  1. Millie
    30th September 2018 / 9:01 am

    Overall I think they are sending the wrong message whilst trying hard to mean well. I think the intent is to make women feel comfortable, have a place to go to and an attempt at being inclusive. Sadly, I think the message comes across as the opposite and I purposely don’t use them as a way of saying ‘I can bf where I like, I don’t need to be hidden by a tent’ – but I also feel guilty because I do think the intent is a kind one. I much prefer the signs everywhere like cafes etc that say ‘bf is welcome here’ as a way of sticking two fingers up to anyway who might think it shouldn’t be. I think these signs should be everywhere, and although we shouldn’t need them – I see the signs as much more of a support advocating bf in public, everywhere and anywhere, rather than a tent trying to hide women bf away.
    But if you don’t like bf in public? Perhaps these tents are a bonus, perhaps you are really grateful for these tents. For the majority though I think it’s the opposite, and I always wonder how much they get used….

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