Column: ‘It’s natural to breastfeed on TV’

Sophie Mei Lan breastfeeding
Sophie Mei Lan breastfeeding
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The pre-mum me could never have imagined that she would have kids young, and she would’ve spat out her soy latte while choking on her gluten-free granola if she’d seen the future her breastfeeding... let alone breastfeeding live on national television.

I wasn’t born an earth mother, I was born into a plastic fantastic city life and I thought I was a career girl who was going to change the world.

I wouldn’t like to eat my dinner with a blanket on my head – would you?

Until I got pregnant.

“If I breastfeed my baby, I’d only do it in the car or on my own at home.”

Those were the words I uttered when I was pregnant for the first time. I was young, the pregnancy was unplanned and I was trying to prepare myself physically and mentally.

Part of this preparation, or so I thought, was using my government-given milk and vegetable vouchers to stock up on formula milk. As well as purchasing a steriliser, disposable nappies and bottles. But as the story goes, when my first child arrived, there was nothing that felt more natural than to breastfeed her. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a case of my baby popping out and my newborn lovingly latching on.

It took perseverance and us both learning how best to latch. I also had lots of help from breastfeeding peer supporter volunteers.

Nonetheless, it felt weird that my breasts, which had been tied up in society’s belief that they just exist to look good, were now beautifully functional and had a huge purpose. Yes, it was tough and tiring, but having your first baby is such a life-changer anyway.

Within weeks I became a breastfeeding advocate and I was bowled over by how much easier it had become. But I still would only feed in private or completely covered up. I wouldn’t like to eat my dinner with a blanket on my head, would you?

As the weeks passed by in a milky, sleepy haze, I started to become more comfortable feeding my bairn in front of other people. And I began feeding uncovered.

I went to breastfeeding groups where we could moan and drink coffee all while openly lactating.

I was settling into this whole mum-thing although I still wouldn’t have predicted that almost five years down the line I’d still be breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding isn’t the norm so people can’t comprehend breastfeeding an ‘older baby’.

The older my child got the more often I would get people saying: “So when are you stopping?”

“Give her some cow’s milk.”

“She needs a bottle.”

But I carried on. Why?

Because it nourishes, it soothes, it bonds, it’s free and most of all it’s natural. Although society (including health professionals) dismissed it as ‘freakish’.

I was expected to steal another mammal’s milk because cow’s milk is the ‘norm’. By the time I had my second child, I’d lost most of my feeding inhibitions and I had become an alumni of the breastfeeding academy.

So it was only natural that I went full throttle and breastfed on national TV.

I’d been invited on to BBC Two’s Victoria Derbyshire Show to talk about how our family had overcome fussy eating habits, following research that indicated a lot of fussy eating is in the genes. But my youngest daughter, aged 22 months, had come with me. And when the cameras turned to me she went to get some milk. I have been overwhelmed with the reaction to our appearance, receiving lots of positive messages from other families who are pleased to see breastfeeding normalised. Nobody in the TV studio blinked an eye either. Of course I had a negative tweet from one lone man, but that was it! So the odds are great.

* Visit BBC Victoria Derbyshire Show - Fussy Eaters to watch a clip, or log on to MamaMei.co.uk and follow @MamaMeiBlog for more from Sophie.