Baby feeding rooms – a help or hindrance to breastfeeding mums?

This week is world breastfeeding week, there are lots of different things going on to celebrate, help, encourage and support breastfeeding mums. Although there is an official blog scavenger hunt going on, I thought I would write a post about something that really annoyed me when I was breastfeeding and even now a year on continues to irritate me.

The feeding chair..

Yes, I am talking about that chair. The chair you find in baby change facilities in shops, supermarkets and shopping centres. It makes me mad just looking at it. You might think I have some irrational feelings here but hear me out, please. 
From the very first time I came across one of these chairs, wedged in a corner of a supermarket baby changing room, I have despised it and everything it stands for. This chair is placed in these rooms for one reason and one reason only, for mums to breastfeed their babies. Correct me if I am wrong but I have never met a bottle feeding mum who has felt the need to hide out in a smelly baby change room. All my friends have bottle fed their babies and not once did any of them quietlly slip away to this room to feed their baby. I mean why would they? No one bats an eye lid if you bottle feed your baby in public do they (again correct me if I am wrong)?
I breastfed my son for 10 months and only once I used this chair. Leo was 9 months, we were in the M&S cafe and he was crying for a feed. At the time we were going through the feeding acrobatics stage and my brother was with us and he gets weirded out by breastfeeding. So, going against everything I believed in I took Leo off to the baby changing room for a feed. I sat down on the straight backed, plastic chair, placed inconsiderately close to the toilet and attempted to latch Leo on. I don’t know if it was the smell of other babies poo in the air or the uncomfortable, brightly lit surroundings or something else altogether but Leo refused to feed. He worked himself up into a state and I ended up storming back in to the cafe, told my brother to deal with it and gave Leo his feed. He was so much happier now we were out of that room.
Not exactly comfy looking, is it?
This was my only experience of feeding in one of these rooms and not because I loved feeding in public. In fact, I really didn’t enjoy feeding while out and about, not at the start anyway. I have had what felt like the whole of Costa stare at me while I attempted to feed my screaming newborn. I have had old ladies stare in cafes with odd little smiles on their faces as I fed my baby. I have even had strange men pretending not to look as I latched Leo on while eating out at a local pub. I found the whole breastfeeding around strangers thing really uncomfortable and stressful in those first few months. You may be wondering why I didn’t use these rooms from the start then if I wasn’t confident feeding in public? I didn’t use these rooms because I knew that like most things, breastfeeding in public would get easier in time. I knew I would learn to ignore the stares and not worry about the people around me and guess what, I did learn and it got easier. To be honest, I didn’t want to feed in these rooms because they smell..bad. I know they are cleaned regularly but the smell of a dirty nappy lingers and these rooms see lots of dirty nappies throughout the day. I can just about cope with my own darling childs poo, I don’t want to be sat in a room for what could be half an hour forced to breathe in air carrying the smell of random babies number 2s.
Not the nicest of views..

What upsets me more than anything though is that shops/cafes etc are not honest about why these chairs are there. In many department stores I have noticed that on the door to these baby rooms there is the nappy changing logo and a bottle symbol. A bottle?! Well that is strange *insert shop name here*, you have a lovely little microwave and bottle warmer in your cafe and yet you think parents will be bringing their freshly warmed bottles in here to feed to their babies? I mean, why would they stay in the cafe and enjoy some company and coffee while giving their child a bottle when they could sit, alone in this lovely changing room? Just be honest. That chair is there for breastfeeding mums and some mums may be so grateful for it. Those mums who find feeding in public too stressful are probably glad you provide this. I am not saying all places should get rid of this chair, I am just saying be honest. Stick a breastfeeding symbol on the door as well, there is one in case you didn’t know. The only problem is, put a breastfeeding symbol on the door and you will be admitting that breastfeeding mums should be feeding their children out of sight in a room full of nappies. 
The international symbol for breastfeeding

There are probably many mums out there who strongly disagree. Mum’s who may not have been able to go out if it were not for these facilities or mum’s who prefered feeding in the quiet than surrounded by people. All I am saying is I do no think sticking a chair in a baby changing room is the answer to helping more women feed in public. Yes, it is great it is there for women who need it but it is such a shame that women feel they need it. There were so many occasions where I would change Leo’s nappy and he would then need a feed. Sometimes, I felt as though I was obliged to use the chair as it was there, I was worried staff would frown at me for feeding in cafes when they knew fully well there was a chair waiting in the baby change. I was always envious of friends who bottle fed, not even having to stop to think about what they were doing or if anyone was watching. It looked so easy, why couldn’t feeding my baby be like that? Why can’t we just live in a society where breastfeeding mums don’t have to worry about anyone but their baby and people don’t even think twice if they see you feeding your baby? More needs to be done to help normalise breastfeeding and as a result, boost the confidence of breastfeeding mums. In my opinion, feeding your child in one of these rooms is too much like feeding them in a toilet and we all know that isn’t fair, to mum or to baby.

I really hope everything going on this World Breastfeeding Week helps to make breastfeeding in public a better experience for evveryone.
Do you think baby feeding rooms are a help or hindrance to breastfeeding mums? Do you use them? I would be really interested to find out your opinions.
  

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28 Comments

  1. August 6, 2015 / 3:34 pm

    I think it's a really interesting issue you've raised. I didn't breastfeed my children but I also don't see the issue with women breastfeeding in public. it's not like your standing there with your boobs out and being inappropriate like Ibiza on tour is it?!? I agree that these chairs might be helpful to some women but surely there is a better way maybe a room seperate from the nappy bins I mean you wouldn't keep a highchair in the ladies loo would you? great way to raise an important issue #brilliantblogposts

  2. August 8, 2015 / 9:17 pm

    Haha ibiza on tour!yes I think a completely seperate room would be better, in an ideal world no one would feel the need to comment on women feeding in public and all women would feel confident doing it. Imagine if they put highchairs in there! It's basically the same thing xx

  3. August 9, 2015 / 6:47 pm

    I nursed all 3 of my children and could not do it in public. I tried with all three and I was just too stressed out to do it. I had to arrange everything I did in terms of when they would eat because there is no way I would sit in that horrible chair if there was a chair. I will say I had a wonderful mothers room at my part time job that allowed me to pump in a wonderful comfortable chair. It has been the best place I have seen. I am visiting you from #SundayStars
    Kristen
    mustachesandprincessmom.blogspot.com

  4. August 9, 2015 / 6:51 pm

    This is a great post. I had mega issue when breastfeeding Holly I don't a post here http://workingmumy.blogspot.com (shameless plug) But its posts like these that really have helped me for when I have my next one. I wish i had found people like you when I was having Holly!!
    Thanks!!
    Lx

  5. August 9, 2015 / 7:55 pm

    I don't like those chairs either and have never used one. I am sure that some mums who are uncomfortable breastfeeding in public find them helpful but it bothers me that they are nearly always placed in baby changing rooms (although I do know of one shop locally that has a feeding room as a separate room and not part of the nappy changing area. If people could just accept that feeding a baby is natural and normal whichever feeding method is chosen then perhaps these chairs wouldn't be needed. I'd much rather feed my baby in a cafe though than in a toilet.

  6. August 9, 2015 / 9:45 pm

    I've always thought they're a good idea! I didn't get to the stage of breastfeeding in public (see my post in the linky – Momma Boss) and I don't think I personally would have used them that much as I would prefer to find a quiet corner in a cafe where I can sit and relax but I think its great for moms that aren't comfortable with public feeding. It means they can go out without worrying! I think these little rooms are promoting breastfeeding and making it easier for some moms!

  7. August 10, 2015 / 12:56 pm

    I think the problem with these rooms is that they aren't segregated from the changing areas. So not only do you deal with nappy stench but also with people banging on the door to change nappies as the average breastfeed takes longer than a nappy change. In theory they are great and the facilities here in dubai are fantastic. In practice they have a way to go. But I'm sure it will catch up eventually! #maternitymonday

  8. August 10, 2015 / 6:24 pm

    I totally agree with you. The chairs and what they represent are wrong. It's bad enough having to go in there to change their nappies without the poor things being expected to eat in there. It's turned my stomach and it is wrong.
    Babies need feeding-bottle or breast, they should nit have to go in a stinky toilet to do so. #MaternityMondays

  9. August 10, 2015 / 6:52 pm

    Oh definitely, a chair next to the bathroom stalls is NOT ok. Wouldn't it be nice though if a separate room was made available for breastfeeding privately if the mother needed that (or if the child just gets too distracted otherwise)? We don't have this kind of set up I don't think, there aren't any chairs in the restrooms even if you wanted to sit down while waiting in line heh. On the other hand, so many restrooms here don't even have a changing table available.

  10. August 11, 2015 / 8:12 am

    I agree with everything you say. I was so embarrassed about breastfeeding my son in public when he was first born. In fact, if we were out and he needed a feed, I'd just go home. This meant I never strayed far – I preferred not to go out! When he was about 3 months old, I got a feeding apron and just got on with it. And I never used one of those feeding rooms either. My god they stink. When I first heard about them, I thought they were the answers to my prayers. Then I went in one and walked straight out again. #TwinklyTuesdays

  11. August 11, 2015 / 8:50 am

    This was an interesting read. I bottle fed both my girls. If I ever have another child then I would love to breastfeed that baby. I am not sure if I would feel 100% comfortable sitting in a café breastfeeding BUT that is just my low confidence. I think there is NO problem with breastfeeding in public places. I praise women who do. I really look up to them. If I ever have a nother and a choice of breastfeeding in the toilets on that chair or in public place, I think I would choose public place if I am honest. Breastfeeding should be accepted everywhere any anywhere xxx

  12. August 11, 2015 / 7:57 pm

    Hi, I totally agree with you. I have always found it mildly insulting that the breastfeeding room is a pokey little room in the corner of the department store away from everyone else and away from whoever you may have come shopping with. My now ex mother in law said to me 'you are not one of those awful women who breastfeeds in public are you?' I was, and still am, and I am proud of it.

  13. August 14, 2015 / 1:31 am

    Thank you so much for linking this with #BreastfeedingandI. You've touched on an important aspect of the issue of breastfeeding in public and it's one that needs highlighting beyond breastfeeding online and offline groups.

    Oh that chair, I haven't thought much about what it represents and your post has definitely given me food for thought. It's encouraged me to write some of the thoughts I've had about this issue and others that reading your post has stired up.

    I was one of the mums who felt super grateful for it at the beginning when I finally started going out; but the smell soon resulted in the loss of gratitude. Finding out about breastfeeding covers was what finally liberated me from using those rooms. The chairs are rarely as nice and comfy like the chairs in the shops or cafes too!

    Yes, we need to talk about this more and change things. I'm going to look out for the symbols from now on. 🙂 #BreastfeedingandI

  14. August 14, 2015 / 9:49 pm

    I have only ever used this chair once, this was about 8 years ago and I hated every stinky minute of it, the chair was completely inappropriate for feeding in and I had people banging on the door the entire time. I'm not even sure why I used it as I've never had an issue with feeding in public, ever! Personally I think if companies are going to offer somewhere for mums to breastfeed they should be classed as quiet rooms and should be dimly lit with comfortable seating that can be curtained off (so more than one mum can use it). BUT there should also be a sign on the door saying that the room is for any mum who needs somewhere quiet to feed their baby even though feeding (bottle or breast) is welcomed anywhere. Wouldn't that be nice! Thanks for linking up with #sundaystars xxx

  15. August 16, 2015 / 7:45 pm

    I used those chairs a few times and had some of the most uncomfortable feeds I our breastfeeding journey! Where my sister lives, there are a few cafes and restaurants that I walk past that have the breastfeeding welcome sticker on their window and it does make me smile! Thanks so much for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday

  16. August 18, 2015 / 11:48 am

    In the very early days I was also guilty of planning trips around feeds, I found public feeding really difficult at the start. It is great your work had a nice room for you to pump in, I bet there were no nappies in there!xx

  17. August 18, 2015 / 11:50 am

    Aww thank you! I am all about support having a key role in helping mums continuing to breastfeed, I know I would have given up straight away if I didn't have such amazing, understanding people around me at the start xx

  18. August 18, 2015 / 11:54 am

    I totally agree a seperate, nappy free room would be better but I just find it such a shame that breastfeeding mums are encouraged to hide away instead of the general public being encouraged to just accept that some women don't bottle feed their babies. I just think get over it people it's just a boob! Yes I would pick a cafe over a toilet any day!xx

  19. August 18, 2015 / 11:59 am

    I definitely agree that for those mums who don't like feeding in public then these rooms are a good solution. It just bothers me that the chair is in the same room as lots of nappies/a toilet and that the breastfeeding symbol isn't used. What bothers me most is that we can't all feel comfortable doing something as natural as feeding our babies when we are out of the house but maybe we will never live in a world where breastfeeding in public is completely accepted by everyone xx

  20. August 18, 2015 / 12:04 pm

    Yes, I totally agree. Breastfeeding mums who want to feed privately should be provided with more than just an uncomfortable chair in the nappy change. A seperate room purposefully made for feeding mums would be much better. You are right, sometimes Leo could feed for 40minutes, I am sure there would be a bug queue of grumpy mums and babies waiting to use the room after that amount if time.xx

  21. August 18, 2015 / 12:07 pm

    Yes!!This is what is all comes down to, mums who want to feed privately are basically being made to feed in a glorified toilet. It is not right, I am glad you agree.xx

  22. August 18, 2015 / 12:09 pm

    Yes i agree, a seperate breastfeeding room would be much better for those who need it. Oh no, I bet it is frustrating not always having a changing table available!xx

  23. August 18, 2015 / 12:13 pm

    It sounds like your feeding apron saved you from countless days stuck in the house!while we were still getting the hang of feedings sometimes I would feed him in the car, I agree that in those early days it feels good to stay close to home. Yea, the chair seems like it could be a good idea but it's really not xx

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    May 12, 2016 / 6:35 am

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  25. September 4, 2016 / 11:43 am

    They definitely helped me the first time round. But after a while and this time I feel like ur sitting in a toilet!! Not this time. If people don’t like the sight of me breastfeeding. Then don’t look!!
    L X
    http://workingmumy.blogspot.com

  26. April 7, 2017 / 5:06 pm

    Ive never seen a chair near a nappy bin, every one i used had a seperate room for feeding, john lewis in glasgow is especially great. If it werent for these rooms i would barely have gone out! I breastfed both my children, but rarely would do so in public – yeah i know how thoroughly un feminist of me but i really didnt feel comfortable doing it in public. (Although my first al fresco feed was a t a farm park we took my son to just 5 days after i had my daughter and il never forget attracting a herd of cows arround me as i sat at a picnic table feeding!) I think in some ways the breastfeeding debate is actually driving some women in the opposite direction, because they arent overjoyed and confident to feed in public it is somehow seen as wrong by the boobie mafia so they then hide away even more?! When my parents would come round id take the baby upstairs so i didnt have to do it in front of my dad!! Im just not comfortable with boobs in general. So these rooms do serve a purpose and clearly the ones youve seen are in need of an upgrade if they smell so bad. That may be a case for letting the establishments know. I think its a really interesting topic that needs a lot of work. Im really interested in everyones point of views on it and enjoyed reading your post, i can tell how passionate you are about the topic x
    pam lorimer recently posted…Mug CakesMy Profile

  27. May 12, 2017 / 11:12 pm

    My local John Lewis has a lovely baby change area with two feeding areas, one of them is more hidden in case you prefer to breastfeed in public. We also have a nice baby change area in our shopping centre. It isn’t the nicest looking but it has a big toilet cubicle so you could easily fit the buggy in there with you, it has a microwave, tap for drinking water and for hot water, a TV with children’s channels playing and a seating area with a comfy one arm chair and one sofa. The sofa also has a curtain in front that you can pull to cover you up or move out of the way to be more social if you wanted. I must be pretty lucky! I had fed there several times and I’ve never had a problem with it!

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