This post was first published by The Croydon Citizen on 05/12/2017.
How Croydon’s baby cafés help mothers and babies to get out and about
Here’s one that the Best Independent Café Awards hasn’t looked at – where’s Croydon’s best café for breastfeeding mothers?
It’s worth stating right from the start that this is not an evangelical column espousing the wonders of breastfeeding, or critiquing any other method of feeding your child (there are many!). It is instead a chance for a first time mum to share her experiences of feeding in and around Croydon, in the hope that others may find it useful. Right – now that that’s done, we can begin!
Just over ten weeks ago, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl and became an FTM (for those not au fait with the language of Mumsnet, this means First Time Mum). Before I had a baby, I had a romanticised view of breastfeeding: that it would be beautiful and natural and – above all – relatively simple to do. Baby on boob. That’s it, right?
Well, that may be the case for a lucky few, but for me this beautiful journey was not quite that simple. My memories of those first few postpartum days are a blur of snatched sleep in between feeding sessions, which would go a little like this…
- Baby sticks their tongue out/starts moving their little face towards your boob/screams like a banshee
- Put baby to breast
- Tiny baby (with equally tiny mouth) thrashes around near the breast like a fish out of water
- Neither of you knows what to do
- Eventually wrestle baby onto your nipple
- Get baby to ‘latch on’ whilst enduring toe-curling pain, which all the books will tell you means you are doing it wrong
- Baby stops feeding… and now you worry endlessly that you are doing something wrong/they’re not getting enough milk
- The whole process starts again before you can so much as think about cleaning your teeth
Newsflash! Breastfeeding is an art and it takes time for both you and baby to get it right. But from what I’ve heard anecdotally, very few women get away without experiencing those first few painful days. And I don’t think anyone escapes the exhaustion and worry (welcome to being a parent!). However, like any rite of passage – and just like training guitar strumming fingers to endure the strings (the best analogy I’ve heard) – the difficult stage should pass with the right support.
As a newly breastfeeding mum, I found the process of feeding my child in public really stressful at the start. I was worried that I would flash people, offend people, spray milk in their coffee etc etc. However, this was trumped by my worry that staying at home would make me feel isolated and sad, and that my child would be distressed and cry. This meant that I had to go out and when I was out, I would have to feed my child. End of story.
Baby cafés are full of women just like you
Luckily, we Croydon-based-mums have access to a lot of the aforementioned support. The access to breastfeeding counsellors – through the numerous baby cafés – is second to none in our area; something to celebrate! They are a perfect place for newbies – or second, third or fourth timers rediscovering this skill – to practice their technique before heading out into the world of coffee shops and cafés which are the natural habitat for mums on maternity leave. For this reason, my first review focuses on the baby cafés situated around the borough.
When building up your confidence to breastfeed, baby cafés are a great place to start. They are full of women just like you, who will be popping out a boob to feed their own grizzly children. At most ‘cafés’ (to manage expectations, these are generally just a room in a children’s centre, clinic or community space), someone will make you a cup of tea or coffee for free, no questions asked. Something it is impossible for a new mum to do! A number of them even have cake. There will also be breastfeeding counsellors and peer supporters milling round, who can provide advice on anything from positioning to dealing with sleep deprivation. You can also guarantee that there are baby changing facilities of acceptable quality on site; something which cannot be said for all cafés and coffee shops – as my column will explore over the coming weeks.
In the coming months my partner, Citizen contributor Martin Leay, and I will produce an occasional series which we’ll call ‘parentlife’. My contributions will be ‘mumlife’ and his ‘dadlife’. Together we’ll look at different aspects of early years – in our case right now, still early weeks – parenting in Croydon, as we get to grips with life with our beautiful daughter and start taking her out and about to explore her home town.