Can I Breastfeed in It? A Facebook group for new mothers: the friendliest place on the internet
From milk-proof vest tops to bridesmaid outfits, members of an online community are helping each other to find clothes that both look great and are easy to feed a baby in.
There are things in life you can only discover for yourself and things other people could have told you if only you had asked. Sorting between these two categories is the odd genius, such as Natalie Halman. Three years ago, when she was 27, she launched the Facebook page Can I Breastfeed in It? Almost instantly, 1,000 women were showering each other with suggestions for high-street clothes you could gracefully get in and out of – playsuits, wrap dresses, deceptively simple vest tops – in order to breastfeed. Death to the public feed is a top you have to pull up, rather than pull down, thus exposing the rest of your body.
This is a painful discovery to make on your own in public. Plus, you have just spent nine months pregnant and you wouldn’t mind looking slightly nice every now and then. “Suddenly you need to account for feeding access, how it fits on your new post-baby body and whether the material will hide baby-inflicted stains,” says Halman. “All that, alongside retaining a style that makes you feel like ‘you’, is not an easy task.”
Even though a decade has passed since I last tried to feed another human with my body, it is compulsive reading, not so much for its inventive quest for more imaginative jersey knits (front-loading buttons are good, but stretch is better) as for the vignettes presented to the group – “Help, I’m going to be a bridesmaid in six weeks, still breastfeeding my one-year-old, but one of the other bridesmaids is seven months pregnant and doesn’t want to look fat, what can we wear that will suit both of us?” – hosed with helpfulness from across the country as women getdown to the brass tacks of checking stock at the relevant Sainsbury’s for one another. It is a bit like the earliest days of Mumsnet.
It now has 60,000 members, which, given that 800,000 babies are born a year and 34% of mothers breastfeed for the first six months, is a significant proportion of the whole community. “This has happened totally organically,” says Halman. “The unification of breastfeeders on Facebook is quite incredible. Due to the lack of proper breastfeeding support provided by councils, we have been forced to come together to support each other through what is, for many, one of the most challenging times in our lives.”
Most importantly, the hegemonic shift they want to instill is that breastfeeding-friendly does not have to mean nursing wear. Feeling consigned to anything prefixed “nursing”, even when you are, does not work for anyone.
COVER PHOTO: The Facebook page Can I Breastfeed in It? exudes helpfulness across the country. Photo: Getty Images/Image Source