Hollie McNish on breastfeeding in public

Just wanted to share this fabulous spoken word performance by Hollie McNish. Hollie wrote the poem in a public toilet after her 6-month-old baby fell asleep; she breastfed her daughter in public toilets for six months out of embarrassment, after someone commented she should “stay home” when they saw her breastfeeding in public for the first time.

At first

I thought it was ok

I could understand their reasons

They said ‘There might be young children or a nervous man seeing’

this small piece of flesh that they weren’t quite expecting

so I whispered and tiptoed with nervous discretion.

But after six months of her life sat sitting on lids

Sipping on her milk nostrils sniffing up piss

Trying not to bang her head on toilet roll dispensers

I wonder whether these public loo feeds offend her?

Cos I’m getting tired of discretion and being ‘polite’ as my baby’s first sips are drowned drenched in shite,

I spent the first feeding months of her beautiful life

Feeling nervous and awkward and wanting everything right.

Surrounded by family until I stepped out the house

It took me eight weeks to get the confidence to go into town

Now the comments around me cut like a knife

As I rush into toilet cubicles feeling nothing like nice.

Because I’m giving her milk that’s not in a bottle

Wishing the cocaine generation white powder would topple

I see pyramid sales pitches across our green globe

and female breasts banned. Unless they’re out just for show.

And the more I go out, the more I can’t stand it,

I walk into town feel I’m surrounded by bandits

Cos in this country of billboards covered in ‘tits’

and family newsagents’ magazines full of it

Whsmith top shelves out for men – Why don’t you complain about them then?

In this country of billboards covered in ‘tits’

and family newsagents magazines full of it

Whsmith top shelves out for men, I’m getting embarrassed

In case a small flash of flesh might offend.

And I’m mot trying to ‘parade’ this, I don’t want to make a show

But when I’m told I’d be better just staying at home

And when another friend I know is thrown off a bus

And another woman told to get out the pub

Even my grandma said maybe I was ‘sexing it up’.

And I’m sure the milk makers love all this fuss

All the cussing and worry and looks of disgust

As another mother turns from nipples to powder

Ashamed or embarrassed by comments around her and

As I hold her head up and pull my cardy across and she sips on the liquor made by everyones God, I think

For God sake, Jesus drank it

So did Sidhartha, Muhammed and Moses and both of their fathers

Ganesh and Shiva and Brighid and Buddha and I’m sure they weren’t doing it sniffing up piss as their mothers sat embarassed on cold toilet lids

In a country of billboards covered in ‘tits’

In a country of low cut tops cleavage and skin

In a country of cloth bags and recycling bins and as I desperately try to take all of it in,

I hold her head up

I can’t get my head round

The anger towards us and not to the sounds

of lorries offloading formula milk

into countries where water runs dripping in filth

In towns where breasts are oasis of life

now dried up in two for one offers, enticed by labels and logos and gold standard rights

claiming ‘breastmilk is healthier powdered and white’

packaged and branded and sold at a price so that nothing is free in this money fuelled life.

Which is fine

If you need it or prefer and can afford to use bottles, where water is clean and bacteria boiled,

but in towns where they drown in pollution and sewage

bottled kids die and they knew that they’d do it

In families where pennies are savoured like sweets

We’re now paying for one thing that’s always been free

In villages empty of hospital beds

babies die, diarrhoea fuelled that breastmilk would end

So no more will I sit on these cold toilet lids

No matter how embarrassed I feel as she sips

Cos in this country of billboards covered in ‘tits’

I think I should try to get used to this.