For many women pregnancy can be a wonderful experience. As their body grows to accommodate their new baby, many mums feel proud of their new silhouette and love the excuse to have an extra biscuit without guilt. They might have a pregnancy photo shoot or belly casting as a memento to celebrate their new shape (have a look at these wonderful examples on Rebecca May Photography or Rockabelly Life Casting – the blue flowery one is my favourite). But for some women the almost celebrity-like attention that they receive when they are pregnant is difficult to get used to as people they hardly know think it’s okay to touch their bump and discuss it’s size and shape.
We live in a very image conscious world and the weight gain associated with pregnancy (unless you are fortunate enough to have the perfect little football bump) can make you feel very self conscious as people are frequently looking at your tummy to see if you’re ‘out front’ or ‘all around’. I remember one mum telling me that as much as she enjoyed her changing shape and feeling her baby’s movements, she hated the fact that she couldn’t buy a pint of milk without someone in the shop commenting on her bump and predicting her likely date of delivery, size and sex of the baby. In some ways she felt it was an intrusion of her privacy and couldn’t wait to go back to being anonymous again.
As we all know, feeling self conscious about your body doesn’t stop as soon as your baby ‘pops’ out either. Firstly there’s the race to get back into your pre-pregnancy clothes – after all who wants to wear maternity clothes for longer than necessary??? The old adage of ‘9 months on, 9 months off’ might be realistic for most of us mere mortals but it’s not what we see on the rare moments that we have time to flick through the celebrity magazines. Dieting and exercise in the early postnatal period should always be attempted sensibly with the support of a trained postnatal instructor so that your body still gets the nutrients it needs to recover from the birth and produce breastmilk and the muscles affected by pregnancy are exercised safely. Finding time to exercise can be another barrier but postnatal exercise groups such as Buggy Fitness offer a fun opportunity to exercise in the fresh air with other new mums which is beneficial to both mind and body without the need for childcare.
For many breastfeeding mums their greatest concern is regarding how they can feed their baby discretely to attract minimum attention. I can remember when I first started feeding my daughter out and about I was quite nervous about someone commenting on it. I would like to think that I’d be able to think of a smart remark if anyone had challenged me, but in reality I might have just retreated into my shell for protection. In the 18 months that I fed Susie, I gradually became more confident about being able to feed anywhere without fear of ‘flashing’. From cafes to park benches, and, most memorably in the back of a boat on a seal watching trip, in the end there was nowhere that would phase me and I never had anyone comment about it. For those early weeks there are many techniques you might like to try to give yourself a little more privacy ranging from wearing purposely designed feeding tops or capes, using muslins or a scarf draped over the baby’s head or just wearing looser clothing. I was very proud of feeding my daughter but always tried to keep it a private thing but I have to say there’s a bit of me that thinks that it might have been fun to be a bit more loud and proud and get a booby beanie hat - now that might turn a few heads!!!