The 5.06 from Paddington

I have had my first negative public breastfeeding experience. It was on the 5.06 from Paddington. And, like most negative things that happen, it taught me a lesson. It taught me what sort of man I would like my son to be.

After a lovely Christmas lunch with my old workmates, and a painfully slow cab ride across London, I ran through Paddington in a way reminiscent of my life pre-Jack to make the 5.06 train to Reading (one of very few off-peak commuter trains, although that’s neither here nor there). Having run down the platform alongside another mum, we reached coach C, where there is about 30cm extra space, meant for pushchairs. (Thanks again for everything, First Great Western*.)

*Please sense the sarcasm

At this point, Jack woke from his hour-log nap and started to scream. Not that sort of ‘I’m mildly annoyed’ noise, the full on ‘you’re the worst mother in history and it sucks that I’m stuck with you’ sort of cry. Having squeezed on and through about 15 standing and very grumpy commuters, I found a little space for my iCandy Rasberry and me, and proceeded to take from his pram the noisiest, angriest baby in history. All the while my fellow passengers were trying to kill us with their eyes. I don’t mind this. I’m ashamed to say I’ve done this to mums in the past. (Sorry mums. I didn’t know what it was like before. And I liked peace and quiet. I still do.) Having tried bouncing him around, sticking pacifiers at him, shushing him and, I’ll admit, trying to kill him with my eyes, I decided there was nothing for it but to feed him. I proceeded to manoeuvre into position in our fold-down chair in the 10cm of space we had, and latch him on without exposing myself to the carriage. Which was when a couple of previously silent business men started whooping and making lewd comments to the rest of the passengers such as ‘go on lad’ and ‘save some for me’.

While this sort of thing would usually not bother me, the fact that I was stuck in such a cramped tiny space with nowhere to move, surrounded by hostility and feeding my inconsolable son made me feel extremely vulnerable and out in the open. There wasn’t really anything I could do, so I just shifted slightly around and stared out the window, trying and failing to think of something to say back to these idiots.

But when it comes to it, nothing I would have said would have changed the situation – they were looking for (and found) a cheap laugh, at my expense. And their lack of respect for me, and women in general, is not something I would have the power to change whether or not I had thought of a clever comeback. I do, however, have the power to shape a little man of my own now. And I intend to teach him the right and wrong way to treat women, because making a woman feel exposed like that is not something I ever want my son to be responsible for.


So son, when you’re older and making your way in the world, just remember that one day, when you were tiny, your mum was just a woman on a train, doing everything in her power to make you happy. That lady deserved respect. And she didn’t get it. 

Don’t you be that guy. 
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45 Comments

  1. You are a mother, and so far, you must have noticed that your baby is trying to fit in this world's schedules. Knowing that he has been napping, why didnt you wait for him to wake up, feed him and then run on the train? How did you plan to change and cuddle him after feeding on that train?
    Plenty of breast friendly places there anyway!

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  2. What a horrible comment Mindful Mom. What these men did was essentially serial harassment, not only of a mother, but also her baby. You are victim blaming. Perhaps it was unusual for Jack to wake up on the train, perhaps Rebecca had to get home for a certain time, perhaps like my daughter he is not a straightforward nap, feed, change, cuddle baby but can erupt suddenly without any warning signs into 'I need milk and I need it right now' screams. I have happily fed, changed, cuddled and played with my baby on a train, thankfully I have never been confronted with comments such as those Rebecca was. Transport companies could do a great deal to improve services for those travelling with children and people educated from a young age to have a positive attitude to breastfeeding.

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  3. Breast feeding is an intimate moment of responding to a baby's needs. Physically and emotionally intimate and, therefore, should not be done in public.
    Furthermore the breasts cease to be considered as a sexual object by the mother who breastfeeds, and the father who sees that they are now used for other purpose.
    You want your baby to have your breast-milk. Either go in private to breast feed, or express in advance knowing your baby will be up hungry.
    As long as the men on that train are not my husbands / partners, I do not see a reason to demand from them to stop seeing my boobs as sexual objects. Easy as that.

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  4. Everywhere should be breast friendly, it's not like you can leave the house without them. The person at fault in this scenario are the men, with their sexually abusive and intimidating comments. Simples!

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  5. Mindful Mom is talking absolute bollox.

    “As long as the men on that train are not my husbands / partners, I do not see a reason to demand from them to stop seeing my boobs as sexual objects.”

    There is so much wrong with this I cannot even begin to describe it. I bet you're also the sort of person who says feminism is no longer needed, right?

    Those men were disgusting, and it says a lot more about them than it does about you, Rebecca. Keep doing what you're doing. Merry Christmas xx

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  6. Yes. You're right it's her fault. What an idiot for thinking it woukd be perfectly ok to breastfeed on the train, what with it being perfectly natural etc. She should definitely have rearranged her day in order to avoid being heckled by dick heads on the train. You're absolutely right. Or maybe just a massive knob.

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  7. Mindful Mom I suspect you had babies 50 years ago from your quite frankly out dated and sexist comments! My babies wouldn't take a bottle so I'm sure whilst you'd have been happy for me to be imprisoned at home it is actually not illegal to leave the house with a baby and indeed to breast feed said baby in public, wherever and whenever it's needed!

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  8. Mindful Mom: what an extraordinary remark to make. I continue to be astonished that there are women out there who comply with the Victorian stereotype. I am lucky enough not to have suffered any type of harrasment when feeding my children, privately or in public, and whilst leery male behaviour is repulsive and tragic it is not a repellent as telling another woman to contain herself and her infant or expect to be subjected to sexual and social harassment. Please, please, go and get some counselling before you indoctrinate another generation.

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  9. Reading this post made me sad but not as sad as reading your comment Mindful Mum.
    My baby doesn't take a bottle and is exclusively breastfed. I feed him in public on a daily basis and thankfully haven't come across anyone like you during that time. I hope I never do because if I did I'd probably end up getting myself on Santa's naughty list. You are almost certainly getting coal in your stocking tomorrow!!

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  10. Wow! I am so angry on your behalf not only for the behaviour of those p*ss poor excuses for men and the fact that no one else stepped up to defend you (had I been on that train I would have and not just because I'm a Breastfeeding Mum but because I'm a decent human being) but also for the fact that one of the comments on this is appalling – looking at you Mindful Mom! Babies need to be fed when they need to be fed, it doesn't matter where, when or how! Those of us who breast feed so so because it suits us and its what we feel is best and right for us and our babies, this does not mean that we should be confined to our houses, we do what nature intended us to do with our breasts (their sexual function is entirely secondary and merely to show how good they would be at providing nourishment for future offspring). Please do us all a favour and educate yourself on women's rights, true feminism and the function of breasts and then come back and apologise for your ill advised comment!
    Oh and as I was sent here by Mumsnet; have a biscuit! ��

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  11. Stupid comment! So it's dark she's on her own with her baby but you expect her to wait around? She's already said she was rushing for the off peak train. Idiot.

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  12. Mindful Mom … probably stuffed her poor children in to nursery a week after birth so they wouldn't inconvenience her by being hungry/needing to be cared for/interrupting her life – take your pick! What a sad sad excuse for a woman.

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  13. Mindful Mom, you have no idea what you are talking about. Boobs are for feeding babies. End of. You really are a ridiculous person. You call yourself Mindful Mom, why? Shouldn't you be called sanctimonious obnoxious judgmental Mom?
    Merry Christmas

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  14. Mindful Mom, you have no idea what you are talking about. Boobs are for feeding babies. End of. You really are a ridiculous person. You call yourself Mindful Mom, why? Shouldn't you be called sanctimonious obnoxious judgmental Mom?
    Merry Christmas

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  15. This post made me embarrassed to be male.

    Mindful Mom made me embarrassed to be human. I'm particularly disgusted that there was not one pasesnger, male or female, prepared to tell these twats to “shut up and let this lady do what comes naturally”. What's wrong with our bloody species?

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  16. I am shocked. I'm not even a mother, and I can see that babies have needs and won't stick to a schedule.

    So how can this person who calls herself “Mindful Mom” not see this?

    Also, that comment is totally beside the point.

    Even if it were the most horrible thing ever to breastfeed in public, that STILL wouldn't give those men any justification to sexually harrass a woman. NOTHING can justify such behaviour.

    I like to think that I would have yelled at them if I had been there. Though probably I would just have rolled my eyes disapprovingly.

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  17. i feel you may have somewhat missed the point. i don't expect men to stop sexualising breasts. i'm not the thought police. i do expect them to behave like decent human being and not to heckle women who are using them for their primary function. these men went out of their way to make another person uncomfortable for their own amusement. this i feel is the problem.

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  18. Wait – so you insist that your husband doesn't see your breasts as sexual but a complete stranger should? In any case, as Reeni points out this is about behaviour not instinct. Anyone in a civilized society should be able to resist giving in to rude or threatening behaviour.

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  19. Wait – so you insist that your husband doesn't see your breasts as sexual but a complete stranger should? In any case, as Reeni points out this is about behaviour not instinct. Anyone in a civilized society should be able to resist giving in to rude or threatening behaviour.

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  20. i feel you may have somewhat missed the point. i don't expect men to stop sexualising breasts. i'm not the thought police. i do expect them to behave like decent human being and not to heckle women who are using them for their primary function. these men went out of their way to make another person uncomfortable for their own amusement. this i feel is the problem.

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  21. Very well said Liz Fowle! My children are now grown up. I breast fed both of them, but did not dare to do it in public – I wish I hah had more courage!

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  22. It is high time that this sort of behaviour towards a breasfeeding/caring Mum was made a criminal offence. Once these Neanderthals are then exposed for the Dickheads they are we will then see a backlash from the majority (normal) population towards them.
    Makes me ashamed to be a Male.

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  23. Dear 'Mindful Mom', thanks for reading my post. I'd like to invite you to read my earlier post about judging fellow mums.

    http://www.themotheredit.com/2015/11/why-are-we-so-judgemental-bad-parenting.html

    Being a mother is the hardest job I've ever undertaken and I'm learning how to do it every day. I have a huge amount of respect for everyone who is raising a child, and I also respect the choices they make along the way, because frankly, it's near to impossible to always know, or choose the 'right' way to do everything.

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  24. You are a mother, your baby needs feeding. The fact anyone – make or female – would have a problem with that is absolutely disgusting and shameful.

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  25. I think Mindful Mom should stfu and keep her 'advice' to herself – it's irrelevant. Bf babies feed on demand. There's absolutely no way to predict it right every time, least of all time to try when you have a train to catch which as the op described, she had to run to catch. Keep doing what you're doing Rebecca, you're doing a great job.

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