The worst places to feed a baby

Every so often, we all make an error of judgement. I am particularly prone to this when it comes to choosing somewhere peaceful to sit and feed a hungry infant.

My personal top ten of Shit Places To Feed Babies includes a heaving gluhwein stall in the middle of a Berlin Christmas market, a windy clifftop outside a pub at a busy beer festival and a coffee shop where the clientele decided to loudly discuss the evils of formula milk as I prepared a bottle of said “poison”  for my screaming infant and tried not to cry myself.

Needless to say with that pedigree I didn’t think twice today about entering what looked like a quaint olde worlde tea room in a quiet market town with one baby in need of milk and one toddler demanding orange juice and a biscuit. It seduced me with its exposed oak beams and ingenious if a little bizarre window display of cascading plastic pearls.

Unfortunately I didn’t realise until it was too late that the tea room was actually a pub, and that pub was clearly the preferred haunt of the town’s two oldest and most hardcore drunks. I noticed them propping up the bar just as I started giving the baby his bottle and was therefore a captive audience.

What attracted my attention was the sound of Drunk 2 coughing up what appeared to be the remainder of his right lung. This prompted Drunk 1, perhaps in an effort to distract me from the death rattle, to ask me over and over again whether I thought the baby’s bottle was warm enough. I was hugely relieved for once that I wasn’t breastfeeding – I think the entire place would have spontaneously  combusted.

After about the ninth time, I realised that we were never going to progress past this endless repetition unless I moved the conversation on so I asked him whether he had children of his own.

‘Unfortunately not’, was the reply. I wasn’t quite sure what to say, so I mumbled something about them being a mixed blessing at times.

‘That depends on whether it was your choice,’ he roared.

‘Oh God,’ I thought, as the toddler shrank closer to me and almost kicked his juice over, ‘I am now going to spend the next hour debating lifestyle choices with a man who has drunk his own weight in whisky every day for the last four decades.’

Incredibly the baby came to our rescue by finishing his milk and then very loudly and proudly filling his pants.

‘Um, is there anywhere I can change a nappy?’ I asked the barmaid,who was studiously ignoring all of us. Deep down,  I already knew the answer – it was obvious by now that nobody under the age of 65 had set foot in the place for quite some time.

“The restaurant,” she said, gesturing to another room. So we decamped to an empty cafe area (mmm, hygienic) where I discovered that the baby was quite literally up to his neck in his own creation and I was almost out of wet wipes. Somehow we struggled through, while Drunk 1 loitered in the doorway and attempted to tell me his life story while the toddler pretended to stab himself with  a plastic fork he had somehow found on a chair.

After what felt like an eternity, we were ready to leave. I said goodbye to Drunk 1 for the 19th time, threw the baby into his buggy and yanked the toddler towards the door. We were literally two steps from freedom when my son looked up at me angelically.

“Mummy,” he said. “I’ve done a poo in my pants too.”

Help! I’m addicted to message boards

I charted both my pregnancies through the What to Expect app.

I downloaded it because through every week of pregnancy it compares your growing baby to a fruit or vegetable, and it entertained me enormously to watch my unborn children blossom from lentils into pumpkins. I was very hormonal at the time.

I still use it. According to it I am now 64 weeks pregnant – a medical miracle – but the child is still, disappointingly, a pumpkin.The reason I haven’t deleted it is because I am shamelessly enjoying being a lurker on the message boards.

The “hot topics” area is like Mumsnet on crack, an angry mob of sleep-deprived women (and a few men) who happily tear each other apart over issues like vaccinations, pornography, sexual preferences and, of course, breastfeeding.

This is interspersed with some astonishingly candid life stories, like the woman who lives in a Master/slave relationship with her husband – a real life Fifty Shades and a great deal more raunchy (I  am not making this up, although of course there is every chance that she is).

This thread has inevitably attracted thousands of comments. One of my favourites, following a detailed description of a liaison  involving nipples and a mousetrap, was a woman who replied supportively that she had been inspired by our very own Anastasia Steele to take more of a “traditional” role in the home and was now wearing eyeliner to do the laundry and fixing her husband a scotch when he got home from work.

I’m not sure she quite understood what the mousetraps were for.

My “home” group – mums who all had their babies in the same month as me,is a lot more tame.  Almost every thread has a headline along the lines of:

HELP! my baby isn’t sleeping / HELP! my baby is sleeping too much

My baby is HUGE! / my baby is TINY!

My baby won’t stop eating! / My baby isn’t eating

I HATE breastfeeding / I have 4000 bags of breastmilk in the freezer and I’m never going to stop

Whatever the issue (and it almost always is one of the above), my fellow mums consult whichever parent manual is the baby bible du jour and proclaim: “aha – it’s week 6/7/9.4… it’s a wonder week/growth spurt/sleep regression!”

I have no idea what a “wonder week” is but it appears to  excuse a multitude of baby sins. As for growth spurts and sleep regressions… I don’t think babies are quite clever enough to timetable those in, somehow.

I don’t want to piss on any parades but these babies are surely just being BABIES. Sometimes they eat/sleep/shit/gurgle, sometimes they don’t. They are growing all the time – it’s not a diary date for them.  

One theme crops up in almost every section – there are  a LOT of complaints about Mothers-In-Law (or MILs as they are known).

A word of warning to all us mothers of boys… basically we can’t win. Those that get involved are “taking over” and those that stand back are “not interested”. Every single bit of advice they give is not only wrong but dangerous and they are not to be trusted with any important task, even though they managed not to kill the furious new mum’s partner or his siblings back in the day.

A few of them seem to want to move in which is surely a recipe for disaster. I asked my mum once if she would like to live with us and she could barely conceal her horror.

“I do love my grandsons darling,” she said. “But I also like to give them back again.”