Ultra-athlete Sophie Power breast fed her child when needed whilst undertaking a Mont-Blanc race.
I think any parent will agree that in those first few months of motherhood, although it brings so much joy, it is completely exhausting and emotionally draining. Throw in breast feeding and you experience exhaustion on a whole new level. Not only is your baby on your breast for half of the day, you have to make sure that you are taking on enough calories to ensure both you and baby are well and getting all the important nutrients needed. So when I saw a picture of British runner Sophie Power taking on the UTMB race (Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc) which is approximately 106 miles up a mountain, whilst breast feeding her 3 month old baby, I nearly fell off my chair!
In my early weeks of having Ella and breast feeding, when I finally started doing very ‘light’ exercise, I kid you not, I had to wear 3 sports bras just to keep all that jiggle in place. Not just that, it was very painful and tender. My ankles and knees hurt and ached so badly, my pelvis felt as though it could no longer withstand the weight of my upper body, and my bladder situation was a complete joke! I could barely do anything without having to run to the loo every few minutes. Now I am witnessing this superwoman, taking on Mont Blanc, whilst stopping every few hours to feed her baby, rest and eat. How on earth is this even possible?
I feel put to shame just looking at her but at the same time totally inspired! She ran for 16 hours before stopping to feed her baby, but her husband met her at every aid station along the way to collect her breast milk that she had stopped to express so he could feed their baby. And I thought co-ordinating any normal day with a baby was difficult!
She did say she needed to adapt her running style to accommodate the fact she has not long given birth and was breast feeding. She said: 'I couldn't raise my heart rate too much as my body isn't primed to burn fat, and I couldn't fully run downhills to protect my pelvis. In a typical race I would get in and out of the aid stations as quickly as possible but here I had to focus on keeping down enough food for me and for Cormac, and resting.' Wow! If this doesn’t inspire you, I don’t know what will.
I admire this woman for taking on such a gruelling challenge and adapting it to suit her needs and then having the balls to think, I don’t care what people will think, I run, and I am also a feeding mother, and I will make this work for both of us.
I get annoyed when I read articles about people getting offended when women breast feed their babies in public, because I do not know how anyone could possibly be offended by a mother doing the most natural, primal thing in the world - feeding her child. Personally, when I first started breast feeding in public I felt uncomfortable. It was such a struggle to get my baby to latch on while hiding under a blanket, getting all hot and bothered. It’s tough enough in those early stages of breast feeding without worrying about the stigma surrounding it or the worry that you will offend someone. As time went by, I started to relax and feel comfortable breast feeding outside the house. After all, if my child needs food I will give it to them. The biggest re-occurring problem was that there was so few suitable places to do it in private, that were clean and hygienic. This was why I stressed so much if I was in a coffee shop or restaurant.
I once travelled with Ella to London for work, on my own, breast feeding the whole way, pram, nappy bag, work suitcases, that was a massive achievement for me. It was also a big undertaking! When I got to Euston station and asked where I could breast feed there wasn’t anywhere. I was told I could go in the toilet! I was so angry, would you eat your dinner in a loo? No! So why should a feeding mother be expected to feed her baby in a stinking public toilet?
There is a serious lack of thought for breast feeding women in the public domain. We have made so many things accessible for wheelchair users (although this still needs improving) I think it’s about time we made the same efforts for breast feeding mothers and create more accessible places for private and hygienic feeds. And the reason I say private, is not because I think we need to cover up, I’m thinking about the new mums who may not be feeling fully confident feeding. The last thing they need is any scrutiny from strangers to knock their confidence!
I absolutely love the fact that this ultra athlete is not only brave enough to take on such a mammoth challenge so soon after birth, but when it came down to it, her only concern was feeding her child, and the picture above that went viral around the world should be an inspiring lesson to us all - that us mums can achieve absolutely anything if we put our minds to it.
I look at that picture of her feeding her child, completely exhausted and it reminds me of being in the throes of labour, I always worried about covering my modesty and being ‘on show’ to the doctors and nurses, but when it came down to it, my survival instincts and motherly instincts kicked in. I didn’t care who was there to see my privates, let alone a breast, I just wanted a safe delivery and to satisfy my child once born by feeding him/her.
Just like those late night/early morning feeds where you are half asleep feeding your child, and believe me I am honest enough to say I’ve fed my baby's ear or eye a few times, you can see in the picture Sophie is completely exhausted. Yet the mother in her says protect and feed, so she whipped them out, not for the world to see, but because it was the natural thing to do. She stopped being the athlete and became the mother and I salute that.