Feed and Let Feed

Comments 13 Standard

photo (12)This week, Jamelia, the woman who sang a few pop songs 14 years ago, told the nation, or at least, anyone watching Loose Women, that people who choose not to breastfeed were selfish, and that it should be made compulsory. Putting aside, like she obviously did, feeding problems, the Mother’s health and social and family pressures; Jamelia’s comments are of course just silly words, by a silly ego, that thankfully have no chance of being implemented. But, they are out there now. They are in the news, on the radio station, being written about (like now for example!) and it’s another judgment, another slap in the face to people – for whatever reason, who aren’t breastfeeding. Another lecture, another nudge, to let you know, in case you didn’t already, that, according to them, you’re not getting it quite right.

This is not an anti-breastfeeding post. Breastfeeding is great, for so many Mothers, and so many babies; my son and I amongst them. I appreciate the health benefits, the convenience, and the sleepy, special moments we shared through it. Not to mention being able to eat several cakes per day and lose weight.  I am also aware that in the UK, breastfeeding rates are startlingly low, and I am grateful that there are people and establishments trying to improve this through encouragement, support and education. I am not knocking that in the slightest. When someone doesn’t breastfeed because they aren’t receiving adequate support, have been taught it isn’t normal, or because their sister, Mother or friends didn’t, help and information should absolutely be offered, so that an informed choice can be made. Community support, outreach appointments, weird knitted boobs to demonstrate technique are all good ideas. Forcing and making people feel bad about their choice or circumstance, is not.

The most disturbing thing is the idea of telling anyone what they must do with their own body, and additionally, casting judgment on whether someone is choosing to do something or not. It is dangerous, it is patronising, it is Mummy bashing at its very worst. If someone physically can breastfeed but is facing a multitude of feeding difficulties, pain, engorgement, latch issues, tongue tie, let down problems, thrush; to name a few of the more common problems, are they to be condemned for choosing to stop?  If another person, when considering their feeding options before birth, decides to exclusively formula feed and not try breastfeeding, should they be judged? They could wish to share feeds equally with their partner, be returning to work quickly, want their body back after 9 months of loaning it out, feel uncomfortable at the thought… Does it really matter? It is certainly not for me to judge, and most importantly, as with many other parenting decisions that people make day to day, it is absolutely none of my business.

When I was pregnant, I wanted to breastfeed my little bun, upon its arrival, but potential feeding issues were my one big fear. In hindsight, there was a lot more I should have been scared about, such as how on earth to bring up a baby, but my focus was the feeding. I was so aware, thanks to the information and support out there, how breast was best – support being in some ways a double-edged beast for me; information overload and a pressure to accomplish this beautiful and apparently natural phenomenon. I read, I researched, I learnt: ‘Nose to nipple, nose to nipple, nose to nipple’. Unfortunately, when my son was born he appeared to have missed the breastfeeding workshop and we couldn’t latch.  I was desperate to feed him, and gladly let any Midwife, or anyone looking vaguely like a Midwife, grab, squeeze and manipulate my breasts and try to encourage my baby to suckle. No dice.

He then became ill, and other events naturally took over, with his first feed being formula, through a tube, and the next too, this time in a cup. He was starting to get better and thrived on it. So formula isn’t poison, after all? Well blow me down with a feather! By this point, he was three days old and I was learning to express, starting with a mere teaspoon and gradually progressing to a small cup. We continued to work on the latch – when I say we, Sam and I were pretty clueless, but the midwives fortunately were not and eventually, luckily, thankfully, after a week, we cracked it.

I will never forget though, sitting on my hospital bed and crying to my husband about what I saw as my inability to feed my son. He had only come out of Neo Natal that day, and I said the words, “I’m failing him.” How sad that makes me now, and even angrier at the comments expressed this week. Who is anyone to describe a Mother doing the right thing for her and her family as selfish? Be it because of feeding issues, or because of a weighed up decision that breastfeeding is not for them. There is so much more to being a Mother than the way we feed our babies. Isn’t it time we stopped beating people over the head with our own self-righteousness? Motherhood is hard enough, and the things we are doing as parents, if they have our and our child’s interests at heart, are the RIGHT things, the BEST things, for both the Mother, and the baby.

Breastfeeding should definitely be talked about, promoted positively, understood. I just wish it was done without any smug, ‘I did it the right way’ bunkum. Breastfeeding may be a natural thing, but it doesn’t come naturally to a lot of people, be it physically or socially and often has to be learnt by both parties. If feeding happened for you easily and without problems, then that is great for you, enjoy it. But please remember that you are lucky, not better than your neighbouring Mama who should never be bashed for taking a different path to you.

Our feeding problems were miniscule in comparison to what some others go through. Further, the feelings of sadness, guilt and upset are a fraction of what others experience with a very difficult and often painful feeding journey. If the choice is made to formula feed, for whatever reason, is that really such a bad thing, in the grand scheme of raising a child? Isn’t breast only best if it is right for everyone? I have never received one negative comment about breastfeeding, although I appreciate some people have. I have however, heard so many about formula feeding. One friend was told, by a fellow Mum, ‘You could have at least tried to breastfeed.’ I have witnessed many others too, often of a more passive aggressive nature, ‘Oh, did you have feeding problems? We did too but persevered, it was so worth it.’ There are no medals, there are no awards and there is really no need to be so self-congratulatory about the milk we provide.  Women who give breast milk are feeding their children themselves, women who give formula are feeding their children themselves. No newborn, as a result of not being at the breast, is out foraging in the garden for their supper.

Isn’t it time for us to lay down our weapons, be it breast pad or bottle, and play a bit nicer with our fellow Mumkind?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, and hope very much that anyone having difficulties in their feeding journey knows that there are lots of people out there who don’t judge, and can support. Keep doing a great job you Mamas.

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13 thoughts on “Feed and Let Feed

  1. A fab post. Breastfeeding should absolutely be encouraged and supported. I luckily had incredible amounts of support which meant I’ve fed my second now for 21 months (and the last 24 hours has weaned himself!). I know I’m going to face comments from ‘real life’ people about my decision not to bf baby 3 as I have on the blog, but I have made an informed decision – I know the benefits but I also know formula is absolutely fine, and that formula will mean that we are all happier which can only benefit baby. With all parenting decisions, when it comes to feeding you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t!

  2. Thanks Rachel, and I completely agree about the encouragement and support. I was really lucky in the help I was given, but have friends who didn’t fare so well. I think, for us, having an extended stay in hospital definitely helped, I’m pretty sure things would have turned out differently if we’d been flying solo at home. I think it is great that you and your partner have weighed things up and made a decision you are happy with, as clichéd as it is, Happy Mum equals Happy Baby. I imagine you’ll be too busy to take heed to anyone who sticks their oar in! I look forward to following your future posts and impending third baby adventure!

  3. Great post! Breastfeeding is wonderful for bonding and for their development. There’s nothing bad about it except the stigma of “oh my god…she’s breastfeeding in public! How disgusting.” which is bull… but your son is adorable. ❤

    • Thanks Evelyn. I never had any negative comments about breastfeeding in public, and I did it a lot! But I appreciate there is a minority of people with a very immature and bizarre attitude to seeing a child have milk!

  4. Pingback: My Breastfeeding Experience | Baked Potato Mummy

  5. Brilliant post. I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve linked to it in my post about breastfeeding, because you’ve said everything far better than I could xx

  6. I bloody LOVE this post! VERY well said indeed.. One thing I will say is that I do believe there should be a more positive attitude put on at least TRYING to breast feed – there are far too many people who aren’t even willing to ‘give it a go’ because it’s not cool, hard work, demanding, invasive, etc, etc, etc! Ladies get your knockers out and give it a try because like me, you may actually surprise yourself! I ADORED breast feeding our son but if you’d asked me a year previous to Elijah being born I’d have dismissed the very thought of it!

    As for Jamelia?..Well, what an idiotic ‘statement’ to make! If only we could all be the ‘perfect’ mother that she evidently believes herself to be……….

    • Thank you! Totally agree on sending a positive message about breastfeeding and ensuring everyone has access to information, education and support. But, I think that ultimately, people have to decide themselves, and though I’m pro-breastfeeding, for me, I don’t have the right to be for others if that makes sense?! I just believe us Mamas need to respect each other’s decisions as we are all doing what is right for our own, personal situation. However, I think ‘Ladies, get your knockers out and give it a try’, is a MUCH better slogan than ‘Breast is Best’! 🙂 Thanks again for taking the time to read and comment x

  7. A fantastic post. Apparently I went to school with Jamelia (and there weren’t many of us there at the time) and I’d never heard of her!
    Anyway YES I have had negative comments about breastfeeding LOADS. Mainly in a what is wrong with formula way. As you say it’s choices and I was choosing to breastfeed. It wasn’t easy no. And then why should I want to continue to breastfeed (I stopped when my youngest 2 both turned 4 years old). I am in complete agreement with what you say though.

    • Thank you! That’s so funny about Jamelia, she must have been less opinionated then to have gone unnoticed, I wonder what went wrong!! It never fails to baffle me that people think they have the right to comment and judge on our feeding choices. It’s entirely down to us and our families whether we breastfeed for a few months, a few years or not at all. That must have been mega annoying to deal with over a number of years but good for you for not being influenced by their negativity.

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