Since starting this blogging game, I’ve come across many wonderful blogs. I follow them on my feed, and read the ones that catch my eye. This last week, quite a few have been catching my eye, but I haven’t been reading them, because I know they’ll make me angry. Right now, I’m making pancakes, and while waiting I decided to read one of them. And now I’m angry.

Apparently it’s National Breastfeeding Week. At first glance, it seems more like ‘Who’s the best earthmom/bash the bottle feeders’ week. I’m a big fan of breastfeeding, I breastfed both of mine and wouldn’t have it any other way. I can see the massive advantages – bonding, health benefits for baby, weight loss for mother, no bottle washing, no worrying about bringing bottles on trips, no heating bottles, no expensive formula, feeds when and where needed etc etc. (mostly I hate washing bottles). But, having lived through them, I can also see the massive disadvantages. First and foremost, and what no one prepares you for, it’s bloody hard work, especially in the first few weeks. It hurts LIKE HELL until you both figure out what you’re doing, and anyone who tells you it doesn’t is just plain lying. If you’ve had a difficult birth, there’s no chance of rest to recover. If, like me, you have extremely needy, screamy babies, it is full on. Feeding seems to take up most of your waking hours – and most of the hours you’d rather be sleeping as well. You can’t take turns with your partner, night on night off. But, despite all of this hardship, yes, ultimately it is worth it, and when you get into the swing of it, so easy and so lovely. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.

But I digress. What has bothered me about these posts the last week is that I feel it is setting the bar, again, way too high. Being a parent is hard, and becoming a parent for the first time is simultaneously the most wonderful and terrifying experience you’re ever likely to have. If post natal depression comes into it, it will probably tend more towards terrifying than anything else. There are already so many sticks to beat ourselves with, and with pnd, it feels like nothing we do for our kids will ever be good enough. But throw the ol’ boob v bottle debate into the middle of it……….wow. Biggest. Stick. EVER.

I breastfed my babies because I wanted to. I wanted to. If I didn’t, there is no way I could have done it, it’s too hard. I know plenty of women who desperately wanted to, but circumstances went against them – illness, demands of other children, exhaustion. Or they just didn’t feel able. Or, gasp, maybe they just didn’t want to. Does that make them a worse mother?? Of course not!! How we feed our babies is not the sole signifier of how we are as parents. It’s one very small part of it. I would love to see more people breastfeeding, but not at all costs. I persisted with M when perhaps I should have stopped. I’ll spare you the gory details but our first few weeks were horrendous and involved multiple trips to the doctor, a lot of tears, and antibiotics for both of us. It was sheer stubbornness that kept me going. If mothers are to be encouraged to breastfeed, there are massive societal changes that need to come about. I don’t want to get into that, there’s a time and a place and this isn’t it. What I do want to get across is that making mothers feel bad for making a decision that feel works best for them, their baby and the rest of their family, isn’t just unfair, it’s cruel. New mothers need support and encouragement, new mothers with pnd even more so. They don’t need to hear they’re not good enough. Doing the best we can is all we can do.

This article has 5 Comments

  1. Do NOT get me started on this topic! I thank the God I don't believe in that my husband and midwife were supportive of my bottle feeding. I tried breast feeding my first, it didn't work very well, and quite honestly that was a relief. I really never wanted to but felt I didn't have a choice. In the antenatal classes i went to, a breastfeeding counsellor actually told us that even if you smoked, drank, did drugs and ate junk food, breast feeding was still better than formula. I still question whether I dreamt that. I didn't. She also told us that mixed feeding is BAD. Apparently, 1 mixed feed wipes out the benefit of 2 weeks of breasteeding! It's horrendous that experts are peddling these lies to vulnerable, scared heavily pregnant first time mums. It's a woman's choice. I would have loved to love breastfeeding. I didn't. It didn't feel right or natural. And as my lovely sensible midwife told me, it has to work for everyone, and i f it doesn't don't do it. Thank goodness for her!

    1. So glad you had a supportive midwife, it's horrendous to think people in such positions of power feel it's ok to bully women like that. Yes, in a ideal world we'd all be breastfeeding, sling wearing, co-sleeping earthmamas, but we don't live in an ideal world, or in a society that encourages and supports that. Your midwife was absolutely right – it has to work for everyone. If breastfeeding is making you unhappy, surely that's worse for your baby than formula?

  2. Well said, Fiona. I was one of those who was dead set on breastfeeding and it just didn't work ~ I think possibly because I'd had a C-Section three weeks ahead of time and nature seemed to be confused!
    I will never, ever forget the long, long, long nights of trying and trying and trying and then just replace the 't' with 'c' (rying) when I was persuaded by a nurse at about 3am to pack it up for the baby's sake.
    It all seemed like the end of the world and that first day going to the nursery to learn how to bottle feed felt so shameful. Only for my mother, who has run into similar problems over 30 years before, I think I'd still be in flitters over it all.
    I think it would help so much for mothers-to-be to know that it just doesn't work for some people no matter how hard you try or want to and that it's not one of life's major failures. I think the failure lies in not doing what's best for health and happiness of mama and baby (and in my case of not listening enough to my own mother's story of her difficulties with breastfeeding during my pregnancy. All I could think of was my sister who had been totally successful with all hers.)
    Those early hours, days, weeks with a newborn are tough enough without letting the feeding issue take over to such an extent that precious moments are lost forever.

  3. Ooohhh my God the pressure to breast feed is so strong, I can see why they try their best, all the benefits but sometimes they need to be able to read the moms individually and excuse the pun 'just go with the flow!' I was adamant I was going to try at least, my first was a hungry monster and every two hours in a blurry stupper i went through the same confused Q&A, was it left or right last time, how many minutes do I do, where's my watch, where's the pad n pen for taking the!! notes, did I remember to take notes the last time? Aaaahhh!! I persevered for 6 weeks but thought I was failing by giving up. How wrong I was! 10 years later he is a very healthy, clever, strapping rugby, soccer and gaa playing young man who's one and only antibiotic was when he was 5 months in hospital for a UTI. The 6 weeks I thought wasn't long enough was plenty. When number 2 came along 2 years later I did the same pushing myself and wanted to beat my previous record but who was I kidding,I had a toddler too this time,I made it to 6 weeks again and she was hungrier, again no antibiotics for her. By the time number 3 came along, my attitude was lifes too short, I just about got to 4 weeks and packed it in! Four years later, a bruiser who has never had to have an antibiotic either. I'm no doctor but I firmly believe my kids immune systems were well set up by the couple of weeks I made the effort. I know I lasted a long time compared to some but they say the most of the antibodies are in the first few days. It's like what we tell our kids now, try it first before you say you don't like it, if you still don't like it, at least you tried! Then do exactly whatever suits yourselves cause a relaxed mom is a happy mom. It's not the end of the world! So long as you cuddle them every day of their lives, no matter how big they get, breast or formula doesn't matter! They're only going to undo all the good work when they start on the Budweiser and Coke and they'll hopefully be young adults by then so it'll be their decision! 😉

    1. I'm really glad you didn't push yourself to continue when you didn't want to, it wouldn't have benefitted anyone. Lots of love and cuddles are waaaay more important, and that's what they'll remember.

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