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.