Actually I accused Kathryn Blundell of insulting both formula and breastfeeding mums, however the Herald Scotland don’t seem to prioritise reporting accuracy, preferring rather to dig up the old chestnuts…….. Lisa
Breast is best … but choice is more important
Published on 4 Jul 2010
You don’t expect a serious article about infant nutrition to refer to women’s breasts as “fun bags”.
You wouldn’t expect the author to eulogise the bottle or caricature the breastfeeding lobby as mafioso bullies. As for suggesting there’s something “creepy” about seeing your baby “latching on where only a lover has been before” – well, string her up and flog her! Excoriate her in the international media, then demand she hang her sorry head in shame for deviating abominably from the matriarchal party line that breast is best.
And that’s exactly what happened to journalist Kathryn Blundell, after she penned a Mother And Baby magazine article explaining her decision not to breastfeed because she fancied the odd tipple, considered her boobs an important part of her sexuality and didn’t want them to end up “dangling around my stomach”.
All last week, the anti-Blundell bandwagon rolled. The Daily Mail’s Bel Mooney attacked her for buying into boobs’n’booze culture rather than taking the responsibility of motherhood seriously. Lactivist campaigner Lisa Cole accused her on the BBC World Service of “insulting the breastfeeding community”. Meanwhile, online forums were jammed with bloggers berating Blundell for perpetuating dangerous myths at a time when Britain’s breastfeeding rate is woeful (less than 20% of new mothers feed naturally for six weeks or more, compared with almost all in Scandinavia). She is, fumed one critic, “a shameful reflection on our greedy, selfish, vain and materialistic society”.
Personally, I say: good on you, Ms Blundell for kick-starting a healthy debate about a taboo subject that needs tackled head-on if we are ever to take breastfeeding out of the shadowy corners and glorified public lavatories in which women are currently expected to do it. Because despite laws asserting the right to breastfeed in public, mothers are still being ticked off in cafes or on buses for meeting the needs of their
Even the debate about Blundell’s article was peppered with posts from blokes asserting that breastfeeding is great, so long as they don’t have to be exposed to the hideous sight of it while they’re trying to read the paper on the number 59. Yet they need only turn to page three for an all-you-can-ogle helping of unlactating knockers, or flip to the classifieds for evidence that the synthetic boob market
The breast, in short, has never been bigger. But while the Telegraph’s Rowan Pelling views Blundell’s piece as “perturbing evidence of how far Barbie culture has penetrated the mainstream”, I think it is profoundly valuable precisely because it illustrates what Pelling describes as “the surreal Hollywood dream where a gravity-defying bosom [has become] more normal … than offering breast milk to a hungry little baby”.
The point is, men aren’t the only ones struggling to conflate the two very different roles the breast plays in our hypersexualised culture. Women are too, and though I suspect Blundell now regrets using the word “creepy”, her frankness is a breath of fresh air.
Yes, breastfeeding is beautiful, healthy and – once you get over the initial discomfort – a darned sight easier than messing around with formula in the middle of the night. Yes, it’s desperately sad that so many women are discouraged from doing it, partly because of screwed up attitudes towards this most natural of functions.
But there are only so many times you can read the “breast is best” mantra without falling asleep. Mother And Baby is a commercial magazine, not a government information pamphlet, and it’s not fair to expect its journalists to act exclusively as propagandists for natural feeding. As it happens, M&B actively promotes breastfeeding and its May issue carried an extensive feature on how to “get started and stick with it”. Even Blundell’s piece – clearly labelled as personal viewpoint, rather than serious nutritional advice – carefully explains the benefits of breast over bottle.
With excruciating honesty, however, she adds that those advantages “couldn’t induce me to stick my nipple in a bawling baby’s mouth”. In so doing, she highlights the crux of the problem facing the health professionals who so ardently want to increase breastfeeding uptake, and it is this. If educated, middle-class women like Blundell are unwilling to breastfeed despite understanding the arguments for doing so, then clearly earnest education campaigns won’t be enough to create the kind of attitudinal sea change that will make breastfeeding the norm.
What will work? Perhaps nothing. And however we feel about that, we have to respect a woman’s personal choices about her baby and her body.
But if anything has a chance of affecting change it is good, old-fashioned discourse of the kind that happens when ordinary women talk openly and spiritedly about thorny issues such as sex, bosoms, babies and how they feel about the conflagration of all three. The kind of discourse, in fact, that happened last week.
So thank you, Kathryn Blundell, for getting your fun bags out there for the lasses.”