This week that should be Breastfeeding Awareness Week , packed full of nationwide nurse ins and breastfeeding flashmobs organised by mums, not funded by the NHS, just mums independantly trying to do the right thing started with me feeling uplifted and happy but that mood has shifted.
Mumsnet have a depressing thread about breastfeeding flashmobs being ‘ smug’ and ‘alienating’, Lactivist has been described as ‘wacky’ (that is a first by the way) and mums attending breastfeeding events accused of having too much time on their hands.
I’ve been thinking hard about this, how is it possible to promote breastfeeding without alienating formula feeders.
When a baby is born mothers will generally go down one of these routes:
1. Choose to breastfeed exclusively because you believe that is the best for your child ( BF informed choice)
2. Choose to breastfeed exclusively because that is what people around you do (BF uninformed choice)
3. Choose to formula feed exclusively because you believe that is the best for your child (FF informed choice)
4. Choose to formula exclusively because that is what people around you do (FF uninformed choice)
5. Have to breastfeed (BF no choice)
6. Have to formula feed (FF no choice)
7. Choose to mix feed because you believe that is the best for your child (MF informed choice)
8. Choose to mix feed because that is what people around you do (MF uninformed choice)
This is what I believe.
- Many women feel they have to formula feed because they have no choice when in fact, with proper support they would be able to breastfeed. The NCT say that less than 2% of women are medically unable to breastfeed.
- Many women choose to formula feed without knowing the facts and risks associated with it.
- Many women choose to formula feed for many different and sometimes incredibly valid reasons (sexual abuse for example), knowing that they are not doing the very best for their baby and justifying it by saying that they cannot breastfeed.
I am expecting to be thoroughly slated for stating what I believe and understandably so. The truth hurts.
I worked very hard to breastfeed, it was not easy and it hurt. I got help, despite health visitors suggesting formula, topping up, just one bottle….. I stuck to it and managed for almost 2 years. I was grimly determined. I didn’t enjoy it. The fact is that breastfeeding is good for babies and formula can be bad. If I was one of the 2% that couldn’t breastfeed I would have been gutted and it would have hurt to see women breastfeeding because it would tick many of my guilty, not good enough mum boxes of which I have many.
Just as after a miscarriage women notice all the pregnant women, just as when you are trying for a baby and it’s not happening, everyone around you is pregnant, anything that you are sensitive to seems bigger and brighter than the other things around it.
I believe that breastfeeding needs promoting, I think that the majority of women who choose to formula feed are not aware that there are risks associated with it. I think when it comes to baby milk we are stuck in a strange 50′s modernist time warp where artificial is seen as preferable to natural and hospital births are more of a lumpectomy than a celebration of a new life.
So, there must be a way forward, there must be a way to promote breastfeeding without upsetting people who formula feed.
Would people still be offended if it was National Babyfeeding Week? If events were about groups of mothers gathering to feed their babies in any way they chose (or didn’t choose). Would formula mums still be offended by breastfeeding mums?
Any ideas much appreciated……..