This whole kerfuffle over the ‘Mother & Baby’ magazine pro-formula/anti-breastfeeding article has got me thinking. For me, I always knew I wanted to breastfeed and would have been devastated if I had had to give up early. When I was pregnant with Twink I didn’t know anyone who had breastfed past six weeks, but I was determined to give it my best shot. And I can be very VERY stubborn.
My experience, however, has been very different from most of my friends (as I mentioned in this post). The difference between my experience and others has made me look at things differently…the way breastfeeding and formula feeding are portrayed in our society has a dramatic effect on how individual mums find starting breastfeeding, as well as affecting the bigger picture, of how much funding breastfeeding support gets from the government. It turns out that although the government, and the NHS pay lip service to encouraging breastfeeding, in many cases, that’s all it is. Lip service. I know a hospital midwife (as a friend, so completely off the record) who admitted that while the paediatricians say they encourage breastfeeding in general, in actual fact they encourage individual mums to stop if their babies have had to be admitted. Why? For the simple reason that it’s easier for the doctors, as they can quantify how much the baby is getting and it is easier to keep the baby on a schedule. I even found the NCT advice a bit off putting as our antenatal class teacher stressed so many times that ‘breastfeeding is a skill and takes hard work and practice’.
Nonetheless, on a personal level, I feel very strongly that individual mothers should have the choice to feed their baby as they wish. It is their body; their baby; their choice. But that decision is made in the context of a society that makes things harder for them to breastfeed. A society that doesn’t offer every mother the support she needs. A society that is happy to gawp at page three models, but doesn’t know where to look when a mum is breastfeeding near them.
I have no problem with the article itself as it is purely a piece of opinion, and as such, I feel sad, and a bit amused at some of her comments (‘funbags’?? Seriously?? Who calls them that?!!). However, I do feel that the magazine should have had some blurb on the page clarifying some of her opinions, so their readers were aware they aren’t true. You don’t have to abstain from alcohol completely when you’re breastfeeding, and it’s pregnancy that wreaks havoc on your body…if anything, breastfeeding helps you lose the weight. It worries me that someone might read that article and take it as gospel just because it was written by the deputy editor of a parenting magazine.
Obviously I’m approaching this as a ‘pro-breastfeeder’, whatever that means. One of my labels is that I’m a tandem breastfeeding mum, which as far as many are concerned puts me in the extreme category, especially as my eldest is nearly 26 months old (as mentioned before, I hate those labels and the way they put barriers between mums). How did that happen? I’m not sure. If I’m honest, I never had that ‘I’ll just get to 6 weeks/6 months/a year and see what happens’ mentality. The WHO guidelines recommend feeding till at least 2 years, so deep down, that was what I had in mind, but I still intend to carry on until he’s ready to stop. And after the tantrums he’s been throwing this week, I’m quite glad I still have the ability to calm him with a quick nurse.
That said, I fully expected him to wean himself while I was pregnant. There were points in my pregnancy when I really struggled with breastfeeding him. It never got to the point where it would have been easier to wean him, but that’s not to say it was easy. I got a pretty bad case of nursing aversion, starting with the night feeds when I was about 8 weeks pregnant and Twink was about 14 months. We night weaned abruptly after a night where I spent 2 hours crying as Twink tried to feed to sleep, but couldn’t as I was keeping him awake. He wasn’t bothered at all as long as Daddy dealt with all the night wakings. A month or two later the day time feeds had to be dramatically reduced to two feeds a day, which was the level I could cope with. It all got much easier again once Squishy arrived!
People do look askance when they realise I still feed Twink, and I do feel judged, and it does upset me, so I’d certainly hate for a formula feeding mummy to feel similarly judged. We’re all doing the best we know how, but I do wish society would start being more positive about breastfeeding in a real, substantial way. It’s been articulated in a much better way than I ever could over at PhD in Parenting. On a more personal note, I have decided I am not going to be making my life any harder than it already is (we’re deep in teeth/developmental/who knows what tantrum territory), so if Twink needs breastfeeding and I am able to, I will be nursing him. So far this week I have fed him at a friend’s house (although if I’d done it 15 minutes earlier, we would have avoided the lips turning blue with screaming rage tantrum) and just before his swimming lesson (which was more for my benefit as I should have fed Squishy before I went in, but she was asleep in the sling on her daddy by that point). So, if you see me out and about, and I’m feeding a toddler, judge me if you want, but believe me, it’s preferable to the screaming, toddler foot stamping alternative.
PS. Sorry for no pictures…wordpress is still not letting me upload pictures, which is why I’m behind on my Squishy photos. It’ll be fixed soon, I hope!