This week is World Breastfeeding Week and with it being a subject very close to my heart I knew I’d want to write a post about it.
Every time I start to write or talk about breastfeeding I feel like I need to make some sort of “disclaimer” stating how I don’t judge anyone who bottle feeds because I am always so worried of inadvertently offending someone. If I’m honest, it’s crazy that I even feel the need to do this. I feel like as Mums, no matter what choices we make, we are all part of the Mum Tribe were there should really be an unwritten rule of supporting each other.
For me, breastfeeding is very important. I always knew I wanted to breastfeed my babies but I had my challenges believe me; both kids had tongue tie, which as any other Mum who has fed a tongue tied baby will agree, is absolute agony. I’d be biting into pillows and crying when they’d latch on to my cracked and bloody nipples. Astonishingly tongue tie is not routinely checked upon a babies delivery even though many babies have it (out of the six on the ward where Holly was born, three of the babies were tongue tied), and because it’s not really talked about before delivery, many women don’t know to ask to have it checked when their babies arrive. Fortunately I got both Josh and Holly’s tongues snipped within about a week of having them and, particularly with Holly, feeding instantly became more comfortable. This is one of the things about breastfeeding where I wish there was more support. During pregnancy you get a lot of pressure put on you to breastfeed yet when the time comes, that support is often lacking and with more and more dedicated breastfeeding units in the community being cut, it worries me that without that support even less Mums will be able to get the support they need to establish breastfeeding.
Josh also decided to make feeding difficult for us at around 6 weeks of age when he decided he no longer wanted to go on my right boob and would only feed off my left. This meant that for over a year I pretty much had two totally different sized boobs as my fussy baby relished in left boob and ignored right boob. But again, this wasn’t going to stop me, and fortunately that time around our local breastfeeding team was still available so I could get the help I needed to know how to tackle the situation. I don’t know how I would have done things without their support and it really has made me think I’d love to become a breastfeeding support worker; someone approachable that could support Mums and offer calm and encouraging advice.
Breastfeeding is a personal choice. It’s important for a Mums mental health to make choices and do what is right for them and their circumstances. The main motivator for me was I wanted to feel that bond of the baby feeding from me; I envisaged it as being calm, peaceful and natural. And once we’d cleared those initial hurdles, that’s exactly what it was. I loved that me and the baby were connected in such a natural way and I loved knowing I was giving them milk that my body had cleverly created exactly to suit their needs.
I am quite passionate about breastfeeding; as I’ve said, I believe it is the best thing for babies not because I am looking down on formula but because my body has created a milk that is specifically for my child. To me, it’s a no brainer and it wouldn’t occur to me not to give that milk to Holly (or Josh, when he was feeding). But even as I nervously type this blog post, which contains my opinions, on my blog, I worry that someone, somewhere will see it as some sort of personal attack on them or anyone that formula feeds, and it truly isn’t. At the time of writing this, it is the end of World Breastfeeding Awareness week, and with that being something I feel strongly about I simply wanted to capture my views and experiences in the hope they may help a Mum who might read this and be struggling to feed.
I don’t think I am a better Mum because I breastfeed, I don’t judge or demean those who formula feed. I breastfeed because, for me, it wasn’t an option. I had decided hell or highwater I was breastfeeding and that was that. I was and am fortunate; my once tiny boobs (that some idiot compared to a coffee table back in year 8 and would now be seriously eating his words) are now monster milk makers; I have plenty of the stuff and nature has been kind to me in this way. I am well aware this is not the case for many women; some don’t make a lot of milk, some have physical restrictions stopping them from feeding, and some just don’t want to breastfeed and that’s fine – that is their decision which should be supported, just as deciding to breastfeed was mine.
As you can probably tell, I am seriously trying to get across that I am supportive of other Mums. Yet in truth, I don’t often feel as supported as a breastfeeding Mum. Holly is now 6 months old and is still exclusively breastfed alongside her weaning; this puts me in the 1% of Mums who are still breastfeeding at this stage! Bottle feeding Mums often think that they are being judged when they fish a bottle out their bag to feed but I can assure you that breastfeeding Mums feel this even more. I watched the well documented Dispatches programme on breastfeeding recently and a woman, of the older generation, on there stated that feeding in public “isn’t a spectator sport” and should be done in private! This bowled me over. The sheer bluntness of how dare you feed your child! No, it’s not a spectator sport love – it’s a friggin necessity! If my daughter needs to eat, she needs to eat. Am I going to let her scream and go hungry so you aren’t offended by seeing the back of her head whilst she has my nipple hidden away in her gob (yes – shock horror, that’s where the baby feeds from and that’s why you never see it), no I’m bloody not!
And this is where we all need the sisterhood for support. Instead of pitting ourselves against one another, let’s applaud each other. If you’re a bottle feeding Mama and you have to get up in the night to sterilise bottles and mix up a feed, I take my hat off to you! If you’re an expressing Mama, the dedication you have to the pump is amazing. If you’re a breastfeeding Mama who isn’t going to let anyone make her feel uncomfortable for feeding out in public, thank you – you inspire and encourage me not to be made to feel uncomfortable when feeding.
Whatever your feeding choices, stand tall, be proud and just be you. Be the Mum you need to be, and do what is right for you and your family. But can I ask one thing in return, particularly if you’re a bottle feeding Mum. Please support me as much as I support you. I don’t think I am better than anyone because I breastfeed, I don’t do it for attention or to make anyone feel inadequate for using a bottle. I do it because Holly loves it, it works for us and for us it’s worked out beautifully.
Lets support each other eh and stop getting into debates. If your baby is going to bed with a full tummy, then you’re already winning.