It is common knowledge that ‘breast is best’ as they say and I am in no way trying to debate that. As a matter of fact I am currently breastfeeding my six month old daughter and after a shaky start (which is another story, for another day) it has become a wonderful form of bonding and an excellent way for me and Evie to have some mummy-daughter time.
However I feel that the expectation to breastfeed is way too strong and many mothers feel judged or are all too willing to judge others. We should be supporting each other, there is enough to worry about with out the judgement of doom from other ‘well meaning’ women.
I have noticed this many times when discussing breastfeeding with non-breastfeeding mothers. They get defensive, almost as if they have been given a lecture on their quote, unquote ‘failings’ before. A typical conversation might go:
Me: I tell you what these breast pumps are a God send especially on a freezing day like today. Brrrr!
Them: (Instant coldness) I didn’t breastfeed my son and he is in fact a bright, happy, healthy six year old.
Me: (Confused at the change in conversation tone) I’m certain he is, you’re obviously a wonderful mother. Why would I think otherwise?
Them: (Relaxes) Because you breastfeed…..
This says a lot about current viewpoints. Don’t get me wrong breastfeeding mothers also get a lot of stick but that is more to do with people taking offence at breasts being used for their intended purpose, rather than as a sexual play thing. Sad world, I know.
I suppose you can’t win either way, you’re always going to annoy/ embarrass/ outrage someone so why even care what they think. Smile when they comment and point out that you don’t need their approval.
Here are some reasons why we shouldn’t judge our fellow mums for doing what they feel is best for them and their children:
- There are already way too many pressures to be a ‘perfect mother’. Sure in theory we could all aspire to be that super mum we see on TV. Snapped back into shape two weeks after birth, perfect home and constantly smiling but who the Hell can manage that? It’s just not realistic. Six months in I still have a bit of a jelly belly, my house is only just looking tidy again and I still occasionally feel blue. Also lets not get started on how many times I’ve realised I’m covered in puke after leaving the house. Isn’t motherhood glamorous?
- We should be judging mother’s based on how happy, well looked after and loved their children are. If they are treasured then does it matter that they had formula? I think not!
- The mother in question might not even be able to breastfeed for reasons such as: milk didn’t come in, has an illness, takes medication, baby has a cleft palate or is/was too premature to suckle. Imagine if she had desperately wanted to and then someone criticises her for not doing it. She would be completely crushed.
- Previous experiences of rape and sexual abuse. This one is a biggie, it is estimated that 1/5 women will have received some form of abuse and obviously it is both humiliating for the lady in question and sadly also a very taboo topic in our society which is almost never discussed openly. Unless you know the lady very well it is highly unlikely you would know what is in her past. Breastfeeding can be a big trigger for post traumatic stress disorder. Speaking from experience this makes it very traumatic due to repeated nightmares and flashbacks. It took me months and counselling to be able to do it without feeling sick. Even now I still find it difficult at times. I felt terrible because I thought that something so natural couldn’t possibly be that difficult and that I was somehow failing as a mother because of it. Turns out it’s common and I should have been warned about it.
- Not getting enough support from medical professionals and loved ones.Many ladies struggle with getting the baby to latch, mastitis, baby not gaining weight quickly and their family being uncomfortable with them breastfeeding. Obviously in the latter case it becomes very isolating and inconvenient. Who wants to be told that if they want to feed their child they must do it on their own and miss out on socializing and feeling included. No one that’s who.
- I challenge you to go into a classroom of six or seven year olds and be able to point out which ones were breastfed and which were given formula. Can’t do it? That’s fine, neither can I.
- Some mothers need to go back to work earlier due to financial pressures. I can almost hear the ‘breastapo’ shouting at the mother to pump. Here is the problem with that: In an ideal world yes all women could pump but breasts are designed to respond to a cute, adorable infant suckling and not a machine. This means that some ladies won’t be able to express any milk and those that can might express less than what their baby usually eats. Babies are a lot more efficient at suckling than a pump is so they can get a lot more out obviously.
- Sometimes a lady might need to supplement with formula due to hormonal changes. When she is on her period her supply drops temporarily (it comes back after a few days) but obviously if she isn’t producing enough giving the baby a bit of formula is better than the baby being hungry. Though still it’s advised to feed as much as possible with it being supply and demand. The more the baby nurses the more milk you produce and vice versa.Pregnancy has a similar effect but it lasts much longer (usually from second trimester onwards) and making sure baby has enough milk is more important than bowing down to someones disapproval.
- In some cases a baby might refuse the breast due to having had a bottle first or just being unable to latch.
- Bad advice given to them by well-meaning people such as: not feeding on demand and topping up with formula unnecessarily. Both of these make the milk supply drop considerably and this makes breastfeeding much more difficult in the long run.
- Not being told about what those first few weeks of breastfeeding are like in reality. News flash… They hurt. Even if you have a perfect latch and you’ve done it all before it takes time for your nipples to toughen up and if you are unlucky enough to get a blocked duct…. Owch doesn’t cover it. Thankfully after about a month it gets easier but all the doctors told me that if done right it shouldn’t hurt at all. Almost all the breastfeeding mothers I have spoken too had experienced pain to begin with. This comes as a shock and many mothers give up as a result of being unprepared for how challenging it really is.
- And finally because she doesn’t want to. It is her decision at the end of the day and as long as her child is well taken care of I don’t think it is for anyone to comment or judge her on her method of feeding.
I think that all mothers who spend their days delighting, despairing of and loving their little ones deserve a medal. It’s not an easy job being a mother and regardless of if you breastfeed or not I think you are doing a fantastic job and should be very proud of yourselves.
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