A tenuous subject I know, but due to a few personal experiences recently I have decided to blog about the choice I have made to breastfeed my children. Knowing from experience how strongly people feel about this subject I know some of you will be forming an opinion of me already. Your heart either strong with a feeling of sisterhood or your blood beginning to boil with the thought of a lecture. Well I’m actually hoping to disappoint both camps, what I’d like to discuss is MY experiences, MY opinion and not what I think everyone else should do.
When I was pregnant with my first child it never even crossed my mind that there was more than one option for feeding your child. I’m a practical girl and after all its what they (boobies) are for, plus I knew my mother had breastfed all of us. Often joking how she had to wean one of my brothers off to let the next one on, and we in return would joke how he was 15 at the time! lol! (before anyone gets upset, he wasn’t)
I was very lucky, breastfeeding came extremely naturally to me. My little girl latched straight on after birth and continued to feed regularly while we were in hospital. Not only was a mother and daughter born that day but also my love for breastfeeding. It gave me so much pleasure and feeling of accomplishment. Whenever she gained weight I would think, I did that! I continued to feed her to about 7/8 months at which point she weaned herself off. Although I love feeding we did introduce a formula bottle at about 3/4 months to encourage her to sleep at night. A mistake I might add, ask any mother who’s tried this and they will tell you that’s not entirely true. They sleep through the night when their ready, not when you give them formula!
So I am now breastfeeding my third child and still loving it. In fact enjoying it so much that I am intending not to add formula at all. But we’ll see how things go and what works best for her. I have started attending a breastfeeding group and have found some really like minded ladies. Breastfeeding has very much given me a sense of belonging this time around as I often feel very detached from other mothers simply because I am often too busy with the 3 children and work to socialise. I wonder is this feeling of belonging something that bottlefeeding mamas are excluded from? If so this leaves me a little sad
This has made me think about the way we view our choice to feed our babies in the way we do. Both breastfeeding and bottlefeeding are stigmatised., breastfeeding mamas are hippies who swan about in long skirts exposing themselves in public and bottle feeding mamas are selfish and unattached to their babies. Neither of these statements are true!! However the more we allow these veiws to run writhe the more we segregate the two groups.
Yes I do find it hard to understand why a woman wouldn’t even try to breastfeed her baby. In fact I found it saddened me when I discovered a close member of my family had chosen not to. However I cannot judge her, or anyone, for this. I do not know another mothers mind, her past, her experiences. If I walked in her shoes maybe I would make the same choice.
My other irk about the feeding debate is the mixed messages you receive. The NHS tells us that its pro breastfeeding. So much so that often new mums who choose to bottlefeed are made to feel like they are poisoning their babies by hospital staff. We are told breast is best and exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for the first 6 months. However if you decide to breastfeed and it goes well, then you decide to breastfeed in public or past six months of age, or even god forbid past a year, your suddenly considered extreme by society. Suddenly the image changes, at the start bottle feeding mamas are made to feel wrong and then as baby grows suddenly at 6 months bottles are amazing and breastfeeding is extreme and no longer needed!!?
This brings me to the title of this piece, function and debate. Surely breastfeeding is a bodily function that enables us to feed our babies, what ever their age or where we are. Yes some very clever scientists have developed formula which is fabulous as it allows babies to survive who perhaps wouldn’t of in the past. But instead it seems to be one of the biggest debates of motherhood! And I wonder who started this debate? Mothers? I doubt it. Most likely the milk and bottle manufacturers, who after all profit from us turning away from what our bodies are naturally designed to do.