I’m wide awake as an hour and a half ago, Jessica came into our bed. When she was smaller we could happily cosleep, but she is just too big now (or our bed is too small!) As well as the wriggles and kicks, she lays and strokes me which is on one hand endearing, but on the other makes it impossible to sleep. She can’t sleep either, so we all wake up tired and grumpy.
So after an hour, I gently took her back to her room, remade her bed, sprayed her pillow with lavender, and snuggled her down with her sleep music cd.
But me, I am wide awake. I’ve had a bowl of cereal and a quick peek at instagram. Flicked to the bbc news website, where I found a story ‘Women’s Right To Bottle Feed’ and I find it SO disappointing.
I’m not suggesting for one minute that women don’t have the right, of course they do, but actually the baby surely also has rights, as do breastfeeding women.
Considering that at the age of 6 months fewer than 1% of mothers are exclusively breastfeeding (which is one of the lowest rates in a developed country) I can’t help but think it isn’t the bottle feeding mothers who need their rights protecting so much as the breastfeeding mothers.
I’ve never read a news story about a woman being made or asked to bottle feed her baby in a toilet, to leave to feed their baby, or anything similar. Sadly the same is not true for breastfeeding mothers.
Of course every choice which is safe for the baby should be resepcted, but there is a massive job of work to do to support mothers who want to to be able to breastfeed, to persuade mothers to give it a try. I don’t know of any bottle feeding friend who has chosen it as they think it is the best choice for them and their baby.
I do know a lot of bottle feeding friends who feel they ‘failed’ at breastfeeding, who turned to the bottle when they had problems breastfeeding and didn’t get enough or any support.
Tongue tie causes massive issues, but the NHS is not brilliant at diagnosing or rectifying it. A few brief visits from a health visitor isn’t enough when you are exhausted, hormonal, and stressed to be able to be given the necessary help.
I had a nightmare establishing breastfeeding. I was given massive doses of intavenous valium to stop my eclamptic fits post birth, and had to wait for it to leave my system before I could breastfeed. Every feed left me in pain with a burning sensation. The health visitor referred me to my gp (a bus ride away). The gp referred me back to my health visitor. On and on it went.
Weeks later, after crying after most feeds, my own research suggested one of the drugs I had been put on for the eclampsia could cause this. Once it was out of my system, the pain vanished.
I was so lucky to have several friends who had successfully breastfed who were generous with their time and advice. I breastfed to 26 months in spite of the NHS support, not because of it.
With this in mind, with the undisputable fact that successfully eatablished breastfeeding is best for the mother and baby in terms of health benefits….I really think time and energy is being misplaced here.
If women can’t breastfeed, if they have made a fully informed choice not to, of course it is their absolute right to do that. But a camaign to state the obvious, which supports 99% of feeding mothers seems so misplaced to me. What about the 1%? How about support for all feeding mothers?
How about helping those who want to to breastfeed? To continue the work to protect our legal rights to feed wherever we need to? To not be sniped at online? I have seen a lot of unkindness aimed at breastfeeders online, using terms such as ‘smug’ ‘holier than thou’ ‘breastfeeding police’. In hindsight I guess some of this comes from bad feelings about their own journey. It feels like it is often assumed that those of us who breastfeed find it easy (it really isn’t always) and those who don’t can’t (some people can’t it is true, but not 99%). We ALL need support to achieve the feeding journey we want and to make peace with the feeding path we end up on. We should be on paths of our informed choosing, not those that we end up on through circumstance.
I hope to live to see a generation where breastfeeding is normalised and supported (being natural doesn’t make it easy) and where the baby’s right to breastfeeding is considered alongside the mother’s rights too.
If by any chance anyone reading this is pregnant and thinking about breastfeeding, please give it a try. Read up, sign up for classes, look online at facebook pages like The Milk Meg. Write down the number of the free NCT breastfeeding helpline (yoi dont have to be a member to use it and it is staffed by volunteer Mums who have breastfed). See if you have a local La Leche League. Get yourself all the support you can. If it is hard, and it can be at first, push for the support you need. If you are reading this and you ended up bottle feeding because you had problems, and especially if you didn’t have support, I am so sorry that happend to you. If you are reading this and you made a fully informed decision to bottle feed your child, well done for making the choice that was best for your circumstances. We are all mothers doing the best we can for our children.
And if you are reading this with an aching heart, because you wish that how to feed your baby was a decision that you had to make, if you have lost a baby or struggled to conceive, please know I am holding a special place for you in my heart.
I usually post about lighter topics, but this is really important to me. No judgement on anyone from me. I once read a lovely quote online, I can’t remember it word for word, but it went along the lines of ‘I don’t care what choice you made. I do care that you were given all the information you needed to make that choice and that you were supported and respected once you had made it’.
This, for me, in all things. How you feed, how you vote, how you eat, how you live. (Except for how you eat your scone – jam first then cream always!)