THE BLOG

Jamie's Right - We Need to Talk About Breastfeeding

21/03/2016 13:00 GMT | Updated 21/03/2017 09:12 GMT

Have you noticed how there's a real stigma attached to breastfeeding?

I recently touched on it on my blog, at the beginning of an in-depth piece about breastfeeding myths. I mentioned how it has become an insidious divide between (some) breastfeeders and (some) bottle feeders; and how it's left us in the absurd position of being unable to speak candidly about nourishing our children - for fear of causing offence to someone, somewhere, somehow.

Well, I may be British, but I'm not typically so - impersonating the ostrich is not exactly my forte. If something needs saying, I just can't help myself. Some who think they know me would describe me as thriving on confrontation. But they're wrong; I loathe it as much as the next person. In fact, I can be quite anxious and far prefer harmony to conflict.

But there's one thing I despise even more than discord: bitterness.

So if an issue is destructive enough, I will confront it. (I may be cringing inside, but I'll do it nonetheless.)

The Issues to Be Confronted

On my blog, I've previously written about surprises I've encountered in relation to feeding; and subsequently the facts about breastfeeding and alcohol - because the guidelines seem to be biased towards those who cannot or will not regulate their own drinking. Whilst I in no way condone drinking to excess particularly for breastfeeding mothers, I'm wildly frustrated about the lack of accurate information in the public consciousness. It is available if you go searching, but it's not easy to find the truth - unreliable opinion is far more readily available than correct data, in my experience.

I've become a breastfeeding advocate and I'd like to see all women have the best possible chance to successfully breastfeed, should they wish to do so. To this end, there are several misconceptions I'd like to see publicly challenged and rejected, and that's what I hoped to achieve with my recent post.

Image source: Pixabay, CC0

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The Myths

I wrote about the various myths surrounding breastfeeding, which stem from Chinese Whispers passed from generation to generation. Frustratingly, breastfeeding is still widely misunderstood by both society and also by many health care professionals - another subject I raised in my article.

It drew some attention, and there was one comment in particular which made me realise there is yet more to be said on the subject:

So provocative is the topic that those of us who work hard to establish and enjoy a successful breastfeeding journey are unable to openly display our pride. For fear of offending those who were less fortunate - or often less dedicated - we make excuses for the fact we stuck it out.

Steely Determination

I was a classic case for trying and quitting breastfeeding because circumstances made things difficult for us. But I was stubborn, and there was one key reason I was a stronger candidate to successfully breastfeed than many of my peers. It wasn't the fact that I visited a workshop; it wasn't the fabulous support I received in hospital. It was my absolute resolve that I. Was. Going. To. Do. It.

It wasn't painless, it wasn't a perfect transition - but I persisted.

This is not uncommon - in most cases, long-term nursing means bouts of gritted teeth and watering eyes during excruciating feeds. We may pretend that we took the easy option because we didn't want to pay for formula and make up bottles; but the truth of the matter is that we suffered through intense soreness with various associated issues. Few of us will have made it out the other side unscathed.

To experience this agonising discomfort and carry on regardless is a tribute of our devotion to our babies.

The Jamie Oliver Debate

I'd already started writing this post when I learned about the comments made by Jamie Oliver.

He allegedly called breastfeeding 'easy'. And from what I've written above you may be expecting me to be one more outraged woman ready to tear him apart.

But you'd be wrong.

Jamie Oliver campaigns for the good of our children. And, if you read his comment in context, for the good of women, too.

Besides which, I don't think anyone could disagree that breast is 'best'. Is that not the legacy provided to us by evolution and survival of the fittest?!

I am becoming increasingly irritated by a new trait which is becoming the British default: offended.

So typical is this reaction to anything and everything, it has lost its sincerity and impact for me. It's become a choice, rather than a genuine feeling. It appears to be based upon nothing more than the pleasure of causing a fuss and having something else to complain about.

Image source: Pixabay, CC0

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The Value of Education

Women have many and varied a reason for choosing to bottle feed - and that's okay. If women make an educated decision not to breastfeed, then I applaud them for being empowered to make that informed choice. My concern is with situations which where women mistakenly believe they can't, or - for spurious reasons - are dissuaded by health professionals from continuing.

There's a fine line between being sensible, and setting oneself up to fail through a lack of education or determination. I don't pretend striking that balance is easy. But knowledge is power.

The subject of breastfeeding can be a profoundly personal one, and sometimes it's easier to leave the status quo unchallenged.

But for those who are open to learning, you may be surprised to discover how much control you have over your choice to breastfeed - or not.

But ultimately, as this debate rages on, my grievance becomes not with breastfeeders or bottle feeders - they're both valid and both have their place. My gripe is with everyone who makes it their business to essentially start a hate campaign which detracts from a serious issue which warrants further discussion.

Kate also writes at The Less-Refined Mind: A Mouthpiece on Motherhood, Marriage, and Mischief. Join the mischief on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.