Women should not be lied to or misled by formula milk makers, and we need regulations to ensure this is the case. But we don't need to oversell the many benefits of breastfeeding for either mother and baby to ensure women make the "right" choice. Breast is best, but it may not always be best for all women, all of the time.
Ten months ago, I stared in the mirror at my reflection. My breasts were painfully engorged like they might explode and I thought to myself 'I'm going to need a sense of humour to get through this'. These days, on the rare occasion I go for a night out baby-free, I joke that my boobs double up as a timepiece.
So why the hell does everyone care so much about the choices this woman (who I would like to place my fave maternity bra on that none of them actually know or have met) makes? Why do we feel the need to sling mud, to debate over whether she is a bad mum scarring her child forever, that she is not a fit parent, that she is disgusting and crossing the line from nurturing into the perverse?
Breastfeeding is sold to pregnant women as straightforward, easy and rewarding but many do not find that description matches their experience. But the reason for this difficulty should rarely be to do with breastfeeding itself, but instead because society in the UK is not set up to support women to breastfeed
As wonderful as some of the trending breastfeeding photos are, they don't always portray the reality of breastfeeding, and the various relationships and journey each woman and child takes. It's important that breastfeeding in its entirety is illustrated, in all its beauty. All of its gloriously awkward and inconvenient beauty.
When the cameras turned to me... she pulled out my boob to get some milk. I have been overwhelmed with the reaction to our appearance, receiving lots of positive messages from other families who are pleased to see breastfeeding normalised. Nobody in the TV studio blinked an eyelid either. Of course I had a negative tweet from one lone man, but that was it!
In 1655, the medical author Thomas Moffett explained that all 'kind and natural' women would breastfeed. 'Yea', he noted, 'all Women which truly loved their Children' did so. The alternative to breastfeeding for new mothers in the 1600s in England was to hire a wet nurse -- a woman that had recently given birth and was still lactating.
So, by necessity, breastfeeding becomes a constant. You could, perhaps, compare it to relieving yourself in the bathroom - because it is as essential, and just as much a part of our lives. It may not be the topic of every conversation, but it's always in the back of one's mind: I need to deal with this situation within the next X minutes, or I will have a problem...
It's not a lack of information and awareness. The posters are everywhere. It's a lack of decent, practical support. I don't blame the frontline NHS staff for that at all. The midwives were fantastic, and HCAs are stretched beyond belief. Somewhere up the chain, funding decisions are being made - and they're not making the best choices.
In order to remove the guilt surrounding infant feeding we need to acknowledge that how you feed your baby is your choice. It is individual circumstances, feelings and beliefs that determine how we will feed our babies and even with the most open society in the world not every woman will choose to breastfeed.