Why is breastfeeding such a thorny subject? So many people get their knickers (and bras) in a twist about it.
We've got the Government, constantly fretting about low levels of breastfeeding. Complaints about breastfeeding in public. Complaints about complaints about breastfeeding in public. Mums complaining about being pressured to breastfeed when they can't, or don't want to. Mums complaining about not being given enough support to breastfeed when they DO want to.
Last year a controversial trial was launched, 'bribing' new mums to breastfeed with £200 vouchers.
Now the poet Hollie McNish has written a poem about the scheme for the website What I See, a new initiative that's exploring different issues relating to female identity.
You might remember Hollie – last year she wrote a poem about having to breastfeed her baby in toilets, which was a huge YouTube hit , viewed more than a million times. (See the video below.)
It's fair to say Hollie isn't massively impressed by the 'bribery' scheme. What about those mums with bleeding breasts, mastitis, pre-term babies, or those with no support, or a job they need to return to, or a critical partner... she says we should be looking at the many different reasons mums aren't breastfeeding.
"Instead we give vouchers for clothes.
£200 vouchers for clothes
'To make breastfeeding normal'
'To give incentive to those who don't want to feed and who need to be bribed'
'To tackle the breastfeeding social divide'
'To tackle the economic reasons'
But if the reason was cash, everyone would be breastfeeding
Cos it's free.
And if you want to support parents, spend the money on supporting them..."
As mothers we become public property, criticised for our children who may or may not turn out to be the next generation of criminals and benefit scroungers, our every move scrutinized.
Don't drink alcohol in pregnancy. Actually, maybe, yes, just a little bit. Actually, no, not at all. Definitely don't smoke. Don't eat peanuts. Wait, no, you can eat peanuts. Don't drink coffee. Or maybe you can. Who knows? Go back to work. No, don't go back to work. Childcare is good. Or maybe bad.
Parenthood is all about balancing what's best for your child, what's best for your family as a whole, and what's best for you. Put your child first on every occasion, and they'll a) be an only child and b) probably turn into an evil dictator of a small country.
Every family is different; every mother is different; every child is different. Yes, there are statistics and trends and blah blah blah but let's face it, we all know the theories and they don't always work in practice.
How about we stop telling mums what they should be doing, and start helping them to make their lives easier? Not £200-kind-of-easier, actual practical support, depending on THEIR needs.
Hollie suggests different kinds of vouchers might be more appreciated by new mums.
"If you really want to bribe me, I can think of better things to spend it on than clothes. I'd suggest some
Free sleep vouchers
Hot cup of tea vouchers
Hold your baby and allow you five minutes to breathe vouchers
Put up your feet vouchers
Nipple leak vouchers
Hold the baby so I can go for a wee vouchers
Adult talk vouchers
When you're bored vouchers
Cabbage leaves vouchers
Help me please vouchers!
Don't tell me to leave the hospital without making sure I can feed vouchers.
Paternity or Grandparent leave vouchers
So someone can hold her and I can go sleep vouchers
Or scream vouchers
When someone harasses me in town when I feed vouchers
A locked room
Just to weep vouchers
I just want to sleep vouchers..."
But that kind of real help doesn't come cheap, does it? It's so much easier and less costly to throw a couple of hundred quid at mums and tell them to buy themselves something pretty.
Or is it?
Midwives get paid... well, it varies depending on experience, but around £15 to £20 an hour. (I know, it's pretty rubbish, isn't it.) Let's be generous, and say £20 an hour. So £200 could pay for TEN HOURS of support from a qualified midwife.
Would that not be more useful than a few new tops from Primark?
What do you think?