The midwife mafia. The breastapo. Breastfeeding bullies. Breast-is-best Nazis.
I've heard all these pejorative terms and more used to describe breastfeeders and those who promote breastfeeding, including most recently here in the Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/shakira-akabusi/bullied-into-breastfeeding_b_8088722.html?utm_hp_ref=uk). In a recent article, a woman complains she was "bullied" into breastfeeding by the midwives and even by her own baby.
First of all, let's state what everyone knows: breastfeeding is the biological norm. We don't need to claim it's best; it's the norm, and it's what mothers are biologically meant to do. There are, of course, reasons why some women can't breastfeed, such as taking medication that could harm a baby or having gone through chemotherapy, so it's great that there are alternatives for such situations. In general, however, breastfeeding is the way most women are able to provide the nutrition and comfort that is just right for their babies. Breast milk is individualised to each baby, whereas formula is the same for all.
Midwives and other health professionals don't usually bully people; what they do is promote best practice and there's no doubt that breastfeeding is best (and breast) practice. So obviously midwives will want to ensure that women leaving the hospital know how to latch their baby on and are comfortable with that they're doing when nursing. That's a midwife doing her job, not bullying patients. Unfortunately, many midwives are pressed for time and aren't able to spend precious minutes, or even hours, working with a woman and her baby; the author of the article is lucky the midwives in her area had time to spend with her. In my own case, several midwives told me to just switch to formula; from what I've heard from friends, this actually is a disturbingly common suggestion.
Furthermore, how can a baby bully anyone? Babies have needs, not desires, and being needy isn't threatening, manipulative, or bullying behaviour in any way. To ascribe bullying behaviour to a baby is unfair.
Bizarrely, the author goes on to suggest that" bottle-feeding is the best scenario" for same-sex and adoptive parents. As one parent in a two-mum family, I can decisively say that breastfeeding is the best scenario for our child, just as it would be for most babies. Perhaps the author thinks all same-sex couples are male. Other possible scenarios for adoptive or male parents include trying to induce lactation, using a supplemental nursing system with donor breast milk, or using donor breast milk in bottles. This would help babies get the benefits of breast milk.
I often feel that those who choose to formula-feed (versus those who had no choice) can be quite defensive of their decision, and they therefore lash out at the supposed "mafia" of breastfeeding-promoters. Sure, breastfeeding isn't always easy and it can cause pain (often curable with some professional advice and support). It also does tie you to your child, in that you can't really be far from an exclusively breastfed baby who is relying on you for nutrition. Some women may not want that tie/bond, but then why have a baby if you're not willing to give your time to that child?
It's a pity that breastfeeding is currently not the cultural norm in the UK, and many other western countries, as there's absolutely no doubt that it is the biological norm. Women are free to make choices about how they feed their babies, but if you choose formula, there's no need to put down breastfeeding and breastfeeders.
We need to change the cultural norm in the UK and try to support women so more mums breastfeed. Let's give it our breast shot.