The breastfeeding debate last week was rife. Type in the hashtag #bressure and thousands of comments, articles and blog posts pop up. Hard core breastfeeding advocates and defensive bottle feeding mums. Women hurt by pressure imposed in them not only by health professional but society at large. And mums saying that the pressure helped them to do it.
But how do mums through adoption feel about this?
Well as a mum who adopted her son, who is now one year old, I can tell you my experience.
From the start, with the assumption we would be bottle feeding, we were on our own. Not once did any of the social care or health professionals around us offer advice on bottle feeding. It sounds like it should be easy right? Just pick up a bottle and feed the baby?
No. Looking on the internet as a new mum, there is a lot of conflicting advice about the safest way to prepare formula, the best brand of bottles to prevent colic, the safest position to avoid reflux. With feeding your precious baby being one of the most important tasks at hand, it got pretty overwhelming. I just wanted to give my baby the best chance in life.
As I stumbled through, and finally felt we were ready for baby classes, we entered the local Children's Centre. Baby massage to be precise. I was met with one wall of the activity room completely covered in "Breast Is Best" style advice. A column of all the benefits of breastfeeding versus formula feeding. Cheers for that.
Next up, as we carried on through the class, gradually babies got hungry, and mums would stop to feed. I realized I was the only bottle feeder. No problem there, until I pulled out my formula dispenser. I was met with a few looks of curiosity. Then I pulled out the bottle, prepared the feed, pulled my little boy close and looked into his eyes as I fed him. "We are breastfeeding friendly here" chirped the support worker helpfully. Awkward!
At the end of the class, the other new mum next to me helpfully proclaimed "Do you think you tried breastfeeding long enough?". I changed the subject very quickly.
Friends and family were supportive. They knew the situation. Still some of them fell into the trap unknowingly. "He's sleeping better? That will be the formula. My baby was much harder work to settle". Well no actually. It's the damn hard work I've put into helping him feel safe and secure. Into finding the right bedtime routine for him. Into responding to his needs. This wasn't a competition for who worked hardest as a mum. Its hard for everyone at times.
My next, most shocking, brush with Bressure came in the supermarket a few weeks later. Rushing in, sleepy, to get the shopping between naps and feeds, I stood for a while reading the backs of the formula tins, wondering if I was giving my son the best one. Along comes helpful Bressurizer number four, looking down her nose, "You know that stuffs practically poison. How can you do that?!", walking away without a care in the world. This one really got to me. As a mum, all I wanted was what was best for my baby, with no choice but formula, yet I was accused of poisoning him? It made me feel sick.
I've nothing against belfies (selfies whilst breastfeeding). Breastfeeding should feel normal. Its beautiful. But so it bottle feeding to many of us. Nurturing and nourishing a baby is beautful via breastfeeding or formula feeding.
I've nothing against advice to try breastfeeding if you can. It does have benefits of immunity etc. But everywhere?
Why should some of the bressurizing members of our communities have anything against me feeding my child the best way I can? Have the right to assume they know what's best for my child without knowing him? To assume I had the choice and no wish to breastfeed? Why should I feel pressured to explain the reasons like its an open subject?
Becoming a new mum, through what ever method that is, is hard enough without judgement from fellow mum Conrad's. Love is what all our children need most. Perhaps we need to model that to each other first?