What the hell is it with the subject of breastfeeding and breastfeeding advice that gets us all into such a bloody tizz? When contemplating using it as a topic to write about, I felt my stomach tighten with anxiety, my head dip and my shoulders broaden in anticipation of having to defend myself against a potential backlash. I'm not writing anything purposefully controversial or antagonising, however the feeling of anxiety is there none the less. However, isn't this the problem when it comes to talking about breastfeeding? That, no matter what we dare write, think, say or do, when it comes to talking about breastfeeding we are always in danger of pissing somebody off (despite our best intentions being otherwise)?
I for one, like the majority of mums out there have had enough of treading on proverbial eggshells whenever the subject arises. Therefore, I am raising my head and the subject above the social parapet for the sake of all us mums who have had just about enough of the ridiculous breast versus bottle wars. Who, like myself are done with the judgement and hysteria that unwantedly accompanies the topics of breastfeeding in public, the age we decide to breastfeed up to, the type of breastfeeding we decide on and if we decide against it. On behalf of all mums I am daring to ask why are we so bothered about how another mum chooses to feed her child? And why is it such a political and prickly minefield?
I'm pretty confident that if I stopped any mum in the street and asked her thoughts on how another mum decides to feed her child she would quite rightly tell me that she has enough on her plate worrying about how she feeds, rears and cares for her own tiny human to be bothered about the choices another mum makes. And as long as mum and baby are both healthy and happy then surely that's all that matters?
So why oh why is it not this simple? Why do we instead feel so judged on our choices and like a 'failure' if we are not doing what is perceived as making the 'best choice' when it comes to how we feed our baby? And more importantly why the hell can we not talk about it without the fear of backlash, contradiction and judgement? This bullshit has to stop!
For all mums out there currently caught up in any form of feeding fury, judgement or guilt this is for you - The No Bullshit Mum advice on breastfeeding all mums should know:
1. Not every mum can breastfeed
Yes, we all have boobs - but this does not mean that each and every single pair will play ball and do what 'nature intended' just because we have had a baby and they need feeding! Unfortunately, for a lot of mums out there desperate to breastfeed and desperate to do it well, it is not as straight forward as directing their newborn in the direction of the food supply. For what for some mums is a beautiful bonding experience that they have found relatively straight forward, can be for others a frustrating and at times an extremely painful experience as they battle with a baby that cannot latch on, a milk supply that is unwilling and the guilt that despite trying everything, they have to abandon their hopes of breastfeeding, leaving them feeling like they have let themselves and their baby down. These mums should be celebrated for what they actually are; bloody troopers who tried their hardest to breastfeed even to the detriment of themselves. For all you mums who this resonates with, you quite simply ROCK.
2. Not every mum wants to breastfeed
Let's get the White elephant in the room revealed once and for all by acknowledging that breastfeeding is not for everyone and that the choice to breastfeed for some women is down to the fact that they do not want to. It is not for them and they would rather bottle feed their baby. These women are not witches, they do not need to be hounded out of the local mother and baby groups and they certainly do not deserve to be judged. They are instead mums who are making the best decision for their situation. End of. Just because we are women and just because we become mothers, does not directly result in all of us wanting to breastfeed.
3. You should feel proud of yourself for being able to breastfeed
Breastfeeding is challenging, magical and heart-warming. It can push us mums to the brink of despair on the bad days and to the edge of delirium on the good. It has the ability to make you feel like the worst mother in the world when things are not quite going to 'text book' plan. And it has the ability to make you feel like the best mum on the planet when it's all going well. It is a journey of ups and downs and most of all a journey (no matter how long we are on it for) that we should all be proud of and feel privileged for being able to have been a part of. There is no shame in celebrating our successes as mums. By being proud of being able to breastfeed your baby does not mean you are being smug or pointing fingers at those who can't. Instead in this world of motherhood where it can at times feel like we are fighting a losing battle, breastfeeding and the ability to be able to do it and enjoy it should be one we celebrate.
4. You should not feel guilty if you wanted to breastfeed but couldn't
Yes, I know as a mum who has been in this position, that this is so much easier said than done. In fact, similar to the majority of things in motherhood, it is nigh on impossible to stop the hell that is mummy guilt from bearing down upon us. HOWEVER, this does not mean it is right or deserved. When it comes to mastering the art that is breastfeeding, there can at times be no rhyme or reason to why it doesn't work for us. Or why despite our dogged determination and perseverance it's still not working for us as easily as for other mums. We battle on through breast pumping, sore, cracked and bleeding nipples, mastitis, problems with latching on, problems with the amount of milk we are producing. We scour the forums and websites for advice, pleading to our health visitors and fellow mums for a solution on how to breastfeed and pacify our tiny human screaming to be fed. When despite our best efforts it still does not work for us we then feel like failures and that our bodies have let us down. For all mums out there who have battled the challenges their journey of breastfeeding has thrown at them and who may be sat feeling they have failed because they can't please know that you HAVE NOT!
5. It is not easy
Breastfeeding is an art to be mastered. It is a new skill for us mums to learn and like any new skill it takes time, dedication and constant guidance that you are using the right technique, sitting in the correct position, holding your baby in the best way and a whole host of additional intricate and important details that all contribute to you and your baby having an enjoyable experience.
6. You don't always get the right support or advice
Unfortunately, one of the most common complaints by mums when it comes to their breastfeeding journey is that they didn't receive enough support and advice on how to firstly commence with breastfeeding and then on how to overcome any challenges they may have faced with it. The lack of education around breastfeeding regarding how to start and maintain it for as long as you and your baby want, needs to be addressed so every mum out there gets a healthy and supportive start to their journey and the much needed advice and help throughout.
7. It is not a competition
Before I had children and decided to breastfeed I naively thought there were just two options when it came to feeding your baby; breast or bottle. It wasn't until I became a mum eager to breastfeed that I realised there were a whole host of definitions that came under the term 'breastfeeding' and all had a different amount of kudos attached. All of a sudden we are not just being asked if we breastfeed but if we "exclusively breastfeed" or if we combination feed and if we do give a bottle, is it a bottle of our expressed milk or formula? We are asked how long we have breastfed for and which method we chose and how long we plan to do it for? All the time feeling that teeny bit more judged and worried about the reaction our answers may be the catalyst to. Again I come back to the matter of who really cares as long as your little one is a) being fed and b) being fed!
8. You never feel like you've done enough. EVER!
You could have breastfed your child until they were two but there will still be a little voice in your head questioning whether you did it for long enough or for too long etc, etc. You will feel like a 'phoney' breastfeeder if you've used bottles as well as boob (even if those bottles were filled with your own bloody milk). You will beat yourself up if you express milk off so your partner can do a feed and you can get a few hours of much needed sleep and heaven forbid if you fancy a glass of wine. As mums we are programmed to beat ourselves up regardless of how selfless we have been. Sounding familiar? Just remember you grew a whole tiny human, fingers, toes and the little mouth that you are now worrying about feeding. You are quite simply magnificent!
9. We are ALL defensive when it comes to how we feed our babies
Hell, we are all defensive on all the choices we make regarding our tiny humans. They are the most precious things in the world to us. They are our gorgeous, chubby legged super stars, who we would do anything for. Therefore, each and everyone of us are going to come out fighting, teeth bared and tongues sharpened if anyone dares to suggest that we are not doing right by them. So how about we just stop? How about rather than passing judgement on whether a mum prefers bottle to boob or boob to bottle or on how long a mum chooses to breastfeed and by what method we instead just don't. We instead just think to ourselves that mummy and baby are happy and that's all that matters. And more importantly we make an effort not to be offended by all comments made about breastfeeding.
10. Your boobs. Your baby. Your choice
Whatever your decision, whatever journey you choose when it comes to breastfeeding and how you choose to feed your child, it's up to you. Anyone who dares judge can quite frankly 'do one!'
Ladies, we are all on the same team, breastfeeding and bottle feeding mums alike. Therefore, all mothers battling the guilt of being unable to breastfeed. All mothers enjoying every minute of their breastfeeding journey. All mothers whose journey had to end before they were ready and all mothers who chose to not begin the journey in the first place. Myself, and fellow No Bullshit Mums salute you. You are doing an amazing job and don't let anyone else make you feel otherwise.