I Breastfeed and I’m Proud of It

The first time I fed Squirm

Breastfeeding is probably the top controversy issue of early parenting these days. There’s constant research being published – and then being publicised by media outlets that haven’t read them properly. There’s a constant stream of articles criticising pro-breast feeding associations. Then there’s still places in Australia where women are threatened, insulted and intimidated when they feed in public.

The other day, at my ABA meeting, we talked about how hard it is to get a positive breast feeding message out there. If you talk about breastfeeding at all, in general conversation, you run the risk of being accused of making other people guilty. And one mother added that she’s constantly being bombarded with stories about how other people can’t breastfeed. Just the other day I had to breastfeed at the counter at Spotlight (because the woman serving me was letting everyone else’s purchases be put through before mine – despite the fussing baby!) and was treated to a 5 minute speech on how ‘natural’ it was while making it rather clear that I shouldn’t be making other people feel guilty.

Truthfully, I’m proud that I breastfeed. It wasn’t easy. I missed out on a natural birth, missed out on skin to skin and didn’t get to try and feed until 8 hours after Squirm was born. Although he latched on and fed well at first, we had big trouble for the rest of the week. I kept being told that what I was doing was fine, but he just wouldn’t feed! It took a lesson with a lactation consultant and a lot of feeds to even start to get comfortable. Then we had a painful oversupply problem, complete with Squirm gumming down on my breasts in an attempt to stop the milk flowing so freely.

I’m proud that I persisted. I’m proud that I researched breast feeding so I had some idea of what was going on and how to fix it. I’m proud that I talked to people when I needed to.

And I think any mother who tries their hardest to breastfeed should feel proud about it too.

But I also think that there’s a lot of places where different systems are letting us and our babies down. Media reports sensationalising breastfeeding make people cranky and less open to thoughtful information let us down. Hospitals which make it hard for parents to have skin to skin with their babies let us down. Baby food companies who promote feeding from four months, when the WHO recommendations are 6 months – and then provide posters to doctors surgeries – let us down. Even the old saying ‘almost everyone can breastfeed’ lets us down. I think it should be changed to ‘almost everyone can learn to breastfeed – but they need all the support our collective societies can provide’.

The other side which needs to be considered is that there are people who find breastfeeding prohibitively difficult. PCOS, CFS, fertility issues can all cause difficulties. In these cases, we need to support the parent to do the absolute best for their baby – and themselves. And we need to have the honest conversations about it – the way we do other medical and care issues affecting babies.

How do you think we could promote breastfeeding better in the community?

12 comments

  1. Here here! Love this. And you have wonderful timing. I was having a whine at my husband last night about a moron on facebook telling a mutual friend that she shouldn’t offer her baby the breast because then he might refuse formula! That was one of many ridiculous things posted. I was furious. I think it’s a lack of education. I’ve heard people say that there’s enough hype about it, but I hear SO MANY MOTHERS who know so little about it. I hear so many stories like “My milk was too watery, I couldn’t breastfeed”. I think there needs to be MORE focus on it in antenatal education, not postnatal. And I think women need to learn to trust their bodies more.

    1. The myths are so pervasive! I know that some of it has to do with misinformation that was considered fact in the past – both my mother and mother-in-law have asked about whether I’ll give Squirm water in hot water, because that was what they did in the early 80s. Luckily we have more research about breastfeeding and hot weather now :)

  2. It is such a funny thing, some circles I’m in (my first mother’s group) most breast fed their babies, but in my family circle most bottle fed their babies, and in friends it’s been about half and half. I had a very tricky breast feeding experience last time, but managed to do it for seven months (seven and a half and I’m damn proud of it!). I’m hoping to do it again this time around. I definitely have felt guilt on both sides – guilty when breastfeeding in public and getting funny looks from people (really!) and guilty when bottle feeding, getting funny looks from people (or blatant comments). I am very careful not to comment either way to other mothers, whatever works for them is fine as long as they and their baby are happy and healthy.

    1. Go you on breast feeding for so long when it was difficult! I absolutely love hearing about people who persist.

      I’ve gotten very used to openly feeding at ABA meetings and baby wearing events – so much so, that it wasn’t until I was well and truly into a feed at the shops yesterday that I realised I wasn’t being as discreet as usual :)

      I hate that feeding in public gets negative attention, though. A friend of mine would only bring expressed milk out in public, and I think that made feeding a lot harder for her

  3. It’d be nice if LC visits in hospital were standard, instead of being something you have to ask for and which many people aren’t aware are an option. We had a lot of trouble to start with, with attachment problems leading to damage and infection (then antibiotics and thrush!) and massive over-supply. I was in agony for 8 – 10 weeks and without the unwavering support of my mother and my husband I would have given up. We were given a few pointers in hospital, but the midwives didn’t have time to sit and observe properly to see that his latching was dodgy, and I believe seeing an LC early on could have prevented a lot of the heartache we went through (in the end it took having bub medicated for reflux, a visit to an expensive bf-ing clinic, and a referral from there to an osteopath to treat his stiff jaw and neck which were causing his poor attachment and sucking). Easier access to LC’s in the community would also be on my wish list, maybe having them attend MCH clinics and letting new Mum’s know where they can find them. We didn’t receive any information about our local MCH clinic and it took months to hunt one down.

    1. Yes, yes, yes and yes! LCs are brilliant and a visit from them should be the norm :) I would like to see hospital extend the time you can see them for free, too. We could only see the ones at our hospital for 4 weeks after birth – but my over supply issues were only developing around the 4 week mark (thank goodness for the ABA support)

  4. It is controversial isn’t it. People always bang on about the immunity benefits of breastfeeding, but no one seems to mention the IQ improvements. I read this awesome book on baby brain development in a child’s first two years – I can’t remember the title, but it was more of a medical book than a parenting book, and they discussed research that shows that breastfeeding gives you the highest IQ improvement than any other thing you can do. Of course the results are cumulative, so you can breastfeed, AND read to your child, AND provide other stimulus, etc.

    I breastfed JJ primarily for her first year, offering breast before every meal, rather than after. I copped a lot of flack. People telling me she SHOULD eat more food and less milk. This included doctors and earlychildhood nurses, despite what I was doing being the recommendation of WHO. Then I continued to breastfeed for her second year, and I copped even more flack for that. People started to tell me it was weird. Asking me when I was going to stop….

    If people can’t or don’t want to breastfeed – I’m not judging them. They can do what they can, and what they want, with their children. It’s their family, and each family has it’s own set of priorities, values, beliefs. I’m validating their choices as much as I wish they would validate my own.

    So good on you for doing what you think is best for your baby. :)

    1. There’s a lot of ‘how dare you go on about the benefits of breastfeeding – you’ll make people feel guilty’ feeling – so then the benefits and great advice to help people never gets out there.

      I read something about not having guilt, instead it’s easier to think of things in term of regret. For example, I regret agreeing to being induced – but I wasn’t given the full information, so it’s not something to feel guilty about

  5. This is a GREAT post Melina! It’s so shocking to me that breastfeeding is such an issue in society, as I live in a very open minded community. But I believe you. I also know that most people who breastfed amongst my friends struggled in someway, natural birth or not. I didn’t so much, but found it excruciatingly painful. I felt at the time I was given the ‘wrong’ advice, and later learnt it definitely wasn’t the most current advice. I am glad this time to have more confidence just to do what feels right. It was still painful for the first week, but quickly improved. Today I found myself feeding on the ground at the park, being eaten by ants. Our local park forgot to supply benches, and as I have a toddler who I cannot keep from visiting the park, I think this is very unfair! I love this line: ‘almost everyone can learn to breastfeed – but they need all the support our collective societies can provide’. So true.

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