Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Breast is best, but it's not the only answer

Yummy Mummy No1 has written a brilliant post (read it here) on breast feeding and I felt compelled to write one of my own. Even before I had my first child, I was increasingly irritated by the constant barrage of literature (and nagging from midwives, I might add) about breast milk being the 'only' option for your baby. And this was before I started NCT. But I'll save that for another time, or we'll be here all week.

Yes, in an ideal world, all mothers would be whipping out their tits at every available opportunity, feeding their babies whenever the need arose. But the simple fact is, it's not that simple. And making people feel bad about it isn't going to help the baby or the child. Some myths include:

1. It's completely natural.
No, it's not. Our NCT teacher actually told us that "if your baby was born in the wild, they would come out of the birthing canal, crawl up the mother's body and latch on naturally." What utter crap. First off, a new born baby can't move, and second, latching on naturally is a fairytale. Yes, some people take to it more easily than others - but many people find it hard, and they should know that in advance, so they have time to prepare. Making out it's natural just makes people that can't do it instantly feel inadequate.

2. It can be done anywhere.
Yes, after practice at home or somewhere else quiet. No one tells you that when you see women out shopping whacking their children on their boob as soon as they start crying (the child, not the mother. We have vodka for that) that they've been doing it for a while. They did not leave hospital yesterday and the baby now knows what to do. It takes practice.

3. You don't need any help.
This is my favourite. The breastapo tell you that you must breastfeed your child come what may. Years ago, women stayed in hospital for a week after childbirth and had ample support from nurses to get the knack of breastfeeding. Now, you're kicked out in a matter of hours(which, by the way, suits me - I'd much rather be at home). If you have any problems breastfeeding, you're told to go to your nearest breastfeeding cafe. Brilliant. Your body has just been through a traumatic ordeal and then you have to get on a bus, or in your car, and then sit with a group of people you don't know and let them examine you attempt to breastfeed. And let me tell you, you do not feel like travelling three days after giving birth. Money saving? Probably. But a good idea? Absolutely not.

I'm with Yummy Mummy No1. Obviously, if you can breast feed then it is best for the baby. But not breast feeding him doesn't make you a bad mother. My theory is, if you can do it, great, and if you can't, it's not the end of the world. Take the whole thing with a pinch of salt. And remember that in ten years time, the advice will probably be completely different anyway.

I should just caveat this post with the information that I live in central London. My experiences are purely based on the services in my area. If you have more support in your area - lucky you!


  1. Great post and thanks so much for the mention : )
    I felt strangely 'brave' for writing my post today - standing up to the breastapo! But it is so nice to know that I'm not on my own thinking this way. Like you, I don't for a minute question that breast is best - but like you say, it's not the only answer.

  2. Oh I will disagree with point one because I have seen it with my own eyes on a friends home birth video, took the baby 1 hour but it did it lol

    I am an extended breastfeeder fed my 1st 2yrs 3 months and my son is still fed at 2 years and I am pregnant with my 3rd child who will be breastfed.

    I dislike breastfeeding a lot, as in a lot. I have no issues with the way people choose to feed their kids what ever is best for that family!

  3. Seriously? Well done that baby! But generally, I just think it's wrong to make women feel unnecessarily guilty for something that's not as easy as it's made out to be. I agree though - it has to be what works for the family. Ultimately, happy mum = happy baby (most of the time!).