I have been in two minds about whether to post anything on such a divisive topic, but in the wake of all that I have read this past week of so called “Breastfeeding Awareness”, I feel I can no longer keep my opinion to myself.
FED IS BEST.
There. I said it.
Last week I read an article, somewhat infuriatingly titled something along the lines of “Stop being so self-righteous about breastfeeding”. Moving past the title, I read the article in which one woman detailed her struggle to breastfeed exclusively. Bear in mind this was her personal experience. I found it fair, informative and inclusive (despite the poorly chosen title).
Then I headed to the comments section… Blimey.
The main thrust of the vitriol seemed to derive from women who had not even read the article, merely taking extreme exception to such an inflammatory headline. “Why can’t we celebrate our achievement in breastfeeding our children”, “We are not self-righteous”, “YOU ARE JUST NOT TRYING HARD ENOUGH”.
Ooh, that last one, makes my blood boil just typing it now.
At no point in the article had the author (who had posted anonymously, obviously aware that this is a touchy subject) put women down for being able to breastfeed. She, and I, are in awe of anyone’s ability to do it, the “self-righteousness” the title was referring to is directed firmly at the establishment. The article detailed how healthcare professionals, many of whom have not breastfed anyone themselves, continue to push it as the only option, and how there is so little support for any of us who may need to supplement or replace breast milk with formula.
Just as more awareness and support is needed to help those who want to breastfeed, more support is also needed for those who can’t. Just from my own personal experience, I have known women who cannot breastfeed due to poor supply, mental health issues, or in the case of myself, prematurity of the baby.
When my baby was born 10 weeks early she had not developed the skills required to breastfeed (this usually happens in utero around 35 weeks gestation, which obviously we did not reach). As she only stayed in NICU for 5 weeks, this was still not developed by the time we returned home. Although she received only expressed breastmilk for the first six weeks of her life (through a mixture of tube and bottle feeding), at home, reality bit and there was no reasonable way to continue pumping and feeding at 3 hourly intervals and for all of us to remain sane at the same time.
Thankfully, still being under the care of NICU nurses after our return home, we received nothing but support in the switch to a specially formulated milk for premature babies. While we were in hospital, I was pushed to try as hard as possible with breastfeeding, but NICU staff are more than usually aware that in a lot of cases this is just not possible and were very supportive when, as my baby refused to gain weight from breastmilk alone, we had to make the switch.
11 months after bringing our baby home she is now a happy and healthy one year old, fully weaned and no longer taking any milk anyway. I sincerely doubt that formula milk has made any difference at all to her development and I challenge anyone who disagrees to pick a formula-fed baby out of a line-up!