Monday, 8 August 2011

Mourning Breastfeeding

Some time ago, I blogged about my decision to bottle feed the Cub.  I made that decision for all the right reasons and it was the best decision to make.  However, I am still mourning that decision.

This week is World Breastfeeding Week and it is a brilliant thing.  I support breastfeeding as best for baby in the right circumstances.  I support women who want to breastfeed in public.  I think that people have over-sexualised women's breasts in Western Culture and this is causing us huge problems both for breastfeeding and for women's ideas of body image in general.

But for me, breastfeeding wasnt possible.  Cub's tongue tie made it so difficult that no matter how hard we tried (and, boy, did we try) we couldn't do it.  The support we received at such a critical time wasnt good at all and so we switched to formula feeding.  Now here is the rub.

I see the arguments and debates over breastfeeding and I sit there wondering what right have we to judge how a woman feeds her child based on seeing them once in public?  I say this for women breastfeeding AND for women bottle feeding.  A woman breastfeeding is not exposing herself to be indecent.  A woman bottle feeding is not choosing to do worse by her child for convenience sake.  The decision how to feed your child is not an easy one and that is what should be supported I think.

The Breast is Best campaign began with the right idea but I think it is being used to beat women over the head with.  I already feel upset by the fact I cannot breastfeed, I dont need people who have seen this message judging me on that basis.  However, this response from people who don't even know me has blocked my ability to mourn breastfeeding.  Yes, it shouldnt bother me that people I dont know are forming opinions BUT it does!

Becoming a parent puts you in the spotlight.  People are drawn to babies especially cute ones like my Cub.  And everyone has advice and opinions about how to parent.  So, whether you want it or not you are compared and judged all the time so eventually it will get to you. Add to that all the campaigning that has gone on over the past couple of years then you end up really feeling judged as a bad parent when you get that bottle out.

I supposed what I am trying to say is that I need time to mourn in a non-judgemental environment.  I need time to comes to turn with the emotional aspects of my decision.  At a time when I should have been focussing on the bond that was forming between me and Cub, I was stressed and so was he.  I need to mourn this.  If it goes unrecognised that how can I move on?

I think that the message needs to change.  Breast isnt always best.  Breast is the better option but only if you can do so without a stressful relationship.  The message should be about taking time to think about what is best for baby AND for you.  Unfortunately, I couldnt think of a catchy phrase for it so I fear I may never get to see that message being campaigned.

I will mourn breastfeeding and like others I will have to do so unsupported to a greater extent by the health professionals.  This is a huge issue.  THIS is key to the message.  Support for all, no matter the feed.  If we can support women who choose to bottle feed properly than in itself we will create better parents.  Am I the only one who sees this?


Salem Witch Child said...

Hi. Just reading this now. You said that you couldn't bf because of tongue tie. I wonder if you talked to your Pedi about getting it clipped so you could bf? My ds had a pretty severe case of tongue tie too. I know the pain it causes because they cannot latch right. We had it clipped and we've been bfing for 3 months now. I know you said you tried, and I'm not judging you for your choice. Just want to make sure you did know that tongue tie can be taken care of by clipping the frenulum. I know some doctors do not want to do it, but I was lucky enough to find a Pedi willing to do it and it helped immediately.

Sgnr.Perceval said...

Hey, I totally feel your pain here. This is what I was trying to find the words to tell you way back, before your littl'un was born, how the "breastapo" made me feel like a second class, inferior parent. I chose to bottle feed because to breastfeed for me would have been deeply traumatising, what physical benefit they might have got from it would've easily been upstaged by the massive psychological hit they'd have taken from the mess it would've made of me. I know for a fact that if I had not had the option to bottle feed, those kids would have gone into care long ago and I might not even be alive. So it was absolutely the right decision, and you know what? Both my kids have grown up totally healthy after all.

But that didn't stop people browbeating me over it constantly, and oh yes, those judgemental looks in public. I always got the feeling that some have a bit more than just their baby's welfare staked on breastfeeding -- their own ego, perhaps? Why else would they have to keep giving me such a hard time despite not knowing anything about our situation and not having a shred of evidence that my kids were suffering from the decision? Why could they not just tolerate and respect someone making a different decision to them?

It's sad when a good and noble movement is undermined by the inevitable vocal minority that have to make a big dogmatic issue of it. Cos then those fanatics are the only ones the general public hears about and before you know it, nobody wants anything to do with the cause for fear of being seen as "one of that lot".

MaidenCreatrix said...

Been seeing this issue popping up a lot online lately, mostly spurred by that new-ish breastfeeding baby doll, so I've been thinking about it often even though I don't have kids and don't plan on it for a long while.

My mom was breastfeeding either me or one of my two younger sisters throughout most of the 90's... back then it was considered really weird (at least where we lived). My mom says she took a lot of flak for it, and I remember being teased as a little girl when I would pretend to breastfeed my baby dolls instead of using the plastic bottles that always came with them (I just held them up to my chest over my shirt, so it wasn't even like they were making fun of me for exposing myself). Based on most of the stories I've seen lately though, it seems the roles have been switched... It's funny to see the way the social climate can swing back and forth so often yet still be the same.

It's not an excuse for their behavior, but a probable reason for the pushy breastfeeders' attitudes is that they've felt judged in prior decades, and now that it's become more championed in the mainstream world they're abusing their power to get revenge (maybe unconsciously). The problem is, at this point they're not even really getting back at people who judged them, they're just making a whole new generation of women feel pressured and miserable in a different way.

I still plan to breastfeed myself one day, but from some of the things I hear... I just want to apologize to bottlefeeding moms on behalf of my whole camp...