Quite the emotive topic.
It has recently been World Breastfeeding Week and it got me thinking about how I found breastfeeding with both my girls.
I’m “lucky” in that Andrew was/is absolutely supportive of me breastfeeding and knows that feeding isn’t the be all and end all in terms of bonding with his children. He’s a master at stories, bath time, playing, changing etc all different ways of developing that bond between parent and child. My Mum breastfed me and my mother-in-law was a breastfeeding counsellor with the NCT so I had plenty of options for quick support. I have to emphasise that at no point did I ever feel pressured into breastfeeding – not from any midwife nor from family and friends.
I’ve already written about my breastfeeding experience with Ophelia and I was expecting to have the same issues with Daphne. Just like when Ophelia was born, I was drawing from the experience that I had. So when Ophelia was born my normal was that my baby wouldn’t come home. When Daphne was born, my normal was that breastfeeding was going to be an uphill struggle. To my pleasant surprise, it wasn’t! I had stocked up on bottles and sterilising tablets, cleaned and sterilised my pump ready, made sure we had the link in case we needed to hire a hospital grade pump only for all this stuff to be sat in the cupboard. It’s still there…just in case.
Breastfeeding is one of those funny topics that can easily escalate into dividing camps with the battle cry “fed is best” or “breast is best” being flung at each other. This dividing of camps is absolutely to the formula companies advantage but doesn’t really help us as Mums. We know that most of the time “fed is best” is said with absolute kindness and from a place of love but, like with many slogans, it can run the risk of shutting down our legitimate concerns. Just like “be kind” = don’t point out incompetence; “it’s just banter” = well it’s only banter if both parties are in on the joke, otherwise you’re just being a t*at. Professor Amy Brown explains the use of “fed is best” shutting down voicing of concerns far better than I.
You’ve only got to look at the comments on various posts on social media during World Breastfeeding Week that there’s a lot of Mums carrying heartache and trauma with how breastfeeding went for them. It is beyond cruel to promote breastfeeding in pregnancy only to find that specialist breastfeeding support is patchy and/or expensive. I remember the local breastfeeding support worker when I had Ophelia charged £40 an hour!
I am still so grateful for the extra support that my midwife gave me and organising the community support workers to come and see me with Ophelia. Without them spotting her back tongue tie, the deadline we set ourselves and my sheer stubbornness then I probably would have stopped earlier and I don’t think I would’ve been ok with the decision in the long run.
I never had a negative experience breastfeeding in public with Ophelia. At least if there were judgey looks, then I didn’t notice them. Sadly, this hasn’t been the case with Daphne. I’m not going to go into the details here because a story like that going viral only helps the formula companies and scares more women into not breastfeeding. This is the reason one of the ladies in my NCT group didn’t want to try: she was too scared about being on the receiving end of abuse for breastfeeding in public. I also got a verbal apology from customer service and the security manager on the day where it happened and a written apology from the centre manager the following week.
So even though it was totally surreal and really not pleasant at all I’m taking the positives from it: I absolutely knew my rights and took a stand (while sitting down!), I didn’t back down or apologise for feeding my baby especially as it was 2 middle aged male security guards standing over me (seriously, breastfeeding isn’t a security issue!), 3 members of the public intervened and stood up for me plus a member of the customer service team did as well.
It’s just sad that in 2021 this can happen at all. I mean my mother-in-law helped organise a feed-in at an Aberdeen shopping centre in the mid 1980s! On reflection, I’m “glad” that the horrible experience happened with Daphne and not with Ophelia. Being a “rainbow Mum” the second time round means I’ve got coping mechanisms up my sleeve and I will push back when I need to. In a sense I’ve got a thicker skin and can advocate for myself better without my emotions getting the better of me. Basically, I didn’t cry through anger; go me!!
Our NCT lady who ran our breastfeeding session this time round said “I’m a feminist first” and that really struck me as how I feel about feeding too. Women should absolutely be appropriately supported in their decision and not pushed either way.