I was so pleased when Keri asked if I was interested in getting our Feeding Friday blogs back up and running. Pre-kids I had never realised how important breastfeeding and all the surrounding talk was to me.
I had only had limited exposure to breastfeeding up close – my aunts all breastfed for varying lengths of time, but as we are scattered around the country that only meant I saw so many breastfeeds in action. A few friends gave it a go with their babes, but for varying reasons most switched out to bottles quite quickly, some felt quite shy to feed in front of people too, so again limited exposure to seeing it up close, and I’ve noticed a huge trend for the use of feeding aprons when out and about…. I’m all for whatever works to make you feel comfortable however you feed or parent your children, but again these mask what is now to me a very normal everyday occurrence.
This meant that by the time I was pregnant I knew I wanted to breastfeed for at least 6 months, but really I didn’t have much of a clue about the reality or practicalities of HOW to breastfeed!
It didn’t help that breastfeeding was a huge uphill struggle for Florence and I from the moment she was born… strangely though once she was here my determination to exclusively breastfeed became a primal urge that I couldn’t let go of. I searched high and low for the answers we needed to make it work… but it shouldn’t have to be that hard for women!! No doubt our early experiences contributed to my massive struggle in adapting to motherhood, and we need to change the conversation and support surrounding breastfeeding to support women during this transition to help prevent women feeling like they have failed in some way… Obviously how you feed your baby doesn’t make or break your parenting, but I know how awful I felt when I though I was going to have to stop before I was ready. The guilt, the shame, the anger, the disappointment, the sadness… the lack of choice. Nobody should be having to make choices which leave them feeling like that, but unfortunately I know I’m far from alone in that experience.
Obviously not every mum will want to breastfeed, or feel so strongly about continuing if it’s difficult, but perhaps with more information, exposure, real life stories and support, more women will see it as an actual option – as something they too can achieve.
Because nowadays women are subtly bombarded with the message that its unlikely to work out for many reasons, just like with birth… I can’t tell you how much ‘urghh’ this creates for me! Its everywhere: the subtle formula marketing strategies, the news stories which imply its unacceptable to feed your baby in public, the ‘fed is best’ motto being shouted from the rooftops currently (for the record I’m not saying starving you baby is an acceptable option – but just like with feeding ourselves – fed is the minimum acceptable level. there will always be an optimum diet for us all!) the horror stories of babies starving ‘because they breastfed’, the myth that breastfed babies are ‘worse sleepers’ than their formula fed counterparts, or the other myth that you cannot have a drink whilst breastfeeding, even the tales of women’s nipples falling off (not literally thank fuck!) as their baby chews them into oblivion whilst breastfeeding.
Why are the women who have achieved their breastfeeding goals, or overcome difficulties, or fed their babies right through to toddlerhood or beyond not the ones sharing their stories with us?! They are the stories we should be filling up on, building our confidence and information banks to know that yes, most women CAN achieve their feeding goals with the right support and encouragement. And it starts before baby is born – fill yourself up on our Feeding Friday posts and know that you can do whatever is right for you and your family like an absolute Mother!! I’m not saying it’s always easy (my story is here if you want to see how we overcame our many difficulties for example) but that it is most definitely an option if you WANT it to be!
Lets get this conversation going!!
Much love, Steph x