Thursday 22 June 2006

just in case you needed more reasons to feel like a Bad Mother

Breast-Feed or Else

A two-year national breast-feeding awareness campaign that culminated this spring ran television announcements showing a pregnant woman clutching her belly as she was thrown off a mechanical bull during ladies' night at a bar - and compared the behavior to failing to breast-feed.

"You wouldn't take risks before your baby's born," the advertisement says. "Why start after?" [source]

I firmly believe that breastmilk is best - I don't think anyone disputes that. I always knew that I wanted to breastfeed my child(ren) and never considered things like breast reduction surgery just in case it affected my ability to feed. When I had Jack, he was put to the breast very shortly after his birth, regardless of being born surgically. For that, I was greatly relieved. I had images of my son latched on me while I expertly held him in one arm and continued to do things like make homemade bread and re-grout the bathroom tiles with the other. It's supposed to be the most natural thing in the world and if it hurt, you're doing something wrong.

So you can imagine my surprise when I discovered that by the gods breastfeeding FECKING WELL HURT and some of us need eight pairs of hands and several pillows to feed our babies. I was certain that Jack wasn't getting enough milk from me because most times when I expressed, I only managed to get an ounce or two. My health visitor told me to supplement with formula and so I did, because what did I know about babies? I was tired and sore from both the c-section and from breastfeeding - any relief was met with extreme enthusiasm. She could have told me to give him a bottle of Mountain Dew six times a day, and I would have done it; I was so delirious with fatigue. After the health visitor left, I purchased my first box of formula and gave a bottle to Jack. And I cried my heart out.

There are many reasons why women don't/can't breastfeed, and it has nothing to do with being irresponsible. We need to be supported, encouraged, and educated by our health visitors and GPs, not shown a box of formula at the first hurdle and then made to feel like Bad Mothers. I will do my damndest to breastfeed our next baby, and armed with everything I learned last time, I am now far more confident. But if I do need to switch to formula or mixed feeds, I will not be made to feel like a monster.

The mechanical variety isn't the only bull in that ad.

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