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Every now and then I read an article about how women have been shamed for how they feed their baby. In the U.K. it is usually mothers breastfeeding in public who are shamed. So I thought I’d write my 2 cents on this and how things were for me.
I think everyone needs to relax about how women feed their babies, breastfeeding is NOT offensive, and bottle feeding is NOT bad.
When I was pregnant I was adamant I would breastfeed for as long as possible. I had a year long maternity leave so I wanted to breastfeed until I went back to work.
This didn’t happen.
When in hospital after having her, I struggled to get her to feed and my requests for help were ignored. Finally, I got a wonderful midwife/nurse who spent at least an hour with us, and after that we were doing great! But how many women don’t get that help? It took me asking repeatedly, and a strop from my Mom before we got any help!
I solely breastfed her for 1 month, and it was going well.. until it wasn’t. I didn’t seem to be producing enough milk for her, and she was starving all the time. I tried to eat things that would boost my supply, but had no luck. I didn’t know of anywhere I could get any help and support. We reluctantly started her on formula and we did mixed feeding for the next 2 months. Sadly she woke up one day and no longer wanted to breastfeed anymore. So that journey was over.. way before I planned. I think the medication I was on played a role in my milk supply. It also affected my baby and made her sleep through the night from a week old.. which was rather blissful for me! But I think the lack of demand on my boobs, the milk supply slowed down. Though, at the end of the day, being a mentally healthy mom was more important then which method I used to feed her. Adding in formula also brought me a sense of relief (alongside the guilt!) I finally had a happier baby!
When I was breastfeeding, doing so in public made me really nervous and uncomfortable, which in turn meant my daughter was fussy and feeding was a fiddly business! I do not believe that women should have to make their babies eat in a toilet or under a blanket, which must be stuffy and dark. None of us choose to eat like that! Despite being utterly terrified of someone having a go at me, or telling me I was inappropriate, I stuck to what I believed and fed her wherever I needed to, without a cover. Luckily, no one ever said anything directly to me, but I got some very long and pointed disgusted looks. On the first time of seeing a friend’s dad since having my daughter, I said I had to feed her, and he promptly nearly had a heart attack when he thought I might breastfeed in front of him. She was on bottles by then, but what if I had wanted to breastfeed? Why is his being uncomfortable more important than my need to feed my child in a comfortable space? No woman should have to feel the fear of being judged, or stared at disgustedly for simply feeding her child. Breast feeding needs to be normalized in this country. It isn’t shocking, it isn’t offensive. A baby is eating. Get over it! Boobs are constantly shoved in our faces, as sexy and appealing. How is that ok, but showing them for their intended purpose is not?
When we switched to formula, I got one comment from a family member (they didn’t know my struggles with feeding) who said ‘oh that’s so much better’. I was devastated not to be able to breastfeed anymore, and that comment hurt me. It is a personal decision and I chose what I felt was best for her. If felt unkind of someone to make me feel bad for breastfeeding as long as I could. When I was bottle feeding her, I didn’t get nearly as many dirty looks. The ones I did were actually from breastfeeding mothers. One even pointed at me, and launched into a lecture to her friend about how mothers shouldn’t formula feed. This felt the worst. Especially as she didn’t know me, or my situation. I had a happy and content baby, I shouldn’t have felt guilty for providing her food in the best way possible for me and her. As mothers we should support other mothers in whichever way they choose to feed their baby.
People just need to mind their own business on this. You have no right to tell a mother how she should feed her baby, or make her feel guilty or embarrassed about her decisions. And if breastfeeding offends you then LOOK AWAY!