Apparently, as a breastfeeding mum, I am supposed to be judging mums who bottle feed their children.
I am supposed to be thinking they are cruel for not doing their very best for their child, that their bond with their child is not a great as the one I have with mine, that they are setting their children up to be obese and to suffer from allergies. I am supposed to be smug and judgemental, disapproving and unkind.
What am I really thinking? I am thinking that maybe the mother bottle feeding her child wanted to breastfeed but her child was ill and she did not get the right support or encouragement. I am thinking how determined I had to be when my baby was born and placed in special care; pumping every 3 hours and attempting to breastfeed in-between while the nurses offered bottles instead. Perhaps she wanted to breastfeed but her supply dwindled because she got the wrong or conflicting advice. Maybe she was advised to give her baby top-ups in the hope that it would sleep for longer and perhaps she was unaware that it is natural for a small baby to feed every one or two hours. It could be that the mother doesn’t know that babies have several growth-spurts during which it’s normal for them to feed more and that her supply will adjust to provide the right amount for her baby and that a hungry baby does not need formula. Perhaps she is unlucky to have a midwife or health visitor who has failed to update her training and believes that a baby should be in a strict routine. It’s possible that the mother was pressured by family to get the baby off the breast because “that’s what I did”, or because they believe the only way a father can bond with the baby is through a bottle. Perhaps she read stories about women who have been asked to move to the toilets to feed their child while out in public, maybe these kinds of tales made it all sound like too much effort? Could it be that she was frightened by anecdotes about blisters and blocked ducts and didn’t realise that, with the right knowledge and help, the breast-feeding experience need not be a difficult and painful one. Or, I think, maybe the mother just didn’t want to breastfeed because she has been told it’s weird or sexual. I think how sad it is that some people think a breast’s primary function is a sexual one and that a baby should be given milk meant for calves rather than the milk of its own mother; that advertising and the media can make something so natural seem so wrong. I am thinking perhaps she has never been around people who breastfeed, never seen it positively portrayed on TV or in the press so now she thinks it’s something odd that only hippies do. She may even not realise that it is pregnancy which changes breast shape, not breastfeeding.
Yes, I am thinking what a shame she is not breastfeeding but, knowing all the reasons why breastfeeding can be scuppered, I am not judging her. I am judging the system which results in so many women not even trying and even more women not continuing beyond a few weeks and that’s the real shame.