Breast feeding. The word alone can get people wound up. Breastfeeding police... Tut tutting mothers.... Well meaning but misguided relatives.... The list goes on. Recently I have started to think about it in a different way.( due to the fact I am doing it about 12 times a day and I have a llot of time to think - and do all my christmas shopping from my iPad!) )
In the past, like after I had Busy, I was pretty gung-ho about it too. I have always been a big fan of it because it worked so well for me with Busy. I breastfed her for 2 years and I loved it. So far so good with the latest edition who I also plan to feed until one of us doesn't want to anymore . I am also lucky to have one of my besties as an ABA counsellor and several friends who have breastfed several babies. I have always felt supported in my choice and I know I am lucky. (Plus I am lazy and all that bottle sterilising seemed like another chore I wasn't into, plus the Eco benefits of bf blah blah blah )
But the benefits are very well documented and not my point at all. And I know for some women it is a nightmare from day one.
My point is about choice. A right for a woman to make a choice about if she wants to breastfeed or not. A right to make a choice about her body-how she wants it to be. To make an informed decision about her baby and her body. At what point does the babies right override the mothers? I don't know. Making a mother feel sick with stress and guilt because she doesn't want to breastfeed? What is the point of that? God knows there is enough guilt attached to mothering anyway and choosing not to breastfeed-there are so many worse things right? We all parent so differently I am sure I do things that would appall other mothers but if your baby is happy and healthy isn't that enough?
I have always thought the most helpful thing to women would be ensuring women have consistent evidence- based information about breastfeeding available to them. That being told 6 different things about breastfeeding before you leave hospital is not helpful. And it upsets me when women who want to breastfeed are given bad advice that makes breastfeeding problems worse and they stop feeding because of it.
Because it is really hard in the beginning. And it does hurt and you do feel awkward and clumsy and it is all up to you to do it every single time, the responsibility is HUGE- but with the right encouragement and support and the love of a good husband it can be done, although there are still some days with our now 9 week old when Chef gets home at 330 and I haven't eaten since breakfast! It is hard at first and I can completely understand why people say : Nup, I can't do this.
I think I started to see this differently a couple of years ago when I came across a paper (at work, not in my spare time) about decreased rates of breastfeeding amongst adult survivors of sexual assault. Given that that statistics in Australia of the incidence sexual assault amongst women are 1in 4 surely that means something. This is, by no means saying that all survivors feel uncomfortable with breast feeding but it's interesting to think about it. Add to that women with body issues other trauma or those who grew up where they never saw anyone breastfeed or it was frowned upon and we are potentially talking about a lot of women. A lot of women made to feel bad because they do not feel comfortable with breast feeding and do not want to do it.
And then if you DO CHOOSE to breastfeed it better not be for too long!! At some point lots of people seem to have a mighty big opinion about when you should stop. Remember this? People went berserk! I have never understood why other people seem to become so hysterical about a woman breast feeding an older child? It's her choice right? Calling this child abuse makes me so angry. Child abuse is bashing your kid and scaring them. Breastfeeding is not child abuse. So why are we telling women what we she can and can't do with their bodies? At what age does it become not ok?? Who decided this? So we tell women they must breastfeed but then berate them if they do it for too long??
I don't have the answers but I just ask that we just lay off a little. Give women the right information and loads of support and then leave her to decide what she wants to do. I personally feel it is a personal decision for the babies mother to make and whatever she decides is good for herself and her family is really none of my business or anyone else's.