Friday, December 14, 2012

Breastfeeding- a woman's choice right??

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. 


  1. You're right, it's no one else's business. Every woman has the right to choose, and I'm sure the decision they make is based on what they feel is best for their family/self/situation. Who is anyone else to judge. I did breastfeed my boys, but all for different lengths of time. One decided to stop himself at 10 mths. one was really sick at 12 months but would have breastfed forever if he could have and the last one, I had had enough by 13 months and didn't really see any great health benefit to him continuing considering his already well balanced and full of goodness food consumption. This time who knows? I do plan to breastfeed, but last time I had mastitis which was the most excruciating pain ever, and if that happens again, I'm not sure I'll have the strength to continue..

    Your baby girl is looking very content in all these pics, so divine..x

  2. I know, I know! I posted about breastfeeding a few months ago on my blog when I ceased. There are pros & cons for everything - boobie feeding for, against yada yada... in the ends its what works for you isn't it? ...everyone else can just kiss your ....
    BTW... I ceased breastfeeding about 4mths ago & I'm still producing milk - wtf is with that!!
    I had a mum tell me once as I was admiring her breastfeed as I breastfed my bubba (she was b/feeding standing up & texting - awesome!) ... she told me I have lovely boobs... that made me cack laughing so much that bubs came off the boob - I had 'boob envy' of her and it turns out she did of me too! weird weird world!
    If you want to see what I said (or not it's up to you!) go to this link:

  3. Oh congrats on your little babe! We had our first in September, so have a healthy & happy 3 month old who's enjoying his sleep right now. I've thought all these things at some stage, and haven't written them down, so thanks for confirming a lot of what I've been through this past 3 months, and I say 'been through' in a positive way... yep it was hard at times when you've never experienced awful hurty nipples or ouchy milk ducts... but I'm so happy with breastfeeding and he's happy and that's all really. Mama Life is very new, and I can sense I'm just at the tip of it all, but the sure fire things I've learnt: Change will always happen, and everyone makes personal choices for their family, and you can't judge. Oh, and you can't compare babies, that's another thing I've learnt at mother's group.


  4. Totally agree - it is all about choice and there should be no judgement whatever you choose to do.

  5. I can understand that statistic about declining rates of breast feeding by women who were abused. I found the whole thing so intrusive in hospital and was pretty traumatised by all these nurses grabbing at me. I can't even imagine how that would feel with an abusive history.

  6. Well put. I have a Facebook friend who, in a well-meaning but rather obsessive way, posts about three pro-breastfeeding articles/cartoons/'facts' every day. I know it's all-consuming when you're right in the middle of it but, bottle or boob, it's a pretty miniscule portion of any person's life. The best choice is happy mama and happy baby, whichever way that comes about!

  7. Well hello! So good to see and read you here, and to catch a glimpse of your sweet babe.
    I was just thinking of you this morning and planned on sending you a little hello email!

    Just last night I had a conversation about breastfeeding with a friend of mine. How serendipitous. I have given this subject a lot of thought actually. I live in a place where a good portion of the populace is very pro breastfeeding, and to tell you the truth, I feel for women here who due to choice or circumstance do/can not breastfeed... because folks 'round here can get a little preachy and even belligerent about it.

    I wont tell my whole story here, but to cut to the chase - I breastfed my girl until one day at nearly 2 she grabbed my chest in anger and screamed "Mine!" I started to ween her after that. Because it was my body, and she needed to know that, so she would know that her body belonged to her in turn and each woman's body belongs to themselves. To look down upon or try to shame a woman solely because she does not breastfeed, is the same as looking down upon and shaming her because she does.

    Yes, it is essential to give good and comprehensive information and then remember that it is a woman's right to choose.


    PS. I want to also say how grateful I am to the nurses, midwives, and lactation specialists that I was blessed with when I had my girl. They were caring, patient, so helpful and absolutely non-judgmental. I was so very lucky to have these wonderful women attend to me and help me through.

  8. Great topic Cath! I have just had this conversation with my sister-in-law who had a baby a couple of weeks ago... she has been subjected to intense pressure from the midwives in Melbourne to breastfeed her daughter. She's actually happy to do this but her baby is so hungry and feeding soooo much that she wants to give her a bottle each night when she has no milk left... ONE bottle per day, and she's been made to feel like she's permanently damaging her daughter for life. Thankfully, she's had enough family and friends support that she's doing it anyway and not telling the midwives, simply to cut down on the grief, but I have to say I'm furious about it. It seems to me that the whole breast-is-best thing has gone too far to the point where no other option is allowed. I'm against extremism of any kind. I absolutely agree that a mother should be able to make her own choices without the bullying and intimidation that my sister-in-law has been going through. Love your beautiful photos :) Kx

  9. you are absolutely right, Cath - what women need is accurate information and support, not judgement - and those pictures are beautiful. love to you and your family xox

  10. Can I play devil's advocate a little? Breastfeeding is absolutely proven, without a doubt, to be the best for baby. And artificially feeding (because let's be truthful, formula is artificial) has been proven to have detrimental health effects. We get all preachy about other things proven to have detrimental health effects - like fast food, smoking, drugs, so why can't people get preachy about breastfeeding? We don't slag off smoking cessation nurses or GP's who tell obese people to lose weight, so why do people get so het-up about midwives promoting what is absolutely the best choice for a tiny baby who can't speak for itself?

    I totally understand that some women try their absolute hardest to breastfeed and for whatever reason it just doesn't work. But I also know there are plenty of woman out there who have taken a bit more of a convenience route (I work as a midwife and many times I have heard the 'bottle feeding so Mum can look after the baby/so I can go partying/so my boobs don't droop etc etc).

    I also know that if the community support was better, and consistent community support (you are so right with the 'better not feed that kid for too long' idea that persists out there) there would be more women who breastfeed their babies for longer. And if that happened we'd have a healthier (and consequently probably happier) population. Who can argue with that?

    PS - your daughter's gorgeous!

  11. Your breast feeding pics bring tears to my eyes Cath.
    I so wish I could have breast fed our two girls.
    You are so right about having a choice - unfortunately that choice was taken
    away from me both times. The first one just screamed whenever she went near my breast(so I expressed what i could. And the second was sucking so strongly, she was sucking blood. Throwing up blood clots at 4 days old, so they got me to express some off, and it was pink! Went on to have infection and abcesses (long story sorry), operation and breast cut open as big cysts! (big scar and now numb)
    I went on to express from the other breast just to get some goodness into her.
    So I am always SO impressed when I see or hear of people who are breastfeeding,
    as I would have loved to be able to. Much love to you and your two gorgeous little people!XXXOOO

  12. Lovely to hear from you and to see your beautiful babe.
    ...and such a serendipitous post, as I breastfed my little man for the last time tonight.

    I heartily agree with you, the judgement needs to stop. Why can't we all just be nice to each other and not judge other women for their choices?

  13. Well said. I am breastfeeding my little boy now, and he's just got his first two teeth and is experimenting with them - YEOUCHHH!! I breastfed my first two kids til they weaned themselves at 18 months. I LOVE it. I am definitely pro-boob. I try my hardest not to be preachy to others, and I have nothing against formula, obviously. There is a fine line though between offering advice and suggestions for people who are struggling, and being too pushy, I have to always be careful about that! I hate hearing when someone has gotten dodgy advice from somewhere (ie. about trying to stretch out feeds to 3 or 4 hourly - AS IF! Hello cluster feeds!)
    Anyway, enjoy your precious tooth-free little one, they are beautiful photos of such a lovely time.

  14. The flip side to this is when a woman has made a conscious decision NOT to breastfeed and yet she receives no support and frequently approbation. It is HER choice, it is HER body and no one had the right to naysay or value that decision. Freedom of choice is what we strive for, non?

  15. I have been so incredibly blessed when it comes to breastfeeding my two little ones. It was hard work at first. I remember at three weeks with Cohen feeling ready to give up and my Mum suggesting I give it another three weeks before I decided. By which time we both had the hang of it. I fed him until he was 18 months old and I had to go on medication that I couldn't feed on. Emerson is nearly ten months and I plan to feed to two with her. I think the best piece of advice I got given when I was pregnant was not to think or say "I'm going to try and breastfeed," but to say "I am going to breastfeed." Having that mental attitude can make a huge difference.

    It must be so frustrating for midwives to have patients who don't want to breastfeed because it will change the shape of their boobs, or because they think formula will give them more sleep at night. The young Mum in the bed beside me when I had Emerson had a lot of support breastfeeding her bub because she said she wanted to try, but she had also brought bottles in her maternity bag and gave up after two days because her boobs hurt. It is her choice and her decision. But I felt sad for her because it can be such a rewarding experience if given a bit of time.

    Cultures all look at breastfeeding differently. Some of the opinions our culture thinks of as normal are sad, and judging a mother for feeding her toddler is one of them. I agree, child abuse is hitting and emotionally damaging a child, not breastfeeding.


  16. Love your guts. I've only stopped feeding Ruby in the last month or so. Not something I tell people because then they look at me all "WTF were you doing still feeding her!" and that makes me want to punch them in the face.

    Anyway, point of this reply is OMG!!! The pictures of tiny R feeding!!! SO FREAKING ADORABLE! It makes me think 3 kids wouldn't be that bad…

    So. When I'm a frazzled mother of 3, I'll be blaming you.

  17. I totally agree with your opinion!! Thank you for this. I just want to let you know that nurses and doctors have the responsibility to inform you the proper way on how to breastfeed the baby, when is the right time, and what to do with it. At first, it is definitely difficult to deal with, but with determination and support from your loved ones like you have mentioned, it would be a lot easier after a few days or few months. The duration of breastfeeding is from 6mos-2years, after 2 years you may start giving supplemental food to your baby. :)


what a nice person you are- taking the time to comment in this busy hectic world...Thank you!!