Almost at every twist and turn throughout pregnancy the message that breast is best when it comes to feeding has been shoved down our throat like a Farley’s rusk. It’s generally been a gentle push but has been a form of indoctrination all the same.
Now it not been like living in Nazi Germany or anything like that but there has been an undercurrent of shock and horror from many healthcare people when you even whisper feeding from the bottle rather than the breast, anyone would have thought you had uttered the dreaded words, Voldermort at Hogwarts, quickly followed by shouts of “your baby will have a lower IQ, slower development and the mum could be at greater at risk to certain Cancers.” Less Hogwarts and more hogwash I say!
I’m not saying that breastfeeding isn’t good for mother and baby, but it shouldn’t be shoved down people’s throats (no pun intended) if mums, for a whole multitude of reasons cannot breast feed, and I’m hoping to expelliarmus the nonsense that new mums are made to feel inferior if they can’t.
For me, this all came to the fore at our third and final Antenatal class. There was a large group of women, their bumps and the odd man dotted around, including one very odd example of the species, me. Conversation came round to breastfeeding and the Health Visitor hoped that everybody would be giving it a go, she spoke to a woman expecting her second child and frowned somewhat when she learnt this mum had not breastfed her first child, cue the lower IQ blarney.
If I had been one of those women sat there I’d have felt under immense pressure to breastfeed and feel inadequate if I couldn’t. Surely such a hard sell must form a large part of post-natal depression in many women who feel they cannot provide and suffer great anxiety when they try and are perceived to have failed.
Fact is there are plenty of products on the market that can replace all the nutrients that you find in breast milk, it always gives Dads to be, like me, the chance to take a full and active part in bringing up and bonding with baby in the feeding process.
I found myself sitting there and really, really wanting to say something, the way you do when people are talking constantly loud at the pictures, so at the opportune moment (just as I do in the cinema) I said something. I piped up when the Health Visitor asked how the gathered mothers to be would feel after birth, which started with the usual shouts of excited etc, until I threw inadequate into the ring.
Turns out, as is usually the case, it was a great catalyst for other people questioning not so much that breast is best but agreeing that if they couldn’t do it or didn’t like it, or if baby didn’t like it, then they weren’t going to feel ostracised in some way.
Of course, the indoctrination will continue and so will making new mums feel ever so slightly like outcasts if, for whatever reason, they cannot produce the right milk, with even the EU getting in on the act, you try getting Boots clubcard points on formula milk! It’s hardly a deal breaker but it’s those little obstacles and little comments from healthcare professionals, people in a role for whom many, what they say goes, that make a difference. Breast is best? It might well be the most desirable but it isn’t the be all and end all.