I have been mulling over this post for a few weeks now, but in light of the news this week, announcing the trial which will offer mums from deprived backgrounds £200 if they breast feed for 6 months, I felt like I had to post. The choice whether to breast feed or not is something I feel strongly about.
There is no disputing that breast milk is scientifically proven to be best for babies in the early months. However, what about mums who are struggling to breast feed or who, like me (don’t judge me), don’t want to (I know shocker! I’ll probably go to mummy hell).
Being honest, for me I just can’t get the idea to sit well with me. I feel uneasy about it. I don’t like the thought. I tried to convince myself that I would feel differently when Baby arrived, that suddenly things would click and I would want to try, but it didn’t and I still felt the same. Also after a difficult birth, I couldn’t face trying when my heart was not in it. I still wanted to feed my baby and be close to her. I just didn’t want to breast feed. I should add, it doesn’t bother me if others breast feed.
Thinking back, as soon as we got to the week when the Midwife had to discuss breast feeding, the pressure started to mount. I explained to the midwife, that although I wanted to do everything I could for my baby (I wouldn’t even have a Strepsil when I was pregnant!), I don’t like the thought of breast feeding. She almost ridiculed my feelings and told me that if I was in Africa I wouldn’t have a choice…. Also that I was more likely to develop breast cancer if I didn’t (especially considering my family history) and also that my baby was more likely to get sick if I formula fed. So lots of added pressure for a mum to be, who was paranoid every day that something was going to go wrong with her pregnancy anyway (following a previous loss and struggles to get pregnant). Now having to try and convince herself that her feelings were wrong and that she did indeed wanted to breast feed. The midwife made me feel like I had no choice, that I would have failed if I didn’t breast feed. Eventually I couldn’t change the feeling in my gut that I simply didn’t want to do it.
To me surely the most important thing is responding to your baby, feeding them, bonding with them. Not resenting feeding them, because society is pressurising you to do it a certain way. Why do people feel like they can ask the question – Are you feeding her? Of course I am.. Oh you mean breast feeding her?… Myself and a friend of mine have both fallen foul of answering a bemused ‘yes’ to the question and then realising what they mean. The very first question my midwife asked me when she saw me, in passing, post birth was ‘are you feeding her’?.. My response didn’t seem to go down that well. Am I considered less of a mum? I don’t feel less of a mum, but I do feel like my decision doesn’t sit well with others. I have been asked whether I am feeding her and when I have responded, the ‘interviewer’ has asked ‘Why not?’ ‘Did you have problems?’, why can’t people just accept that some people don’t want to?
I have a few friends who wanted to breast feed and hit major difficulties. Babies dropping weight dramatically, undiagnosed tongue ties, major latching issues, breast abscesses etc. In most of these cases these women have been left to struggle and persevere week after week. Going through an emotional mangle and not being advised that there is another option (which is ok to take) until months down the line (seemingly as a last resort). In most the cases of women I know experiencing problems, the babies ended up being bottle fed anyway. These women get looked on with pity by the other mums, poor woman can’t feed her baby. I get looked on like I am intentionally damaging my baby and that gets to you. You can use Google to find many studies which, apparently, prove breast fed babies have higher IQs and I simply don’t believe such studies. How do they isolate all the other factors in these children’s lives? Unless they are both sat in a white room with no interaction, you can not say that any differences measured are due to one factor alone.
The media and health professionals focus so strongly that breast is best, but I really believe that people should be more supported in the decisions they make and helped earlier if trying to breast feed is damaging them emotionally or physically. In many cases women are left feeling like there is no alternative. The emotional well being of these women should be looked after with more care. Health professionals should be responsible for transmitting a message that it is o.k not to if you don’t want to breastfeed or if you are having ongoing issues. That you can stop trying and formula feed. You will not damage your baby. The early months are difficult enough and us mums feel massive amounts of guilt for pretty much everything we do and don’t do. So let’s at least start by not judging each other for the decisions we make.
Hopefully this trial will disappear and nothing will come of it. If someone had offered me £200 it wouldn’t have changed my mind, but I wonder about someone with the same feelings as me, but in a worse financial situation. I hate to think of someone going against what is right for them, because of money. Paying someone to feed their child seems so wrong.