Sticks & Stones & Breastfeeding Support

Whenever breastfeeding hits the headlines I take a deep breath and begin to mentally prepare myself for the names, the insults, the crushing criticism and pure hatred that will pour out onto social media.

Today I read a post that described how grateful one mum was to a breastfeeding volunteer at a group she had visited – how she had been a saviour following a difficult start. The post wasn’t positive to breastfeeding peer supporters in general however, instead it expressed relieve that she had met this 1 individual and not any of the others who would have bulked at anything other than exclusive breastfeeding and been the opposite of supportive. So here is an individual whose direct personal experience of breastfeeding peer support had been fantastic and yet she still had a negative perception of breastfeeding peer supporters. A view that they push breastfeeding no matter what and think anything that isn’t clear-cut baby only drinking directly from the breast is just not good enough. Were does this view even come from? In this case certainly not from her own experience.

I’m not going to deny that of course there will be individual breastfeeding advocates who are pushy or seem to be more interested in their own personal agenda than supporting another mother on her own personal journey. Yet those who train with the many organisations whose focus is providing information and mother-centred, non-judgemental support and who then give their time, often completely voluntarily, to walk alongside a mother and baby on their own individual dance, whatever that may be, in the main part would be truly heartbroken, crushed and saddened to think that is how they are viewed. Women, mothers, who give blood sweat and tears solely to provide other mothers either with the information, support and care they were so grateful of themselves or that they sadly never received. Women who care greatly that a mother leaves them feeling empowered, listened to, respected and accepted no matter what her choices. Women who give up their time and take on a little bit of a strangers pain every time they listen to the tale no one else has had the time to listen to.

These very same women are collectively referred to over and over again on social media as the Breastfeeding Mafia and Breastfeeding Nazi’s. Most of them won’t respond to these spats of hatred even though they cut deep, they won’t defend themselves – why? Firstly any attempt to defend themselves would probably just invite more attacks and emotions would take over any sound debate but perhaps an even greater reason is they try their damnedest to accept this individual mother too. Maybe the woman throwing out these insults has been hurt and let down and she doesn’t mean this personally to us as an individual. This doesn’t stop it feeling personal and it doesn’t stop us hurting or shredding tears or wondering why we continually sacrifice things in order to support those women we can.

We are in a situation were more often than not the support for breastfeeding does not match the promotion and expectation … please remember if you are let down when it comes to support with feeding that generalised insults hurt. You have a right to be angry if you are given incorrect information, let down or judged – we are incredibly angry on your behalf. Please aim the anger were it is due, weather that is at an individual or at the system and how it is underfunded or undermined by commercialism – not collectively to hundreds of other mothers who if they could, would have been by your side and done all they could to support you on your own personal journey whatever route that took and wherever, however and whenever it came to an end. Maybe you could even help us so that other women don’t go through what you went through.