Last week was one of many when social media, the tabloids and personal blogs were awash with the endless debate over how we feed our young.
A male – yes male (shock horror) dared to suggest that infant nutrition was something we should care about. When Jamie Oliver suggested that his next focus following the sugar tax might be how important Breastfeeding is but that he needed to do further research first everyone went mad.
Half the country were outraged; How dare he? How dare he dictate how babies should be fed? How dare he suggest breastfeeding might be a good thing for our children? Breastfeeding easy – he wouldn’t have a clue! He’s mother-shaming.
The other half were excited that maybe just maybe this was someone who could really change the tide around in terms of the support & education around breastfeeding. They offered him support and encouraged him to do his research.
Everyone seemed to have an opinion to share (me included it seems!). The same arguments erupted as they always do. “There’s too much pressure”, “My child turned out just fine”, “How dare you look down on me”, and the classic name calling began which I’ve explored previously here Sticks & Stones & Breastfeeding Support.
Those that couldn’t breastfeed were quick to explain why with an air of “so there bet you feel bad now don’t you”. A very small percentage of women cannot physically exclusively breastfeed. A huge number of women are in situations were things are made difficult even nigh on impossible for them, due to societal expectations, poor support and a truck load of miss-information. Does that mean we stop talking about Breastfeeding? Does that mean we should stop supporting women who wish to breastfeed to do so? Does that mean we should stop sharing information and research about Breastfeeding? Of course not. Sharing information is just that – it’s not a dig at someone, it’s not a judgement.
One thing all the reams of articles and posts seem to have in common is this – support. Support for those breastfeeding and support for those who long to breastfeed but for whatever reasons things don’t work out as planned. When you wade through the anger, the guilt, the pain what you come out with is scores of women who felt unsupported or miss-informed with their choices. I really wish we could look beyond our own personal experiences and beyond the here and now and instead look ahead. I want to research and be informed and lay foundations as a country that mean the health of my grandchildren, my great-grandchildren and all the generations to come are as good as they possibly can be. I don’t care if you have boobs or not, if you have children or not, infant nutrition is and should be everyone’s business and we should each be thinking way beyond our own personal experiences.
Jamie Oliver – I hope you still go and do your research and that you are able to look beyond the anger & pain surrounding infant feeding and can instead help us all to focus upon the science and the health of our future generations.
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.