Sunday, 27 June 2010

Breast is Best?


It's National Breastfeeding Awareness Week (huh?). The week runs from the 21st to the 27th of June every year and is aimed at promoting the health benefits of breastfeeding. As well as this it is supposed to aim to increase social acceptance of breastfeeding and to promote support for mothers who choose to breastfeed. Well, this is the official line. I had heard of this week long initiative last year when I was mid way through my pregnancy. Back then the health professionals were pushing leaflets towards me, telling me about the endless supply of support and encouragement there would be on hand if I breastfed. I didn't really pay that much attention to them nor did I need convincing as I had already made the decision to do so as I had done with A.

So it's now the end of this week long campaign and I haven't heard a thing about it. So much for increasing awareness, I didn't even know it was on and I attend a breastfeeding support group once a week! And now on top of this, I was emailed a press clipping today regarding an article written by the editor of Mother and Baby magazine. In this article, which was supposed to function as some sort of defence regarding her decision to formula feed her children, she ridicules the act of breastfeeding calling it 'creepy' and ruinous for her 'funbags'.

Under the headline "I formula fed. So what?", Kathryn Blundell says in this month's Mother & Baby that she bottlefed her child from birth because "I wanted my body back. (And some wine)… I also wanted to give my boobs at least a chance to stay on my chest rather than dangling around my stomach." She goes on to say: "They're part of my sexuality, too – not just breasts, but fun bags. And when you have that attitude (and I admit I made no attempt to change it), seeing your teeny, tiny, innocent baby latching on where only a lover has been before feels, well, a little creepy." She concedes that "there are all the studies that show [breastfeeding] reduces the risk of breast cancer for you, and stomach upsets and allergies for your baby. But even the convenience and supposed health benefits of breast milk couldn't induce me to stick my nipple in a bawling baby's mouth." She continues: "I don't think I'm the only one, either – only 52% of mums still breastfeed after six weeks. Ask most of the quitters why they stopped and you'll hear tales of agonising three-hour feeding sessions and – the drama! – bloody nipples. But I often wonder whether many of these women, like me, just couldn't be fagged or felt like getting tipsy once in a while."

While I'm up for a bit of debate and I think what works for one person doesn't necessarily work for another, I am maddened by the sheer inaccuracy of her 'facts'. Breasts are functional, utilised for feeding long before they were for foreplay. And as for your funbags being abused and knackered, these changes happen during your pregnancy and not during the feeding phase, medical information she is privy to in her role. I think also that in her role as editor of a parenting magazine, she should be promoting freedom of choice and certainly not ripping the piss out of those who do. In addition this, the mothers who like her, chose to bottle feed it gives the idea that people who don't breastfeed are just like her and can't 'be fagged'. Breastfeeding is hard both physically and emotionally to varying degrees for mothers. While the NHS promote it voraciously as the most natural thing in the entire world, many mothers frustrated at their attempts to get to grips with this natural act, give up due to complications.

Cue the outrage....Already there is a Facebook group calling for some kind of 17th Century retribution. The Daily Mail (*sigh) demands an apology (next week, the headline will be bottle feeding gives you cancer...).

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