The last few days this new term “bressure” has been popping up on all the motherhood Facebook pages and blogs – meaning the overwhelming pressure on new mothers to breastfeed and the negative impact it is having.
I can only comment from my own experience – to be totally honest the only real pressure I felt was from myself, and my own desire to breastfeed. Yes, my community midwives were keen for me to be successful, but only as far as I wanted to go – they offered help when I asked about positioning etc, and were happy to suggest nipple shields; and then gave me plenty of advice when we ended up going for formula when X was a week old.
If anything, in my personal guilt haze, I looked back and wondered if I’d had more pressure from the hospital (who insisted on formula when he was 36 hours old as he wouldn’t latch) perhaps we would have been able to get feeding established.
But now, 15 months on, I can see with more clarity what it was I was missing – support. I know now that it is out there, but in that first week postpartum, after a fairly traumatic and painful birth, the last thing I wanted was to be having to go out to introduce myself to a whole load of new people who would inevitability have it more together than me, or at least that’s how I’d percieve it. What I needed was a hospital midwife, before I was discharged, to send a lactation specialist over to my bed, rather than “the midwife who’s good at it”, for the doctors to not scaremonger me into giving him a bottle because he looked dangerously jaundiced (but was actually no where near a dangerous level when they actually tested him), for my health visitor to not fill out a coded form that I still can’t understand about how I was Artificially Feeding (a term I despise) and suggest I visit Breast Buddies, despite being on non-bfing friendly antibiotics for a postpartum infection, for someone to see we were drowning in just being new parents and take our hands and show us the way.
That pressure is there, and I honestly think medical staff are aware of it, and it affects their attitude towards new mothers. Perhaps if the WHO decided that Fed Is Best, and accepted that some women don’t want to breastfeed (which is ok), and that some women can’t breastfeed for many different reasons, but we all need support when it comes to feeding our children, everyone would be better off in the long run.
15 months since my shortlived breastfeeding journey ended and I still get upset that it didn’t work out the way I’d hoped. I’m not ashamed to be a formula feeding mother – I’m not sure I ever really have been. Yes, breastmilk is best for babies, I don’t think anyone would argue that, but formula is a brilliant second best, and we shouldn’t forget that.