Family LIfe, Parenting

Dear Jamie Oliver…

So I really wasn’t going to wade in on this – there’s plenty of vitriol and defence for Jamie Oliver in the Mummy Blog sphere already, but I guess I feel the need to put my twopence in too…

Dear Jamie Oliver.

First off, I’m sorry you’re getting a lot of hate and heat off what was probably an off the cuff comment. But you have wandered into an imaginary battlefield and one with a lot of unhealed wounds.

I’m glad you’re all for support – god knows there are thousands of women out there who have been crying out for it and going unheard. You’re a public figure, renowned for getting shit done when it comes to public health, so perhaps your voice will be louder than all these women collectively begging for better assistance.

But there is something so smug and patronising about your awful choice of words which means a lot of those women you claim to want to help feel like they’ve just been punched in the gut.

Breastfeeding is only easy if it is easy – and for some women it is. However, for a lot more it is incredibly difficult, agonisingly painful, even detrimental to their mental health. And for a man to pop his head up and claim that we should all be breastfeeding because it’s easy makes those women see red.

When I read your comments I got cross. I’m one of those women who for a catalogue of reasons turned to formula feeding very early on. I won’t go on about it, but you can read our story here if you’re interested. But now I can see that we want the same thing: less women being failed by the systems that are supposed to help them.

We need a change in approach to breastfeeding support – there should be far less pressure to do it and more actual support available to show women how with sympathy and understanding, and maybe you can be the one to help enact that change.

But while you’re at it, please don’t add fuel to the ridiculous Mummy Wars by building on imaginary divides. There’s nothing wrong with formula, it’s pretty awesome if you actually think about it.

If women want to breastfeed then every effort should be made to help them, without demonising those who choose formula instead.

With all divisive topics, it can be hard to see your opponents point of view. But I’m not sure you have any opponents here – you have a lot of women who want to be on your side. You just need to go the right way about it.

– – – –

A slight aside: I’ve been reading some of the tweets sent regarding this issue, mainly to Jamie himself. People seem to be getting confused, and the “lactivists” have been jumping on their high horses saying any backlash to his comments show how attitudes to breastfeeding in the UK are awful. They’re not, and this isn’t an issue of pro or anti breastfeeding. It’s an issue of support and respect for new mums, regardless of how they feed their child.

9 thoughts on “Dear Jamie Oliver…

  1. Totally agree with you. It’s not about demonising one group or the other. It’s about support for women regardless of what their choice is. Well… unless their choice is to feed their child nothing but Ribena… but even then that needs education and not demonisation.

  2. Yes!!! I love this post, I am due my first baby in May and plan to breastfeed, but I am open to formula as if it were the same. There definitely should be no pressure or judging on whether you choose to breastfeed or formula feed your baby! I have no idea how people can have such a bad attitude to formula feeding!

    1. People seem so closed minded. I was determined to breastfeed and couldn’t initially see why people would choose to bottle feed instead, more due to the cost of formula than anything, I didn’t have anything against it – I was formula fed myself and I didn’t turn out too bad, ha!! But even after X’s first 24 hours I understood completely. I wish you all the best with your little one!

  3. Hi Becki, I was unaware of any comments made by Jamie on the subject of breastfeeding, which I truly believe to be a personal choice. Breast feeding maybe best for baby, but it’s not always best for Mum and how any man can stand in judgment on something he’s really not qualified to judge on really baffles me.

    I chose to breast feed both of mine because I wanted to and not because I felt I had to (just the thought of preparing feeds and sterilizing bottles filled me with dread!). No woman should feel judged for on whether she feeds her baby breast milk or formula, being a Mum is hard enough as it is…. Grrrrrrr…


  4. Dear Becki,

    So sorry that breastfeeding didn’t work out as you want. I agree with you, like Jamie sai,d that women need more support.

    I didn’t get the impression that Jamie demonised any mum in his comment, but it’s such a shame that his comment pushed many sore buttons. I’m glad that a dad is involved enough in parenting, to speak about infant feeding issues on the public stage.

    I hope more parents get the support they need / want to parent the best they can.


    1. Thank you for your kind words. I don’t think Jamie demonised anyone either, but it really was a poor choice of words on a really emotive subject – perhaps he’s never really seen that side of breastfeeding if Jools found it easy; it is after all still a pretty private issue.

      All I can really hope is that all this ho-ha will open up some channels to discuss not just that breastfeeding numbers are low in this country, but WHY they are, and mums will be offered lots more appropriate support if they need it. x

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