Ok, so I know I will probably get slammed for this, maybe even hunted down and speared, because it seems everyone has an opinion on breastfeeding. Why we should do it, why it’s best for baby (or toddler, or 6 year old child), why we need to gather a cast of thousands to breastfeed in public to make a stand or whatever it is that floats your boat.
At the end of the day, I am no expert and I certainly don’t claim to be. Strike me down now pro-breastfeeders - but my babies were all bottle fed. If you can’t cope with the rest of this post, please stop reading now.
It wasn’t for lack of trying. I spent weeks with my first baby trying to breastfeed. She cried. I cried. I think my husband may have even cried. I just couldn’t do it. It was hard to convince me to try her on the bottle, until another 3am hallway pace with a crying baby, when my mother quietly brought out the tin of formula she had purchased that day. Hit me again Mother Guilt, but I came to the realisation that breastfeeding was just not for me.
It wasn’t a light decision or the easy way out to put her on the bottle (trust me, planning an outing with a thermos and carefully measured formula is not an easy task). I was told by my health care nurse that I was not giving my baby the best care, and she would be sicker than other children as she got older. Wow, strike me again while I’m down. Even my uncle threw in his 2 cents worth on why I should be breastfeeding, and bottle feeding was bad.
With social media hitting our airwaves in recent years, I’ve got to tell you I’m a little tired of the breastfeeding debate. Scrolling through Facebook, I noticed New Idea have posted a picture of a US photographer breastfeeding her three year old asking for the hate mail to stop. Yay for her (here we go again - insert sarcasm).
I had a friend who fed her 2 year old on one breast, and her 5 year old on the other. I didn’t look twice. Her business, not mine. Everyone has the right to make their own choices with how they raise their baby. I certainly don’t condone mothers being made to feel guilty when breastfeeding in public, but on the other hand, I also think they should be concentrating on feeding their child because the child needs feeding, not because they need to make a statement about feeding in public.
And I feel that half the photos that appear on the internet or magazine covers are just that - making a statement. This particular photo is asking for hate mail to stop - yet the photo is completely staged. ‘Here, jump on my breast, so I can take a photo, post it publicly, and see how many keyboard warriors jump online - but please make the hate mail stop.’
Breastfeeding photos, breastfeeding in public, breastfeeding in private - it should always be with the right intention. To feed your baby and enjoy the bond you have created with this beautiful little being you have created. These moments really don’t last long enough for your mind to be elsewhere. With the power of the internet, there will always be people ready for an argument. I’ve seen posts on local community Facebook pages asking for 'Kids party face painter' recommendations - with 'no nasty comments’. So of course people will always be opinionated, whatever the topic.
So breast feeders, go back to enjoying your babies. Feed them when they need to be fed, wherever you are, for however long you want to whatever age you want. Give the attention to your baby, not the internet trolls.
And bottle feeders, no guilt. Please, no guilt. I remember the wise words of my mother. “When they get to school, no-one will even know if she’s been bottle fed, or breast fed. Do what’s right for you.”
My mother was right. I now have a 14, 15 and 17 year old. They’ve never been sick other than the odd cold. They are smart, intelligent girls all doing well in school with great plans for the future. Nobody has ever questioned whether or not they were breast or bottle fed.