Saturday, 20 November 2010

I feel strongly, oh so strongly....

Its not often i get het up about something. Especially when it comes to parenting - unless someone is doing something terrible, my view is 'their kids, their decision'. 

How you feed your baby is a pretty hot topic, and people can have surprisingly strong opinions. Me, i mostly stick with my normal view, trusting that my lovely friends (and they are lovely) have considered the options and chosen what is best for them. I respect their choices and aim to help any way i can, as a good friend should, and in return they support me too.

Personally, i choose to breastfeed over using bottles. That isnt to say i have never given any of my children a bottle, but just that i gave breastfeeding a damn good try before i did.
I think, in an ideal world that would be the norm. Breast would be seen as the normal, natural way to feed a baby and bottles would be seen as a backup plan.

'But wait!' I hear you say, 'Isnt breast seen as the normal, natural way then?'

Sadly, it often isnt. By 6 months only 1 in five babies are still breastfed. There are, of course, many reasons for this statistic, but today im going to focus on one - pressure.

One of my proudest achievements as a Mum was feeding Princess for a year. I loved that year, the closeness, the bond. We had a tricky start but by about 6 weeks we were well on our way and we never looked back. I still miss that closeness - nothing is ever quite the same as that.

You may well wonder why i stopped then. The answer is simple - gradual withdrawal of support which was then replaced by pressure to give up. I think it started around ten months. Little questions, making me feel it had gone on too long - 'how much longer', 'you wont still be feeding her when she can walk will you?', 'doesnt it feel weird that she can speak now' and so on.  
 Back then, i was far more reliant on the validation of others than i am now and was considerably less well informed. I didn't know of anybody who had fed for as long as i had, and only vaguely knew that some 'hippy types' fed their children til school age and older, and to be honest at the time i thought that was a little bit weird. Like i said, considerably less well informed.

I sobbed, i really sobbed the night before Princess' first birthday, after giving her her last booby. In fact i welled up every time i felt my milk let down over the next few days. I dearly wanted to grab her up and put her to my chest and have that wonderful loving feeling one more time. Sadly, she never provided me with an excuse, finding her new sippy cup and bottle of cows milk far more entertaining. And i was too scared of being labelled a weirdo to follow what my heart knew was the very best thing.

Now, stronger willed (stubborn) and far better informed and connected and supported, i fully intend to feed Astroboy until he decides its time to stop. I wont be pressured, i wont be bullied and i wont stop til the time is right for him.

I wish every breastfeeding Mum could have the strength and conviction, and support i have now. Sadly we are surrounded and outnumbered by misinformed, perverse or even nasty people who decide our feeding is their business. Ive heard breastfeeding called 'dirty', ive even seen it branded 'sexual and therefore a form of child abuse'! These ignorant rantings only serve to make women who are doing the very best for their children feel alienated.

The mis-informed can be politely re-educated. A sweet smile and a quick feeding fact (such as   The world Health Organisation states that  'A lack of exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months of life contributes to over a million avoidable child deaths each year'.) will usually silence the well meaning commenter, though of course there will always be one who needs more than that. 

There will always be some people who see breasts as purely sexual objects, and i feel sorry for these people, as they will never know the closeness you achieve knowing that not only have you grown this baby from a seed and brought it into this world yourself, but that your body is also capable of sustaining this life for 6, 12, 18 months and longer!
 Luckily for us, in this country our right to breastfeed, and to do it where ever we need to is protected. Being asked to leave a public place to feed elsewhere is now an illegal act. So then, we can nourish our children whenever they need it, in any public domain.

But what about online domains? The legality of us feeding our children is well established - it is not a sexual act - there is (usually, especially in public) no nudity involved. In fact, a lot of people would walk passed a feeding Mother without even realising they were doing so!

So, what if a public website was systematically targeting breastfeeding Mums. Actively pursuing and discriminating against those women with perfectly legal pictures of their feeding infants or children and actually deleting, not just the pictures but groups and user accounts as well? What if this website ignored barely dressed teens and topless men, in some cases completely naked people whose genitals were only covered by strategically placed objects? Quite the double standard, im sure you will agree!

Well, it isnt a hypothetical situation. This is happening every day on Facebook!
Members are having their groups, personal photos and accounts removed for what the Facebook administrators have decided is 'obscene'.

Well yes, because we all know how dangerous lactating breasts are! 

There is nothing obscene about nourishing a child! When a feed is taking place very little of the breast can actually be seen, a lot less than is visible through a white t-shirt or in a bikini! Is facebook dashing forth and removing all photos of bikini clad females? Are they heck, because that kind of image, one that actually is sexualised (and of no use to anyone other than advertisers and teen-aged boys) is perfectly acceptable in this poorly prioritised, intensively commercial society we live in.

As far as i know, Facebook has declined to comment or to justify their actions. Why the National Press hasn't picked this up i have no idea, but i am trying to find out. 

One thing which springs to mind is those annoying little ads which appear down the side of every page on Facebook. Those advertisers pay for the privilege of being deleted from your feed. Arent an awful lot of them for formula, or formula related products or groups? Ever noticed that? I have. Got to wonder just how much of the Facebook Income is covered by those ads. 

Im encouraging any and every person i know to join the protest feed-ins being held on Facebook, whether they are still feeding or not, have children or not, just to show through sheer numbers that we wont be pressured. And anyone who feels strongly enough about the victimisation of breastfeeding parents i urge you to follow this link and bring this outrage to the attention of the media. 

Your, breastfeeder and proud, P,I xxx 


  1. Really? Is this true?? Am off to find out more! (Still feeding my 2 year old btw!)

  2. Pelvis, Interrupted21 November 2010 at 11:21

    Im afraid it is true Kate, though i can hardly believe it myself!
    Ive joined several nurse-ins, feel free to join and to encourage friends and family to join too -


    And congratulations on your extended feeding, i think that is fantastic x

  3. I really wanted to feed past a year. But we got to 10 months and I went back to work, found out I was pregnant and my baby developed teeth and started biting. She bit me constantly, so I got nervous about feeding her, so she wasn't getting enough milk (and I think pregnancy affected my milk supply as well). In the end, I decided that 10 months was a real achievement, and that I didn't want breastfeeding to become unpleasant for me. I miss it and plan to feed for much longer with this next one if I can.

  4. Pelvis, Interrupted24 November 2010 at 15:00

    10 months IS a real achievement Sarah, in fact i honestly believe that even the first few days is something to be proud of.
    Congratulations on your pregnancy too, and its fantastic you plan to breast feed again x