Yes I’m jumping on that bandwagon. Yes this post might upset people. But I’ll be honest, I’m upset and need to get this out. This post might be a bit ranty, a bit emotive and not very eloquent – but it’s from the heart, so not intended to offend anyone!
You may have seen the flood of pictures taking over social media at the moment using the hashtag #treeoflife. The creators of the app PicsArt released a page of stickers that mums have taken with an intent to create beautiful photos of breastfeeding mums feeding their babies. The idea behind it is that the mum produces the roots (i.e. from her milk ducts) which then pours into the baby to allow them to grow – thus creating a tree of life. It’s a beautiful idea intended to celebrate the breastfeeding journey. I created my own photo which I think is beautiful.
However, as with ANYTHING breastfeeding related, it’s caused a debate. Not everyone is ‘happy’ with mums creating these photos and sharing them over social media. Some people seem to think this is ‘shaming’ bottle feeding mums. It seems that as with anything breastfeeding related, we’re not allowed to just celebrate this achievement. It has upset a lot of people. And if I’m honest, I don’t know why.
Why is breastfeeding so offensive to people? Why is talking about it, taking photos of it and celebrating SO offensive. Why do people take it as a personal dig at them for bottle feeding? I don’t care how a baby is fed. I’m not spouting the #breastisbest mentality. I’m celebrating that I was able to feed my baby from my breast. That for 15 months of his life, he depended solely on me. I’m celebrating the sacrifices I made to be able to feed my child. The cracked nipples, the toe-curling pain at the beginning, the hours glued to the sofa, the sleepless nights, the guilt at leaving the baby for longer than an hour meaning he had to take a bottle when he just wanted the comfort of his mama, the new wardrobe I had to buy in order to discreetly feed my baby in public so I didn’t upset anyone by showing my boobs. And I’m lucky that I had a relatively ‘easy’ time of it.
So why should I feel guilty that I can breastfeed when someone else can’t? I know that many, many people battle so hard to breastfeed but for various reasons they are not able to. And I understand the decision to switch to formula can be heartbreaking. But it shouldn’t be. You should feel empowered that you are doing the best for your baby. You are making sure they are fed. You are not giving in, or giving up. You are being the best parent you can be, by keeping your baby alive! It doesn’t matter whether that is through breast milk or formula.
Not everyone can have the same parenting experiences. Only yesterday I was having a discussion with my friends about labour. One is planning a water birth for her first baby. One had a natural birth but had an awful time. I had an emergency c-section but still enjoyed my labour. Does my friend ‘shame’ me because she had a natural birth and I didn’t? No not at all. Do I feel sad that I couldn’t have a natural birth? Yes absolutely! Is that anyone’s fault? Of course not! So do I have the right to tell my friend that she shouldn’t look forward to having her beautiful, natural water birth just because I wasn’t able to do it myself? No. I don’t.
I will be the first to admit that as a first time parent, I’ve been extremely lucky. Alfie is an absolute joy to bring up – we had a difficult start with his birth, but had an amazing time breastfeeding. We’ve struggled with his sleeping patterns, but when he is awake he’s the cutest, funniest baby I’ve ever met.
No one can have the perfect parenting experiences. Perfect doesn’t exist. You just have to take the positives in life and run with them.
I know that some people will read this and not like it. They will feel that I’m having a go at bottle feeding mums. I’m not though. I understand that for some people bottle feeding isn’t a choice, it’s a necessity. And that’s fine, there’s nothing wrong with that. Own that decision, know that you are making the best decision for you, your baby and your family. I haven’t needed to use formula, so perhaps you might think I can’t be objective because I don’t know how it truly feels to have no choice but to make that switch. Which, in a way is true. But my decision was to breastfeed, which is what it did, and I shouldn’t need to apologise for that. I’m not going to apologise for that. My decision is to celebrate that decision however I wish to. Be it posting a photo of myself feeding, or celebrating Worldwide Breastfeeding Week or encouraging a new mum who wants to breastfeed.. I’m not being pushy, I’m not flaunting it in people’s faces. I’m documenting a part of my child’s life as I would any other part of his life.
Somehow we need to stop the breast v bottle debate. We need to give people the correct facts during pregnancy so they can make an informed decision about how they want to feed their baby. We need to support women who want to breastfeed but struggle. We need to support women who want to combine feed. We need to support women who want to switch to formula after trying breastfeeding. We need to support women who want to use formula from the get go. Because it’s their baby. Their body. Their decision.
At the end of the day, they are the ones at home with their baby’s 24/7. What they do doesn’t impact on your life so why do you care what they do? Help the people who want to be helped, but understand that plenty of women to are perfectly happy with the decisions they make.
If you choose to formula feed – be happy with that decision! Don’t feel like every time breastfeeding is mentioned or celebrated is a dig at you. Because it isn’t. It’s just a mum celebrating something she has achieved. It doesn’t make your efforts or struggles or achievements any less important.
I really haven’t set out to upset anyone in this post. I hope anyone reading this can see that I am in favour of breast or bottle feeding. I am in favour of doing what you need to do to parent your child. Celebrate that you are raising a wonderful human being, giving them the tools to go out and make a difference to this world. Teach your children to be strong and kind and caring. Teach them that if they see something they don’t like on the Internet, just ignore it. If it isn’t illegal, abusive or dangerous, just scroll by and ignore it.
People often say that formula feeding is the easy option but it really isn’t. The decision to formula feed can be heartbreaking for many women. It’s tough. It’s expensive. It’s not easy. It’s the same for c-section births. People often say it is the easy way it. I can assure you it isn’t. But I’d still probably choose to have a C-section next time though if it’s best for me and my baby.
Parenting is and always will be an emotive subject. Every aspect of it can – and will – cause some debate. I have gotten quite emotional about this subject, more than I probably should have, or thought I would. How about instead of getting upset about it all, we just support each other. If formula feeding mums feel like they are being excluded from the #treeoflife photos, create your own photos, movement, hashtag. But don’t criticise women who want to take part in this. You don’t know what they went through to get to this point, just as they don’t know what you went through to get to this point.
I hope that people can take something from this recent ‘debate’ and I hope that is support. Support each other and the world will be a better place.
On a side note, I asked my husband what he thought of the tree of life photos. He’d not heard of it before so I explained what it was and what it meant. His reaction?
What a load of shit.
On that note:
Breastfeeding mums – well done
Formal feeding mums – well done
Tube feeding mums – bloody well done!
Happy feeding everyone
#keeponbooin’ #keeponbottlefeeding #keeponfeeding
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