she has fallen and now she is awake
On the new National Breastfeeding Strategy
November 23, 2009Posted by on
So, the government wants women to breastfeed. All well and good. Doubts have been raised and damn good ones. They just get lost in another terminable bloody round of boobnazis*, ‘formula is just as good‘, ‘what about my mental health’ and any number of unscientific and total bullshit lies.
There are some sad sad stories about breastfeeding out there – terrible support from health providers and family, outright harm to the breastfeeding relationship and ‘simple’ misinformation. Breastfeeding isn’t simple and easy for everyone, but that isn’t a reason to give up. BunBun is five an a half months old and I’m ahead of the trend, still exclusively feeding her, but it isn’t easy. She’s been sniffly and has hit the distracted hurdle so we’ve had a week of reverse cycling and having to lay down to feed. Yet I still do it. I could decide that it’s too hard, between the still sore nipples (flat and still having to be drawn out each feed) on occasion, the laying down, the crying and the sniffling. I could just jam a bottle in her mouth and not let her decide for herself how much she wants to eat. I could stuff her with artificial thickeners from unregulated products. I could do a number of things differently in the name of ease and peace. I’m not going to, because she is my daughter, not a burden to be minimised at all costs.
There are children who need formula, that is not the argument here. The argument is that the wall faced by mothers who begin breastfeeding is really fucking high. Too high in some cases. The solution isn’t to up the pressure (and seriously, information isn’t pressure, it’s information) but to lower the wall**. The problem is that we’ve got a lot of people invested in seeing all information about breastfeeding as adding to the pressure. Because ‘everyone’ knows breast is best, right? Except all the fucks on the news posts spouting shit about ‘no studies have proven that breast is best’ or ‘there’s no difference between breastmilk and formula’ or ‘stress makes the milk bad so if you’re stressed, stop breastfeeding’ or ‘if you’re on a diet you can’t breastfeed’ or any number of truly, stupendously ignorant comments. Comments designed to make one choice easier than the other. Designed to support the social norm of bottle feeding.
I’m lucky – my entire family is pro-breastfeeding. Wolfman is pro-breastfeeding. When I had serious issues at the start he helped me express, he fed our daughter that expressed milk while I cried, he brought me food and drink and rubbed my shoulders. He defends the choice we’ve made to breastfeed. He is vocal about how much of a benefit it is to our entire family. My mother has been a tremendous source of information and support, even though her own breastfeeding journey was much like her pregnancy (“I went off tomato a bit, and my nipples were a bit sore at the start until I started using Lansinoh” to my “I threw up my weetbix and my nipples look like mince). She listened, she commiserated and she told me I had the strength and the equipment to do it. She shared stories of spurting milk across the room, of us choking and sputtering with her fast flow overwhelming us. She told me about the nights spent shuttling from bedroom to shower as I puked in her hair. My grandmother supports me even though she was a victim of a far more dangerous bit of misinformation – if you have a blocked duct or mastitis you have to stop feeding. So the day I had a blocked duct she was terrified that I’d end up taking her path and end up with a breast abscess (which did end her breastfeeding relationships because of the damage done).
I’m lucky that my supply problems were corrected with the help of my lactation consultant and my paediatrician. I’m lucky that my Maternal and Child Health Nurse is up to date and doesn’t recommend outdated feeding practices. I’m lucky that I have been able to take close to 12 months maternity leave with three months of that paid AND Wolfman has a well-paying job that I could stay home full-time on.
With a mixture of support, luck and my own determination, I’ll make it to six months and probably beyond. I’m aiming for 2 years, but with a history of early-weaning in my family, I may not make it. That’s okay. But my wall wasn’t low to start with – it was lowered by brilliant support, timely and correct information, adequate leave and pay from my employer and my own determination to do the right thing, even if it’s the hard thing. I just wish that the wall could be as low for everyone.
*Not only is the word really fucking offensive, that survey article is a load of unscientific shit – a tiny percentage of women have received negative comments on feeding their children yet all the ones aimed at bottle feeding mums are from breastfeeding mums and the ones aimed at breastfeeding mums are trivial? Let me tell you about trivial – you’ve got a child attached to your breast, your baby, your precious child and someone says something negative and you realise you are totally and completely vulnerable. You cannot easily move away, you cannot easily defend yourself or put the child down. You are stuck and at the mercy of some dick making a really personal comment on feeding your child. There’s a big fucking difference between ‘formula is shit’ and ‘you’re exposing yourself’. One is a comment on an action, the other has an intimacy to it that is not easily shaken off.
** inspired by Lois McMaster Bujold “…(he) was up against the wall now, driven into this untenable retreat. Upping the pressure would just squash him. The trick was to lower the wall.” Komarr