Had I overheard Kathy Blundell's comments somewhere, it would have been a minor annoyance. As they were distributed to however many mums via Mother & Baby magazine, I feel a need to correct some of the utterly wrong information the article contained, and point out the inflammatory straw man arguments!
The problems start in the sub heading!
Giving your baby formula milk is nothing to be ashamed of.The first straw man argument. Health experts insist that the evidence against formula as a product is overwhelming, not that mothers who use it should be ashamed. There are many reasons why a mother may be using formula, it's ridiculous to suggest it shameful.
Sure, breastmilk has the edge over infant formulaBit like saying a 200k sports car has "the edge" over an old metro. There are over 100 constituents in breastmilk that scientists are currently unable to replicate in formula, many known to impact on short and long-term health. This statement implies they are similar.
Then there are studies that show it reduces the risk of breast cancer for you, and stomach upsets and allergies for your baby. But even the convenience and supposed health benefits of breastmilk couldn’t induce me to stick my nipple into a bawling baby’s mouth.So Kathy acknowledges stomach upsets and allergies for baby (remember this you will need it later!) but what about all the other conditions? Numerous studies have demonstrated not breastfeeding increases rates of infant mortality, risk of infection and disease including SIDS and childhood cancers to name just a few from an extensive list?
After nine months of denial, lardiness and bad shoes, as soon as the birth was out of the way I want my body back. (And some wine).I've never really understood this comment, as surely you have your body back, you gave birth remember? Nor is there any reason why a breastfeeding mother can't enjoy the odd glass of wine or *gasp* even a coffee! Breastfeeding also burns calories to help shift that "lardiness"!
Not that I had anything particularly useful to do with my body, except – paradoxically – care for my baby.Quite. Although instead of using breasts, we've moved on to hands (and bottles, sterilising, making up, cleaning) So more of a body part swap than actually getting anything back then? Plus quite a bit of time consuming extra work has sneaked in, rather than sitting breastfeeding?
I also wanted to give my boobs at least a chance to stay on my chest rather than dangling around on my stomach, which, after two pregnancies, still has ‘tonal’ issues of its own.As Kathy mentions, pregnancy can be a challenging time for breasts. They grow and change shape over the months, filling with milk once the baby is born, regardless of whether it's used. Breastfeeding does not make breasts sag, this myth was truly busted in 2007 when a study found no impact on breast shape. Factors that did influence sagging were:
- Older age
- Cigarette smoking
- Larger pre-pregnancy bra cup size
- Greater number of pregnancies
They’re part of my sexuality, too – not just breasts, but fun bags.I think it would be ridiculous to suggest breasts aren't sexual! Many women enjoy their breasts as "fun bags" and breastfeed! For some women it's the only time they fill a full cup, and they can feel hugely sexual with their new improved breastfeeding breasts! For the vast majority soggy breastpads are a short-term requirement and many new nursing bra's are hot!
seeing your teeny, tiny, innocent baby latching on where only a lover has been before feels, well, a little creepyI've heard mums before say that after only relating to their breasts in a sexual capacity pre-baby, the mental shift to mother and lover can take a little time. Most describe it as a little unusual rather than creepy, but because it feels very different to a lover, this passes within a few hours/days for the vast majority of women.
Ask most of the quitters why they stopped and you’ll hear tales of agonising three-hour feeding sessions and – the drama! – bloody nipples. But I often wonder whether many of these women, like me, just couldn’t be fagged or felt like getting tipsy once in awhile.The number of calls the volunteer breastfeeding helplines take per year would suggest the former. Having taken calls where mums are sobbing so much they can't speak because breastfeeding isn't working for them, I rather feel this a disservice to a lot of mothers.
It's also perfectly possible to get tipsy once in a while when breastfeeding (ask my partner *hic*) if you want to have more than the recommended couple, you can express for someone else to feed the baby. After all you can't really be the sole carer yourself if tipsy anyway! There is no need to "pump and dump"; when you are sober you can simply resume breastfeeding.
Next comes the whole story in the park:
I recall one sunny afternoon when, happily feeding my baby in the park, ducks quacking in the distance, a passing stranger – also a mum – asked me whether I was breastfeeding. Reeling from the impertinence of such a personal question (and anyway, wasn’t the bottle in my hand a give away?) I hesitated to answer. Say ‘yes’ and I’d be a liar. Say ‘no’ and, from the pursing of her lips and arch of her brow, it was clear I’d be marked as a weak, selfish mum, straight from the Vicky Pollard school of parenting. The clock was ticking. Liar? Bad mum? I plumped for bad mum. ‘You do know your baby will get sick if you give him that poison,’ she said, flouncing off. Thanks, sister. Great advice.Call me cynical, but really who would ask a mother holding a bottle whether she was breast or bottle feeding? I also find it ever weirder this woman would then feel it OK to insult a stranger (regardless of the topic!) I'm not sure this is as much about run of the mill mothers as some random loon!
So, time for a reality check.A reality check, hmm OK that I can do given the next paragraph!
Formula milk is not toxic,Oops there is that straw man argument again. Apart from the (alleged) clearly bonkers lady in the park, who claimed formula was toxic? I seem to read about these crazy lactivists, yet neither myself nor anybody else deeply entrenched in the "breastfeeding mafia" has ever come across one!
lacking in nutrientsWhether formula is lacking in nutrients, kinda depends how you define nutrient. Do some babies grow ok, absolutely; in some cases so much so formula is linked with obesity in later life. However a 2004 report examining infant mortality, found that using formula doubled the death rate for US infants. Co- author Dr. Linda Folden Palmer stated: "Formula does not fully meet the nutritional and immunity needs of infants. It leaves their immune systems flailing."
Or in any way bad for a baby’s health when prepared properly– and we can all read the back of a packet for instructions.Woah hang on, just a few paragraphs ago Kathy had least acknowledged stomch upsets and allergies. If not breastfeeding increases the risk of infections and diseases as discussed, wouldn't that qualify as "bad for a baby's health"?
Even if it was just down to making it safely, that's not as easy as Kathy implies! Firstly the guidelines by the Department of Health on how to safely prepare formula, differ from those on the back of the packet! Yes, really. A midwife from the University of Kent reported in 2009, that babies were at risk because mother's were not told how to make up bottles safely. She went on to say: "Formula is not sterile and bacteria can be present. When it is made up or stored incorrectly there is a big risk that it could cause gastroenteritis. Formula fed babies are five times more likely to be admitted to hospital with gastroenteritis, which in the majority of cases is preventable."
No, it’s not A-grade, but neither is it powdered scumBreastfeeding isn't "A grade", it's not comparable to "The Finest" range at the supermarket. Breastmilk is the bog standard substance humans are intended to consume, and breasts are just the normal way of delivering it. You can work out yourself where that leaves formula in the whole supermarket analogy.
I've only ever heard one mum call it "powdered scum" and she was a five times formula feeder who then read this. Given this mum had tried to breastfeed every time, and found she received less and less help with each subsequent child - she was furious at not only the health professionals that had let her down with support, but also the companies that had sold her the notion it's almost as good.
The Milk Mafia can keep their guilt trips. Bullying other mums about something as special and nurturing as feeding their babies (and yes, bottle feeding can be lovely and intimate) is a depth that even Vicky Pollard wouldn’t sink toIf we tell a pregnant mum (unsure whether to breastfeed) the facts as we best understand them, is this "putting someone on a guilt trip"? I feel we (the milk mafia) can't really win at times. If we don't tell mothers the truth, they are left in the dark, making a choice based on myths and marketing. They are then often VERY angry if/when they do receive the facts at a later date.
The one thing people like Kathy Blundell should realise, is that unlike the formula companies - the breast brigade make no profit from supporting mums to breastfeed. We are just mums who managed it, trying to help other mums - often completely free of charge at our expense!
Currently nobody pays us to answer the phone at 9.30pm, to the distraught mum who feels like a failure because it hurts so much she is dreading the next feed, but her midwife said everything looked fine. Or the mum who has a baby who wont stop screaming with colic (and believe me that is loud down the phone!) and everyone around her is telling her to give a bottle, rather than helping get baby latched in a position so he isn't taking in air. Without the breast brigade, who would take those calls?