Breastfeeding or bottle feeding. To shame or not to shame?
For those of you that don’t know me or haven’t read any of my previous work, here is a slight introduction. My name is Olivia and I am the Founder of Lotus Maternity which in a nutshell aims to provide unique, UK made & premium nursing wear to help women breastfeed in public with confidence and complete discretion. My background is midwifery, I trained at the University of Nottingham and worked as a midwife at Leicester. I set up the company because supporting mums to breastfeed was always a passion of mine, in all jobs there are certain aspects that you enjoy more and for me, this was my favourite. Which is why I still volunteer my spare time to help women in the community and at the hospital with breastfeeding support.
The case studies I am going to discuss are ones close to my heart- my flesh and blood- my family:
My Mum vs My Aunty Diane: Sisters, three years apart in age.
My mum, Elaine, despite being the younger sister was the first to have children. Verity, my older sister was born in March, 1990 and I followed in December, 1991. My Mum exclusively breastfeed all three of us for 10-12 months. (Izzy is much younger- a “surprise” that came along in 1999.)
My cousin William was born in April, 1992 and he was bottle fed. As my Aunty had artificially fed him so well, when Charlotte was born in Dec, 1994, Aunty Diane did exactly the same without hesitation or regret.
*From Left- Me, Aunty DIane, Verity, William, Uncle Colin, Mum on a family holiday in Mallorca, 1994.
Some would argue that perhaps it’s an educational thing, (which is something I will explore later this week) as this can be a contributing factor on decisions to breastfeed but not in this instance. Aunty Diane is really clever, she went to Grammar School, whereas Mum went to a Secondary Modern. She then studied at University which in the 70’s was not as typical as it is today- so if you went to University then, you really were a bright spark!
*Christmas 1995. From Left: Charlotte, Me, William & Verity.
So when I asked her yesterday afternoon why she didn’t breastfeed she told me this:
“In reality it was circumstantial. I was struggling to breastfeed William in hospital, he just wouldn’t latch on. I struggled with him for two days and the nursery nurse or midwife at the time said that we couldn’t carry on like this and that he needed to have a proper feed, so in the morning when I woke up, she said that they had given him formula in the night. It didn’t bother me as a mum because it was clear for me that it wasn’t going to work for us- I just thought, OK fair enough. I didn’t choose it, it’s just what happened, it seemed the practical solution at the time. Especially as they had said we couldn’t go home until he was feeding, and since they had given formula and he took to it like a dream, that is what we did from then on.”
Now I clarified this with Aunty Diane because I couldn’t quite believe that the nurses or midwives would have fed William formula in the night without her consent because this would be not be allowed in modern day practice. So I wanted to know if they had informed her beforehand, to which she said, “Oh I can’t remember exactly Olivia whether they asked, it was 26 years ago now!” *From Left- Aunty Diane & William, Mum & Verity, Uncle Colin on holiday in Cornwall, 1993.
Mum vs Aunty Karen: My Dad’s sister in law
My Aunty Karen, never breastfed any of my 3 cousins Jordan, (Born in Jan, 1990), Evan (Born in March, 1992) and Finley, (Born in June, 1998).
*From Left- Jordan & Verity sat behind Me & Evan together at Nana's house, 1994.
Aunty Karen never even tried to breastfeed any of them- for whatever reason she doesn’t like the idea of it and it makes her feel uncomfortable. To put it bluntly, it was never going to be for her. I’ve never asked her why she feels this way but that was her decision and one which ultimately should be respected.
*From Left- Verity, Me, Mum, William on a family day out, 1993.
This is something though that I will never quite understand, women that don’t want to and outright refuse to try. Yet, Aunty Karen is not the first, a lady I used to work with has said the exact same thing when I’ve been talking about Lotus Maternity and women breastfeeding in public. She said she hates to see it and I can’t get my head around that considering she is woman. I love to see it, a few times I’ve gone up to women breastfeeding in public and praised them because why not! Similarly, I was sat watching one of the mums at my group formula feed yesterday and I wanted to say to her what a great job she was doing because she was using such responsive feeding techniques and not just putting a bottle in baby Alfie’s mouth and ignoring him. Motherhood is tough enough, so there needs to be much more praise given out!
Ultimately what I want to demonstrate with these three women, who are all my family, is this. Do I think Aunty Diane and Aunty Karen are crap mothers because they didn’t breastfeed, of course not! They are all great mothers, who equally are both lovely women. Do I think my cousins are hard done by because they weren’t breastfed- no. And neither do they appear any worse off than myself and my sisters and they certainly haven’t grown any extra limbs or toes!
*From Left- Dad, Me, Mum, Aunty Diane & William on a family holiday at Sutton on Sea, 1993.
In fact to throw a spanner in the works, William happens to be somewhat a genius! One of the benefits of breastfeeding is that it increases IQ levels. Well William is the most intelligent of us all and has never been breastfed. He was in the newspaper at sixth form because he was the only person at the boy’s high school to get four A*s at A level- to take four A level subjects was pretty impressive on its own! He’s now working in Washington in preparation for finishing his PHD on immunology. In no means am I saying here that breastmilk is not better for babies, I don’t need to say it, as we all know it. It is the best for them, science has proven that without question.
What I want to get across is that you are not a “better” mum because you breastfeed, nor are you a “worse” mum because you don’t - s*** happens and for some women it doesn’t always work out. We also need to remember that we aren’t always aware of people’s circumstances or experiences. So as the old saying goes, you should never judge a book by its cover and therefore, never shame a woman for her choice re infant feeding. And if anyone does judge or shame, simply tell them to “DO ONE!”
*Here we are, all grown up at Verity's wedding day in April 2016. From Left- Charlotte, Me, Izzy, Aunty Diane, Verity, Uncle Colin at the back, Mum & William. Unfortunately we lost Dad to cancer 12 years ago, so Mum's companion Mark is with us here.
Tomorrow I will be exploring the theme of ‘support' and how this can affect choice on whether to breast or bottle feed.
Until then, Olivia x