Apologies for interrupting this (unintentional and rather extended) blog break, and your peace and quiet. I hadn’t really intended to write anything on here just yet, I’ve kind of lost my blogging mojo (blo-jo? That’s just wrong. Sorry.), I’m uninspired and feeling rather ‘meh’ about the whole thing. At least, I was, until today when I discovered that our local breastfeeding support team has suffered funding cuts so bad that they are no longer able to operate. I have had to come out of this semi-retired state to stick my two pen’orth in, because this is a huge detriment to our city, and not just our city but all cities and towns in the UK. Does that sound over the top and melodramatic? Maybe. Or maybe not.
Breastfeeding matters. It matters to everyone. It affects everyone, and we should all support mums who wish to breastfeed and we should care that there is not enough professional help and support for those mums and their babies.
Because the World Health Organisation says so:
“Breastfeeding is the normal way of providing young infants with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development. Virtually all mothers can breastfeed, provided they have accurate information, and the support of their family, the health care system and society at large.” (http://www.who.int/topics/breastfeeding/en/)
Did you see that? Breastfeeding is NORMAL. Not bottle feeding milk substitutes, breastfeeding. This isn’t an attack on those who choose to formula feed, I am simply pointing out that here in the UK, and in western society as a whole, breastfeeding is not seen as normal. Bottle feeding is the default option, we see rows and rows of different types of milk substitutes, adverts for follow-on milk and growing up milk, sterilising systems and bottles and teats and, God help us, the hands-free bottle feeding system. (Google it, it’s an actual thing. I’m not linking on here, I don’t want to be responsible for sending direct traffic to such a product.) Meanwhile, breastfeeding mums get questioned and ridiculed, told to cover up or leave establishments in order to feed their baby, sent to breastfeed in a toilet as heaven forbid someone should actually see a baby feeding naturally. And if that baby happens to be older than 6 months? Well, obviously something perverse and sexually-orientated is going on, it’s disgusting and outrageous, and if they must do that kind of thing at least do it behind closed doors so that those people who feel the need to get offended at a baby or toddler or pre-schooler feeding in the most natural way possible can be left in peace to get offended at other things going on around them that don’t actually affect them nor harm them.
The point is this. Breastfeeding is natural. But it is not normal in this country. It is a weapon by which superior, perfect, do-gooder mothers can wield their superiority over those lowly formula feeders. It is an attention-seeking tool. It is an act of depravity and perversion, akin to toileting or masturbating in public. Or so a large amount of our citizens believe.
And why is this so? Because many women don’t feel comfortable to feed in public for fear of ignorant and scathing comments. And why do these comments happen? Because breastfeeding is rarely seen, it’s a novelty and people are fearful of things they don’t understand. Bit of a vicious circle don’t you think? And when we add into that mix the fact that breastfeeding support is rare, that breastfeeding support is underfunded and facing constant cuts, that breastfeeding support is so very needed, because of the fact that not many women choose to breastfeed, because of the fact that even fewer choose to publically breastfeed, meaning that new mothers have no role models, no peers to advise and help and encourage, when we add all that together, it spells disaster for our already abysmally low breastfeeding rates.
It also means comments like those below are able to be aired with plenty of support and encouragement from other ill-educated, mis-informed idiots, who believe this kind of diatribe to be perfectly acceptable. It is not acceptable, but it is understandable on the basis that breastfeeding is not the norm here in the UK, that breastfeeding in public is so rare, and that breastfeeding education and support is given such a low priority status.
These are comments from a BBC Solent radio show hosted by a misogynistic moron named Alex Dyke:
“Couldn’t mums just stay at home and do it? I’m not offended by it, I’m just made to feel uncomfortable about it.”
“You wouldn’t get ‘yummy mummies’… breastfeeding in public. Those kind of women wouldn’t do it because they’re very image-conscious and they know it’s not a great look.”
“I blame the Earth mothers, you know the ones I mean, the ones with the moustaches, the ones who work in libraries, the ones who wear hessian, the ones they’re always on Radio 4 on Women’s Hour, they are always pushing the boundaries and making us feel uncomfortable.”
“Breastfeeding is unnatural. It’s the kind of thing that should be done in a quiet, private nursery. It was OK in the Stone Age when we knew no better, when people didn’t have their own teeth… but now I just think a public area is not the place for it and fellas don’t like it.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-33904758
See why we need more education?
We NEED breastfeeding support. We NEED facilitators and support workers, lactation consultants, and breastfeeding counsellors. We NEED peer supporters and other volunteers. We NEED help-lines that operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We need these dedicated people with specialist knowledge in breastfeeding because our midwives, health visitors, GPs, dentists and consultants are not given enough information and education on breastfeeding. We NEED the government to understand the importance of breastfeeding. We NEED our health professionals to be better educated in breastfeeding. We NEED World Breastfeeding Awareness Week and National Breastfeeding Awareness Week. We NEED our local Infant Feeding Team. We NEED breastfeeding to be our NORMAL.
Why does it matter to anyone whether a mother chooses to breastfeed or not?
Well, here’s the thing. The NHS is under financial attack. There simply is not enough money to pay for drugs and therapies, to pay for staff, or to buy necessary equipment and resources. Diabetes is on the rise, cancer rates are increasing, we are becoming increasingly obese as a society, and antibiotics have been misused and over-prescribed for years, leading to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Guess what? Increasing breastfeeding rates would cut the rates of these diseases. It’s not just about the health of babies and mothers because – who knew? – babies grow into adults! And breastfeeding protects the immune system for life.
Breastfeeding matters. Breastfeeding support matters. It matters for the world, for the UK, for England, and for the very tiny bit of the country in which I live, and I will not let something so important be taken away without a fight. Or a blog post.