I need to vent. I’ll keep it brief, I’m not going to offer a load of breastfeeding advice here, although I will pop some links at the bottom for those who need some help. I am just going to say this:
Jamie Oliver has been expressing an interest in learning about the benefits for mums and babies that breastfeeding provides, and how the low breastfeeding rates in this country affect our overall health. That is all. He is not shaming nor dictating, merely pointing out the link between poor health and low breastfeeding rates.
So many women (women, FFS!! What happened to support and solidarity?!) getting angry at him because they didn’t breastfeed. Really?! There is a need, a very real need, in the UK for money to be spent on educating health professionals, including midwives and health visitors, and the public about breastfeeding. I am fed up of reading yet more comments from mums who are blaming Jamie Oliver for making them feel bad or inadequate or whatever else – no-one can make you feel these things, you choose to feel those things. No-one can make you feed your baby one way or another, that too is your choice. But in order to make a choice you need information, you need advice and help, you need a good level of understanding of the decision you are making. And this is where we as mums are being failed. Formula is not an alternative to breastmilk, they are most definitely not equal, but that isn’t something we are overtly told. We are sold half a story on the surface, and it is only when we start to dig deeper, to research and educate ourselves that we find out the truth about breastmilk and formula.
There is a very real need for money to be spent on providing good levels of support for new mums and for mums who continue to breastfeed. The government, however, continue to cut funding to family services and to the NHS. Our government are failing our families and our children.
Jamie Oliver is highlighting the fact that we have shockingly low breastfeeding rates in the UK, and a high incidence of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. This is no coincidence, the two are linked, as stated by UNICEF.
For those mums who research and read and understand the very big difference between breastmilk and formula milk, and STILL choose to formula feed, this information will make no difference. For those mums who do not research or read and understand the difference between the two, this is for you. For those mums who chose to breastfeed but could not manage it, through lack of support or understanding, this is for you. For those mums who were told to stop breastfeeding by a health professional for whatever reason, this is for you. For those mums who did not get adequate support, this is for you. For those mums who were unable to access any local support, this is for you.
Each time breastfeeding and its importance is mentioned, hundreds of defensive voices are raised, shouting about being shamed and made to feel guilty, and how women don’t need to be told what to do with their breasts, and how no-one should be forced into a parenting choice by strangers. It’s not about you! It’s about highlighting the lack of support for those mums who want to breastfeed, for those mums who felt they had to stop, for those mums who tried and struggled and got no help. It’s about the lack of information and education surrounding breastfeeding, the fact that formula companies are so prevalent with their branding, their advertising, their logos, that mums truly believe that formula is just as good as breastmilk. This is not about the mum’s decision to formula feed, it’s about the fact they don’t get a chance to understand the reality of formula feeding. It’s about the fact the money generated from selling formula, the money given to the government by those huge multi-national companies, is far more important to our government than the importance of breastfeeding and natural term feeding and the health of our nation.
What this country really needs is good, effective breastfeeding support. Information delivered from the ante-natal stages, and help and support available to EVERY mum and baby in every location in the country, starting from birth (the importance of skin to skin and initiating breastfeeding from the very start cannot be spoken about enough), and continuing until the baby or toddler or child decides it’s time to wean. We need to ensure we are always following the WHO Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes.
Talking about breastfeeding is not shaming those who don’t or didn’t. Talking about breastfeeding as a major factor in the future health of our babies and children and mums is not done in order to make anyone feel guilty or dictated to. Talking about breastfeeding needs to happen. Support for breastfeeding needs to happen. This is not about YOU this is not about Jamie Oliver, this is about our health, our society and our future.
For those needing extra advice and support with breastfeeding here are some useful links: