I often think that breastfeeding mothers get a slightly bad reputation, from things I see online and hear at baby groups it sometimes feels like we are seen to be the most judgemental type of Mum. We are seen to be the Jehovah’s Witnesses of Motherhood, knocking door to door, preaching to everyone we meet that ‘breast is best’ and condemning anyone in our path who uses formula. I get where this has come from, because there are a small percentage of breastfeeding mothers who are on a mission to save the world one boob at a time. But the majority of us are not like that, and for anyone who knows me will know I am certainly not like that.
I don’t like the title ‘a breastfeeding mother’ or the stigma that comes with it. For starters, although the UK has really low breastfeeding rates, the rest of the world does not, so to be defined as a ‘breastfeeding mother’ seems crazy as it is just a ‘normal’ (I didn’t want to use that word but couldn’t think of a better one) and natural element of being a Mum . You would never refer to a Mum that formula feeds as a ‘Formula Mum’ so why define a breastfeeding Mum by the way she feeds her baby either? I’m just a Mum the same as any other, it just so happens that I breastfeed. This negative perception of ‘breastfeeding mother’s’ as being judgemental and self righteous means that I sometimes feel uncomfortable to tell people that I breastfeed in case they have this opinion of me as a result. I’m so proud that I breastfeed and of my journey with it so far but I don’t always feel that I can share that in case I inadvertently offend someone who uses formula in the process. I don’t like to talk that much about my breastfeeding journey in case by talking about problems I overcame, I upset someone who didn’t. I tend to avoid talking about it altogether because the whole breastfeeding versus formula debate is such a sensitive subject and I would never want another Mum to feel I’m judging her choice or her situation, because I’m not. I have very little interest in joining in with a debate about feeding basically because I have better things to do with my time. (For the record I am obviously pro breastfeeding but not at the expense of tearing other women down).
The truth is that most of us Mums are so wrapped up in trying to raise our own children that we don’t have that much time or energy to focus on how other people are raising theirs. I couldn’t care less if you don’t breastfeed, but I am proud of the fact that I do. It’s been a long personal struggle through cracked nipples, raging hormones and body confidence but I’m still going. I haven’t quit. And that is why I am proud. But that doesn’t mean that I would judge a woman for quitting, it means I know how tough it is and frankly I don’t blame you! I came so close to giving up so many times and I probably would have done if it wasn’t for my amazing support network of family, friends and some lovely midwives. I would never look down on another mum for how she feeds her baby or think she is not an amazing mother simply because she gives her baby formula.
I don’t think I’m a good mother because I breastfeed, I think I’m a good mother because I love my daughter and I’m trying my best to raise her to be happy, confident and secure. And if you think the same and are doing the same then I think you’re a good mother too. We need to come together and support each another on this crazy journey not belittle and degrade each other’s choices.