Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Give it a Breast

Last week, Time magazine released an issue with a picture of a mum breast feeding her son who is nearly 4. It sparked huge debate worldwide, with commentators branding it as everything from exploitative to commendable, and everything in between. The article was called 'Are You Mom Enough', and although the cover implies it is all about breastfeeding, it actually focuses on the life of 'parenting guru' William Sears and his new book, which encourages co-sleeping and breastfeeding past one year.

I obviously have an opinion on it, I wouldn't be writing about it if I didn't, but I feel that the issues it raises are more complicated than a few, judgemental aspersions. From a personal point of view, I struggled to breastfeed my daughter, not making enough milk and getting very stressed and uptight about the process. Had I not been supported by my husband and family quite so well, I would have found it very hard to stop, even though stopping was in the best interests of my daughter. The reason for this was I felt immense pressure from all angles (other mum's, other family, strangers in the street, the midwife, the NCT etc) that by choosing to give my child formula was selfish and meant she would suffer in the long term. Over a year on, and I get so cross by other people judging and exalting their 'wisdom' onto other mothers. I think it is the choice of the mum (and the dad, but more so the one doing the feeding and producing the milk) to decide what works for her and her child. If she doesn't want to breast feed, that's her choice. equally, if a woman wants to continue to breast feed past the age that society deems appropriate, then who  is anyone to judge? The only time external opinion really counts, is if the child is being harmed in some way.

Going back to the Time article, even if I had been a natural at breastfeeding, I don't think a 4 year stint would have been my choice, it doesn't feel right to me. However, the main critics of the cover have been women on parenting websites and blogs, which is just so frustrating. Why can't women give each other a break? Being a parent is so hard, every day is a new challenge and a new level of guilt, you'd think that we would have evolved to be more supportive of women who are trying their best to bring up their children to be happy and healthy. Maybe breast feeding until the age of 4 is a bit wacky, but she's not doing it out of anything other than love and a conviction that it is the right choice for them both.

Finally, I do take umbrage with the tag line, 'Are you Mom enough'? It strongly implies that by not breast feeding you are not such a good mum as someone who does breastfeed. In my opinion, this is just clap trap. I'm pretty sure my daughter would have been less healthy if I had fallen to pieces two weeks after she was born, as my husband thought I was going to, if I continue to breast feed. I would give up everything for my little girl, but my sanity is not top of my list, and if a bottle of formula prevents it, then who is Time magazine to judge? Yes, breast milk is full of nutrients, antibodies and every other amazing thing that a baby needs, but there is more to being a good parent than breast milk, and much more to being a good person than judging someone based on their ability to lactate.


  1. Good post! A friend of mine recently shared an article on breastfeeding that I found quite refreshing. It talks about the same kind of pressures to breastfeed that you mention and also reveals that the benefits are argueably not as strong as most people would like to think. Here's the link if you're interested in having a read...

  2. I agree wholeheartedly with you Alex. I had the same experience as you did when I had Holly. In those days I was advised to stay in hospital for seven days as I was considered an elderly Mum (!) and the pressure on me to breastfeed, when I was obviously not going to be able to, was intense. It was the Obstetrician who reassured me that my baby would be perfectly healthy if I bottle fed her and I could have kissed him! All this earth mother stuff really annoys me - it's difficult enough to cope with a newborn, especially the first, without having guilt piled on top of it. It also meant that Barry also had the pleasure of feeding her, which was a bonus.

    1. Thanks Sylvia! So nice to hear that I'm not the only one who feels like all the pressure got a bit too much!


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