Well it appears my last post was a little controversial.
Some people think I was a little too mean and may have hurt Jamie Oliver’s delicate feelings. He’s a big boy and I’m sure he can take it, but in case I did leave him crying into the piles of money he’s made writing well-respected cookery books, Jamie Oliver I’m very very sorry for calling you (among other things) a prick. We cool?
Some people think I need to grow up. I’m 21, forgive me if I’m not reaching for the granny slippers and applying for my bus pass yet.
Some people think my post translated into “I’m a bitter failed breastfeeder and hate breastmilk and can’t see that all breastfeeding support is good no matter where it comes from”.
It’s these people I’d like to address in this blog post.
First of all, I’ve had almost two years to come to terms with the fact I wasn’t given the support I needed to breastfeed beyond the first few days. About six months ago I reached that point. I’m good. My daughter is developmentally ahead. She’s inherited her dad’s immune system and I can count on one hand the number of times she’s been ill. Bitterness about breastfeeding isn’t my thing.
Plus, I’m an advocate of breastfeeding. I’ve written in the past about wanting more support for younger parents who want to breastfeed, because at the moment the support available is pitiful. It’s something I’m hoping to campaign more publicly for when I’m not so busy with, y’know, raising a toddler and working full-time and occasionally updating this poor neglected blog.
I recognise the benefits of breastmilk. I believe everybody should be allowed to feed their baby in any way, anywhere, any time, without being told to cover up or hide away or receiving any judgement for it. I advocate for the fact that breastmilk is nutritionally tailored towards the individual baby (which isn’t the same as saying breastfeeding is always best for every family). I support, advocate for and promote breastfeeding.
So we can nip those “bitter failed breastfeeder” accusations in the bud.
As for the “support is good wherever it comes from” argument, I have two problems with this.
The first is that Jamie Oliver has no intention of actually supporting breastfeeding.
How amazing would it have been if he’d responded to the criticism with “This is an issue lots of you are passionate about, so let’s start a campaign”? He could have used his political weight and his wide-reaching voice to campaign for better ward-based support; more easily-accessible support at home; wider awareness of the helplines and services available; encouraging workplaces, educational establishments and all public places to be more accepting and encouraging of breastfeeding.
But instead, he’s lit the touchpaper and run for the hills, reigniting the smouldering embers of the Mummy Wars with absolutely zero benefit to anyone. That’s why my apology earlier in the post was only a grudging, sarcastic one. I’d have a lot more respect for Jamie Oliver if he’d used this sudden upsurge in publicity for good. I can’t imagine anyone would criticise him or complain about him starting a campaign for better support.
Because that’s not what this argument is about. That’s what people seem to be struggling to comprehend; it’s not about “breast is best” or any notion that people shouldn’t be supporting breastfeeding.
It’s about women who’ve struggled to breastfeed, often suffering PND as a result, being told by a man that it’s “easy and convenient”. It’s like women who feel bad after having a c-section, being told “If you’d just relaxed/breathed/tried harder you could have had a natural birth”. I’m guessing that unless you’ve actually experienced that kind of attitude, the anger towards it is not something you’d ever truly understand.
The second issue I have is that I wish the parenting community would adopt the line “support is good wherever it comes from” more often.
You see, breastfeeding advocacy can feel a little like a clique.It isn’t enough to advocate for breastfeeding. It isn’t enough to promote the scientific benefits of breast milk. You have to do so at the expense of formula.
I’m perfectly happy to say “Breastfeeding reduced the risks of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome”, but I’ll never say “Formula puts your baby at increased risk of SIDS”. This isn’t good enough for the really ardent breastfeeding advocates. It’s not enough to say “I formula fed but I advocate for breastfeeding”. You have to say “I have put my baby at risk of lower intelligence and poor health” by not breastfeeding.
I look at my intelligent, healthy daughter and cannot, in all good conscience, do that.
So my support isn’t welcomed by many of the most outspoken breastfeeding advocates (of course I accept the fact that not all breastfeeding advocates are like that etc). These same advocates are celebrating Jamie Oliver for doing actually very little, and criticising the “bitter failed breastfeeders” who take issue with what he said.
So why do we celebrate a man who has no intention of doing anything practical to support breastfeeding, but alienate women who still want to advocate and campaign for breastfeeding even though it didn’t work out for them?
Answers on a postcard.