The Day The Milk Guilt Died

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A little under two years ago, I sat in the waiting room of the doctors, waiting for my postnatal check, practically in tears.

The cause of this? The huge corkboard on the wall, promoting the benefits of breastfeeding. I told myself I could cope with a poster or two. I could handle a leaflet display. But this is a permanent reminder of the superiority of breastmilk – and, in my frazzled little postnatal brain, a reminder of how I’d failed.

Going in to see the doctor and being told that SB was absolutely perfect and completey adorable didn’t soothe my worries. All I could think about was the posters. The picture of “the breastfed baby”; possibly the most guilt-inducing poster in any doctors’ surgery. This smiling, cooing baby in the picture is far better than yours could ever be, because this baby had breastmilk.

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Every positive I’d managed to extract out of formula feeding was countered by a poster. “How dads can bond without needing to use bottles!”, one said. “It’s possible to return to work whilst breastfeeding!” another cheerfully proclaimed. My desperately-grasped positives faded and wilted.

For months afterwards I couldn’t sit in the waiting room without that tight feeling in my stomach; the guilt gripping at me every time. The picture of “The Breastfed Baby” taunted me; the description of breastfeeding as easy and convenient made a mockery of my struggle.

Today, as I write this, I’m there again – not for anything serious, just to make sure there is actually some iron in my blood, before I get any panicked phone calls from my mum! – and I looked at the information board, waiting for the discomfort to take hold again.

But there’s nothing. I look at it and think “Oh, that’ll be nice for new breastfeeding mums to read. I hope it doesn’t make formula feeding mums feel bad”. It’s not even a blip on my radar anymore, let alone the massive thing it used to feel like.

I don’t know what’s brought about this change in me. Is it just time? It’s been a year since we stopped giving formula; a year since either side of the argument really applied to me.

Is it a steady acceptance of the facts combined with my own experience? You’ll never find me denying the benefits of breastmilk, but you’ll also never find me agreeing that breastfeeding is best for every family, or that you can see the negative impact of formula on an individual level. When you can walk into a classroom and point out the breastfed kids, I may change my stance. Until then, I promote the facts and ignore the supposition.

Maybe it’s just tiredness. I’ve fought my fair share of battles with both the self-titled lactivists and the anti-breastfeeders. I’ve gone from being fervently anti-lactivist, to taking up a comfortable position on the fence – reminding anti-breastfeeders of the scientific facts, and calling lactivists out when they get personal or insinuate things they can’t back up. After two years of that, I’m tired. The debate just doesn’t register with me anymore. I’m more concerned with when the heck do I start trusting my child to tell me she needs the potty, and how do I take her dummy away without giving her a complex about kleptomaniac dummy fairies?

Maybe it’s just the realisation that those concerns I have now are the same concerns that all toddler parents have (excluding the masochistic ones who didn’t give their child a dummy*), regardless of how they fed their child. Breastfeeding a baby doesn’t magically imbibe them with the power to sit on the loo from 18 months old. Formula feeding doesn’t mean they’re more likely to start re-enacting a demonic possession when you take their “nummy” away.

Our concerns change throughout our childrens’ lives. I doubt my mum concerns herself with the “breastfed baby” poster in the doctors surgery these days.

It’s nice to say that the poster didn’t make me feel sad this morning – it actually made me happy. Why?

Two years ago, that board was filled with facts about breastfeeding, and happy breastfed baby pictures, and what some will label “propaganda” – but nothing in the way of support.

Today, there’s details of the support offered by the NHS. There’s adverts for local support groups and breastfeeding cafes scattered across the region. There’s information about obstacles to breastfeeding, and tips to overcome them.

This makes me happy, because it means support is finally being offered. I won’t know the quality of it until I have another baby, but it’s a big step in the right direction. If it means that another mum like me can sit in the doctors waiting room over the next two years without that constricting guilt in her chest, that’s reason enough for me to smile.

(*just kidding, non-dummy mums. I’m in awe and frankly, a little bit afraid of you BAMFs).

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
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21 thoughts on “The Day The Milk Guilt Died

  1. lauracharlie1988 says:

    It’s nice when there is support there instead of just bleating about benefits. That “the breastfed baby” poster makes me cringe because much of what is Ob it isn’t true.
    I’m all for 100% support however you feed. I’d love to see a “use a bottle? Give formula? You’re a great mum too!” Poster.
    Glad to hear it feels better when it’s not a “thing” any more.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Baby Anon says:

    This is spot on. However you feed your baby, you’re feeding your baby, and surely that’s what matters most of all. #KCACOLS

    Like

  3. Julie S. says:

    Oh that milk guilt!! I felt to guilty the entire time I tried to breastfeed, failing to make enough milk and having to supplement more formula than milk. But now that it’s all behind me, it doesn’t feel so bad. It was a part of my life, and now it isn’t. Funny how things seem such a huge deal, but later you just kind of see perspective that it wasn’t the end of the world to not be that awesome breastfeeding mom, and instead you were just that awesome mom.
    #KCACOLS

    Like

  4. Allyson Greene (@BringMomCoffee) says:

    I didn’t feel the guilt until others, who were breatfeeding, seemed so certain of their parenting dominance. If you feed, love, and care for your baby that should be what matters most! What’s best for one family may not be best for the next. #KCACOLS

    Like

  5. beautybabyandme says:

    I love your writing chick – you’re absolutely right, No mother should have that guilt heaped on them and I’m so glad that the amount of support and advice you can get is on the increase. You are an amazing mum don’t forget that! xx #KCACOLS

    Like

  6. Sara Handy Herbs says:

    I am so pleased that you no longer feel any guilt. You should never have felt guilty, but easy for others to say, I know. It is such a shame that there isn’t more support and that mums are made to feel guilty. You have done your best and no doubt you are a fabulous mum!!
    Thanks so much for linking up with #KCACOLS. Hope you return next week πŸ™‚

    Like

  7. Motherhood IRL says:

    I know how awful this feels because I went through it with my second baby. It’s becomes tiresome and damaging to be constantly hit over the head with the “breast is best” mantra, as if we don’t already know that from, like, biology and stuff. I’m glad you no longer feel that crushing guilt. And I hope you won’t feel it in the future if you struggle with breastfeeding again. I’m sure you’re doing an amazing job loving and caring for your child. #KCACOLS

    Like

  8. mumzilla says:

    I’ve got American Pie in my head now, but with alternate lyrics. Those posters are a pile of crap, fed baby = happy healthy baby. I was breastfed for 6 weeks and am as rubbish as you like, not a drop ever passed my sisters lips and she is the most disgustingly healthy person you ever met!! #KCACOLS

    Like

  9. ljdove23 says:

    I completely relate to the milk guilt, I failed to breastfeed my youngest two. They were in neonatal and on nil by mouth and my milk production dwindled a slow death until ultimately, there was no more. They are by far my two poorliest babies (completely coincidental) but for that reason I did feel the guilt a little more. I had people say, “Oh perhaps had you breastfed…” which just increased my milk guilt! These days I try to remind myself that they may not have been breast fed, but they were FED. They were, and are, loved and cared for, and I did the best that I could. Great post. #KCACOLS

    Like

  10. madelinelittlejohns says:

    I was so pleased to read that, when you went back recently, there was a lot more information about support and advice for breastfeeding mothers. That’s what new mums need, support and information, not pressure and guilt-inducing posters about how wonderful breastfeeding is. x #KCACOLS

    Like

  11. Jess Powell (Babi a Fi) says:

    I’m so glad it’s not making you feel bad anymore! I have had moments of guilt about it, especially when people get really in your face about it. A woman in the queue at Asda actually gave my other half a lecture the other day for buying a tin of formula. For all she knew I could have been dead – men can do much, but lactation is still alluding them… #KCACOLS

    Like

  12. Savannah (@HowHesRaised) says:

    New mothers need support. They need to be told that, as long as their baby is being fed, everything is going to be okay. They need guidance. Sadly, the way of the world seems to be cramming information down a new mom’s throat. Or pressuring her into doing what you may think is right. I’m so happy to hear you no longer feel guilt. Breastfeeding is great, sure. But, it definitely is not for everyone. Thanks for sharing. #KCACOLS

    Like

  13. fairyqueen says:

    Love is all we need as the song so rightly says. We do our best and I think that that is what matters. Doesnt matter which way we go. x
    Mainy – myrealfairy
    #KCACOLS

    Like

  14. Katy - Hot Pink Wellingtons says:

    I think new motherhood is such a difficult time – we’re so full of insecurities and we desperately want to do the best for our children that we stress over things that won’t even be a consideration in a few years time. I know I was very sucked up in that cycle and it wasn’t healthy for me at all (I breastfed, but stressed about it so much and put so much pressure on myself to do it). No-one should feel guilty for how they feed their baby – as long as they’re getting fed then all’s good. It’s really good to hear that there is now so much support out there for breastfeeding that’s promoted alongside the health benefits. #KCACOLS

    Like

  15. theparentingjungle says:

    Ah hon I remember that emotional time, I stopped breastfeeding and ended up with massive postnatal depression as I felt guilty..not helped by a slightly straight speaking HV..Im totally for breastfeeding if you can..if not I am totally for healthy and happy mums with no guilt. Lovely post, I am glad you feel happy now #KCACOLS x

    Like

  16. practicalbydefault says:

    I really enjoyed this post although it has been years since this has concerned me. I do worry about the new trend of making breastfeeding shameful in my area, but again, like you said-support is finally being made available. It is also nice to see those that are unable to breastfeed for some reason or another being supported by other moms. Thank you for sharing! I am so happy for you that the guilt is lifted. Guilt is a terrible thing, and I am a terrible one for self-inflicted mom guilt! #KCACOLS

    Like

  17. Petite Pudding (@petite_pudding) says:

    It’s amazing how the breastfeeding guilt can take hold and hang around for ages – glad you are over it and can see both sides of the story! I had a nightmare first time round feeding my son but second time there was more support and I managed 3 months which I was pretty pleased with! #kcacols

    Like

  18. newmummyblogcom says:

    I think it’s terrible the way this is all banded about, and so many are made to feel bad. I struggled breastfeeding H because she was tongue-tied and we used formula to supplement. The NHS is all about breastfeeding at all costs, and nothing else, and I didn’t feel anyone really knew enough to support properly…. , That poster seems good for encouragement, but terrible for those that can’t for whatever reason. I hope things continue to improve and more support is provided. I also think midwives in hospital should be better trained too, and also trained for tongue-tie as that’s what caused us to have problems and supplement with formula (that or be admitted to hospital… even then most midwives were reluctant to suggest it and didn’t really encourage it, they were more on the train of thought of feed every 2 hours…. we were feeding for an hour at a time and at least every 2 hours anyway!!) Sorry, I didn’t mean to ramble on…. I really agree more support is needed and much more compassion than that poster #kcacols

    Like

  19. prideandparenting says:

    I actually just wrote a blog about my struggles with breastfeeding and how they made me feel so guilty and miserable during the first six months of my daughter’s life. I also came to the conclusion that as your child grows it becomes less of a breastfeeding and more about other things in their development. But gosh those first few months are hard. I still feel a burn of sadness when I think about it.

    I always do my best to give all mothers a boost when I am around them. A big warm smile regardless of how they are feeding their bubba and if I can throw in some kind words of ‘Looks like you’re doing an awesome job raising that little one’ without it being too awkward I will. I try to help heal the pain I felt in the early stages of motherhood and my failure to breastfeed by giving other mums the kindness I wish I had for myself.

    Below is my blog entry

    https://prideandparenting.com/2016/09/03/an-epic-tale-of-when-your-shitty-titties-let-you-down/

    Like

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