Yesterday my Twitter feed was ablaze with people bickering over baby feeding. Apparently the "craze" for breastfeeding selfies [or brelfies] is putting pressure [or bressure] on mothers who cannot breastfeed or choose not to.
I am SO fed up with reading this sort of thing.
I breastfeed my baby. I breastfeed him because I can and because I want to and because I feel that it is best for MY baby. That's it. Three little reasons. I don't breastfeed him because I want to make anyone else feel bad. I don't breastfeed him to show off. I don't breastfeed him for any other reason you can think of.
Brelfies, as ridiculous as I think the word is, do something very important. They show other mothers that breastfeeding is normal. That breastfeeding is good. That breastfeeding in public is acceptable. They encourage other mothers. They help other mothers feel less alone. 1% of mothers are still breastfeeding their babies at 6 months old. Breastfeeding mothers are in the minority. We need the support and encourage, even if it's just through someone's Instagram picture.
I know there are mothers who can't breastfeed, or had to stop for reasons outside of their control. And I know that it hurts to see something that reminds you of difficult times. I know, I've been there. But we can't expect others to hide their pride or their beautiful photos or not talk about their positive experiences just because it hurts us to see or read about it. I am a grown-up. I can take responsibility for my own feelings.
ChannelMum's suggestion that we support mums however we feed our babies is all good and well. But why use a play on words that has a negative connotation towards breastfeeding? When we talk about feeling under pressure, we clearly don't mean that in a good way. So combining breastfeeding with pressure to come up with "bressure", aside from being daft, is dangerous.
I'll explain why.
Pregnant for the first time, all I heard about breastfeeding was negative stories. My partner tried to discourage me, because his ex had struggled. "You'll get mastitis," he said. "They'll make you get your boobs out," he said, referring to health visitors. Friends, family, strangers, all questioning me on how I was planning to feed my unborn baby, all armed with negative stories of their struggles and quick to assure me that I too would struggle.
That's what made me feel pressured. That's made me feel anxious and worried. That's made me bury my head in the sand. That's what made me decline antenatal classes about breastfeeding. That's made me think, "I'll just deal with it when the baby is here" and as a result, I was totally unprepared when the worst happened.
By peddling all this negativity around breastfeeding, I missed out on crucial information and support. I should have been receiving information, encouragement and support. Instead people were filling my head with horrible stories and telling me that I'd fail before I'd even begun.
How many other mums-to-be are hoping to breastfeed but are being pressured to formula feed because of other people's negativity? How many are being put off altogether because they see these negative stories in the media, negative hashtags on Twitter, negative debates on Facebook?
How I wish someone had shared their positive stories with me. Or handed me a leaflet. Or told me about an antenatal breastfeeding group or where I'd find support once my baby was born. Nobody did, and ironically I'm sure it was because they were too afraid of "bressuring" me.
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