I just stumbled across a post somewhere in the vast expanse of teh interwebz that made me fume. Apparently it’s “irresponsible” to promote formula – the author would go so far as to say “wrong” – to allow women to make informed choices.
I’ve pondered this before as I knew that Boots weren’t allowed to apply their Baby Club extra advantage card points to formula milk. I didn’t realise at first that they weren’t allowed to give you any advantage card points for pre-six months formula purchases.
What this smacks of to me is discrimination. Not only that, it feels like punishment for something I have absolutely no control over. And let’s face it, deciding not to breast feed comes with enough pressure and feelings of guilt: we don’t really need the government ordering companies to punish us, let alone other women who should know better.
I’ve talked before about the way I feel about women who tell tales of childbirth horror in order to frighten other women, and I feel similarly negative toward women who judge those who make different decisions from them, or who simply don’t have the same access to the same choices.
When my son was born I knew there was a strong possibility I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed him as I take medication. That medication is important enough that I had to keep taking it while I was carrying him, so it goes without saying that I would have to keep it up after he was here; and quite frankly it’s better for my boy that I don’t have a seizure while I’m holding him than that he gets his fill of booby milk.
I did try to breast feed. I had to supplement from four days because he was such a big boy and I couldn’t produce enough milk for him. Even though combination feeding is recommended with epilepsy medication I felt like a failure because my body was failing my boy. After two weeks I had to give up altogether because the medication was making him too drowsy. I was having to increase my dose and his metabolism had changed so much from when he was inside my womb that he couldn’t cope with it anymore.
Who can tell me that the decision I made was the wrong one? Who even dares to tell me that it was a decision at all?
I couldn’t breast feed and that left me one option: formula. Apparently midwives aren’t supposed to show you how to make up a bottle when you’re in hospital because it goes against government directive. I don’t know if that’s true or whether midwives would listen to that anyway, but it’s really dangerous to not know what you’re doing. People have hurt or killed their babies, and yet we’re not allowed the information to prevent that from happening?
Breast feeding doesn’t incur any extra cost. Formula, on the other hand, is expensive. I spend roughly £20 per month on formula, and of course I had to buy bottles and a steriliser, and the teats need replacing as he grows. The fact that I can’t buy formula on a two-for-one offer or earn advantage card points that I can use to buy nappies is disgusting. I’m being made to feel guilty yet again, I’m being punished, and I’m being treated as inferior to women who can breast feed.
From the moment that I stopped breast feeding I felt judged. The community midwife kept telling me that I had a “natural latch” that I shouldn’t give up on, the health visitor implored me to see if he’d “get used to” my medication despite the fact that he’d already been on it for nine months, the baby groups all happily told me they were Breast Feeding Friendly and reassured me that “we all do it!”
The thing is, I’m not alone in this. There are plenty of other women who either can’t or don’t breast feed their babies. I’m not an anomaly. And I’m not less of a mother than those whose boobs nurture their babies in a way mine can’t.
By all means promote breast-feeding. Keep telling me it’s the best choice for my baby. That’s fine. But don’t deny me the right to make other choices. Don’t keep important information from me because it doesn’t fit with the latest recommendations. Don’t assume that I’m making a decision based on whether my tits will sag, or whether I’ll feel comfortable doing it in public, or whether it fits in with my schedule. And don’t judge me if my decision is based on any of those things. That’s my right.
But worse than the government directives and the health visitors’ protestations are the judgements of other women. Women who should know better. Women who should understand that it’s not easy to give up on breastfeeding, to feel like a failure or to have to convince ourselves we’re not failing our babies. Women who should know how lucky they are that they have a choice should not be judging me for not having one.
A quick google shows me women who are outraged at onesies featuring baby bottles, women boycotting shops for selling t-shirts saying “I love my bottle!”, women who believe even formula for babies over six months shouldn’t be advertised, and an alarming number of women who think they’re better than me.
We all do what we think is best for our babies, and that includes those of us who don’t breastfeed. Whether we don’t produce enough milk, have to take medication, have poorly babies, are poorly ourselves, can’t produce milk at all or just simply choose to bottle feed you can rest assured that we’re not doing anything we don’t think is best for our babies.
When I stopped breast feeding I cried constantly. I couldn’t give Ted a bottle because I would sob as I tried to do it. BabyDaddy had to feed him until I realised that I wasn’t hurting my baby and that, actually, I was making sure he was safe. Is it right that I should feel that way because women who can breast feed think it’s fair that I live in a world where it’s considered saintly?
If you can breast feed, good for you, but don’t you dare tell me that it’s irresponsible for me to have to give my baby formula. And if you still think it’s irresponsible for companies to “promote” bottle-feeding or give women information on alternatives to the breast then you’re failing to understand one thing: we’re all just trying to do the best we can.