Pregnancy | The Pressure to Breastfeed

Can I just take a second before I write this post to say that I am no means an expert on this topic. These are just some thoughts I’ve been having as a mum-to-be trying to figure it all out. I hope this doesn’t come across as a rant, it’s just the result of some observations, discussions and thoughts I’ve been having recently. 

I imagine a new mum faces a lot of pressure to fit into a cookie-cutter image of how the ‘perfect’ mother is supposed to behave, look and present herself. I guess this image forms over time influenced by the media, our own experiences and our own ideologies. You only have to look at the backlash over Kim K’s recent topless selfies to see the stigma that can be attached to mothers. Love her or loathe her, she was labelled a bad role model by some for revealing her own body. Comments such as ‘She’s a mum, she should cover herself up’ and ‘Imagine what her kids are gonna say?’ littered my Twitter feed. It’s inappropriate to celebrate your own body because now you have children? I’m sure David Beckham encountered the same controversy when he did his Calvin Klein campaign, right? I don’t think so.

Pregnancy | The Pressure to Breastfeed

Anyway, I’m getting off topic. What I really wanted to chat about is the pressure put on expectant mothers to breastfeed. We’ve all heard stories about a some kind of snotty backwards establishment asking a breastfeeding mother to cover-up. The fallout then sees mums, quite rightly, rallying in protest to protect their right to feed their baby when and where they seem fit. However, through what little experience I’ve had, it appears that it is the mothers who chose not to breastfeed who are publicly and privately shunned. 

No one can deny the benefits of breastfeeding. As my midwife constantly, and quite forcibly, reminds me, breastfeeding reduces the risks of infections, diabetes, obesity and even childhood leukaemia, whilst also being an unforgettable experience that helps you to bond with your baby. However, there seems to be a point that is constantly swept under the carpet, especially by healthcare professionals: breastfeeding can be hard, both emotionally and physically. In some cases, due to health reasons, it’s not possible for the woman to lactate and in other cases the mother just feels like it’s not a right fit for her body. I can’t tell you the countless amount of stories I’ve heard from mums who’ve felt disappointed, heartbroken and even guilty over the fact that they couldn’t breastfeed. I’ve also heard from mums who felt embarrassed, looked down upon and judged for choosing not to.

You just have to have a look through my NHS ‘baby pack’ to see piles upon piles of breastfeeding propaganda. I tried to find some information about mums who chose to use formula amongst it all so I had all the correct information, but I couldn’t find any. We need to remember that although us mums have a responsibility to care for our baby, a mother’s body is still her own. She shouldn’t be made to feel uncomfortable and pressured into using her body how others deem fit. The decision to breastfeed is exactly that – a decision. Healthcare professionals, the media, everyone, needs to stop pushing their own agendas and listen to us women. At the end of the day, we know our bodies better than anyone else and it’s time mother’s are treated like individuals not that cookie-cutter image of how the ‘perfect’ mother is supposed to behave, look and present herself.