Thursday, 28 March 2013

Why do I breastfeed? My top 10.

Why do I breastfeed?  Shall I count the ways....

1. I am lazy and I forget things.  It is best for everybody that I don't have to remember to make bottles, take them with me and dispose of them at a set time. 

2.  Portability.  Basically I don't have to carry stuff.  I hate change bags and rarely use one.  All I need is the contents of my bra and a handbag and I'm good to go.

3.  I'm possessive.  OK, I'm going to be honest. Breastfeeding gives me a reason to keep baby to myself at certain times.  I do understand the argument against breastfeeding where bottle feeding allows other family members to feed baby.  But, as far as I am concerned they can do that when it comes to solids.  This bit is mine.  I did the pregnancy and I'm having the milk bit as a reward.  Fortunately hubby is quite happy with that arrangement.  Equally, the fact that I am bound to my baby in this way also means that I can't escape and go and do loads of other stuff, which, knowing me, I probably would.

4.  I tend to do the natural thing.  I compost, I grow my own veg, I recycle, I make things, I buy from charity shops. Oh, and I use reusable nappies too.  Just kinda fits for me to breastfeed too. 

5.  I am stubborn.  This might seem a weird reason.  However, breastfeeding didn't come easy, I had to fight for it.  As a Taurus I have a typical bullish nature - the harder something is the more I dig my hooves in and refuse to move.  I won't give this up for anything, it was too hard won.

6.  The health benefits.  I have put this low down the list for a reason, which is that I feel it is too often cited to promote breastfeeding.  It's important, sure, but so are other more social reasons that deserve an airing.  Also, in the Western world the health benefits are less pronounced (but nonetheless evident).  However, when I refer to health benefits I don't just mean all the benefits from drinking or lactating the stuff.  I also refer to my on hand medicine that can be squirted onto a variety of cuts, burns, or gloopy infected bits as an easy alternative to bought medicine.

7.  I kinda like that it grosses people out.  It's fun to get the response of people when you have been breastfeeding a while 'your baby is how old???' .  But also the disgust when you tell people you use it if you run out milk (I hasten to add I have never actually done this).

8.  I want to be an example.  I wish I'd had breastfeeding women around me when I had my son.  I want to be an example to my sisters, my friends, my daughter and the women that wander past while I am feeding.  I hope that I may be the source of handy tips or that I aid the process of normalisation a bit. 

9.  Biology.  I am a biology teacher and have a degree in that field.  OK, so marine biology has very little to do with lactation (except whales - I'd love to see a whale breastfeed, what do their nipples look like?).  Nonetheless I have a fascination with living things.  Breastfeeding is so interesting.  The tissue structure, the hormonal regulation, the synthesis of the stuff (there were too many big words for a minute so I felt I needed a 'stuff').  Also, it's quite amazing really that there aren't any visible holes but milk comes out all the same.  I had always thought it would be a single jet, but no its more like a shower head.  See, biology is cool.

10.  Smell.  Apparently the baby's poo doesn't smell as bad.  My baby stinks enough already.  This is a good reason.

These are my top 10 reasons.  Nobody else's, just mine.  People make their own choices about their own way to feed their baby, be it breast, combined or formula.  We each have our own reasons.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Breast friends

At the weekend one of my best friends came over for a catch up.  She is the writer of fab literary blog 'Victoria Friedman's Wardrobe of Words'.  When baby needed feeding I, stupidly, apologised for getting my boobs out.  She laughed and said I was ridiculous.  She had a point.  As she said, she has probably seen my breasts a hundred times.  Not because we flash each other a lot for fun, but because we went to school together. OK, that sounds weird too, I didn't go to some kind of crazy topless school.  We used to have to get changed and shower communally for PE. For a start, school changing rooms always seemed to be the most dingy depressing places in the world.  But also, I hated this nude experience so much that I claimed every week to have a period to get out of it.  The teacher never seemed to notice that my period had been going on for about 6 months.  When this was questioned I then claimed to have a verruca for a while.  If the teacher wasn't in the changing rooms to check on us then none of us would have a shower.  To fool her we would wet our feet and shoulders in the shower room and then run around to leave wet footprints everywhere.  What disgusting, sweaty beasts we were.  Although I can't remember clearly, I am betting that the fragrant Miss Friedman always showered.

Seems then that I was always a bit uncomfortable with nudity.  Stupid really.  We're all the same after all. Is it any wonder we have issues with breastfeeding in front of others when we took such great steps to avoid flashing our friends in our adolescence.

 Anyway, I guess my new found liberation has been noted by my husband.  When he entered the room he just muttered 'Oh, she's already got her boobs out has she, she does that now that she has a blog.'  :D

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Dear Health Visitor

When you came over I probably seemed chatty, happy and cooperative.  I agreed with everything you said and took on board all the advice you gave me.

However, I was just being polite.  There were some...points you made that were in error.  Here is what I probably should have said to you:

1.  Breastfeeding is recommended by the WHO for two years, not one.  Is this geographical area in some way special in not being under the jurisdiction of the World Health Organisation?  If you are going to spout figures then get them right.

2.  Yet again I am being hassled for a baby that is not gaining weight at the pace that they 'should' as deemed by the 'little red book'. You acknowledged that there is often a decline in weight gain in breastfed babies around this time.  So surely this does not necessarily mean that my baby needs monthly weigh-ins as an imperative?  Lucky that I am secure in my breastfeeding or I may be questioning whether my baby is getting enough... oh wait, that's how you made me feel with my last baby. All babies are different and they may not conform to the average patterns.  My baby is healthy and sated.  I guess she's just not average, same as my son.

3.  Your claim that the last time you saw me was 'because you were called in to provide breastfeeding support with your last baby and because there were concerns you were maybe developing PND'.  That may be true, although I think you may be misremembering.  However, doing a questionnaire that is easily cheated does not act as a good diagnosis of PND.  Also, asking 'how is breastfeeding going?' does not constitute breastfeeding support.  Women lie.  I lied.  I did not have PND, but I did have breastfeeding issues and I struggled with them on my own.  Never once did you see me breastfeed, I used to avoid breastfeeding around health professionals as it made me nervous.  So please don't call it breastfeeding support.  It wasn't. 

4.  Many statements you made involved comparisons between breast and formula fed babies.  For example 'breastfed babies have stronger jaws so you can feed them on thicker foods quicker.'  This may be true.  I suspect it probably is.  However, lets tone down the breast vs formula talk for a bit.  For starters, I am already converted to breastfeeding so you don't need to talk it up.  I even told you that I breastfed my first for 15 months.  Secondly, overdoing the comparisons just creates the 'them and us' culture that I am coming to loathe.  I don't need all these reasons to feel superior to other mums because I'm not.  We all do our best.  Only compare the two forms of feeding when necessary

5.  You gave me a lecture on weaning onto solids at 6 months.  I told you that I weaned my eldest at 5 and a half months.  You proceeded to tell me that its best to wait.  As far as I am aware, the recommendation for 6 months has been in debate (since Mary Fewtrell questioned it in 2011) with many suggesting that any time between 4-6 months is suitable, depending on the baby.  There are suggestions however that after 6 months is hazardous.  So, what do you want from me?  Should weaning occur on my baby's 6 month birthday? How is that day so special?  No, each baby is different.  I will wean when my baby is ready, at some point around 6 months.

I couldn't be bothered to have these discussions at the time.  It seemed easier to smile and nod.  Please be better informed and less judgemental next time. 

Thank you

P.S. You know that everybody just pays you lip service, right?

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Local woman told to stop breastfeeding

Writing this blog has made me question whether there really is an issue with breastfeeding in public.  I have rarely had any negative reactions and, if anything, responses are positive.  Is the concern about public breastfeeding largely paranoia?

Well, while I maintain that negative reactions are rare, an incident that occurred near to where I live highlighted that they are not unheard of.

I am quite shocked by how over the top this person's reaction is.  Not just a glance, a tut or a mutter (very British responses :D), but to be so forward?  It suggests that the person found the breastfeeding truly disgusting and rude. 

I am glad that the woman involved was a commited and secure breastfeeder.  Had this happened to somebody new to the 'art' then this incident could have caused untold issues.  Good for the staff and shoppers at Tescos to be so supportive too.

It seems then that the issue at the heart of this blog still needs to be tackled.  Girls, please breastfeed anywhere and everywhere that you want to.  Nobody has the right (legally or morally) to attack you.  When you breastfeed in public you not only nourish your baby, but you also add to the normalisation of breastfeeding and the eradication of this ill-informed outdated behaviour towards breastfeeding women. If you come across people like this maybe you should invite them to a 'Big Latch On' to up their exposure and shock them out of their disgust.  Breastfeeding is beautiful and normal and has to happen in public.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Lots of breastfeeding

I have been a little slack this week.  Unfortunately, both of my grandmothers and one of my husband's grandmothers are very ill in hospital.  I feel so blessed to have the influence of such amazing women in my life and I sincerely pray that they will pull through.

Anyway, I have had many opportunities to feed in public.  With so much going on I have not had the time to worry or be anxious about the feelings of others, I have just had to do what I have to do.

I breastfed in front of my grandmother when visiting her in hospital.  It was a little nerve wracking as I don't like to make the older generation uncomfortable. However, I know that my grandmother breastfed her five children.  She likes to tell a story of ducking behind a bush to tandem feed the first two.  Even now I wonder what the reaction would be to tandem feeding siblings like this. 

I also finally breastfed in church.  I was late.  It was mothers day so the church was heaving.  Baby was squarking and drawing far too much attention to us.  I felt happier having had the opportunity to discuss the issue with the vicar so I knew it was not innapropriate.  It worked as a lovely mute button for baby.  Anyway, under all my wintery layers it was unlikely you could see a thing.

I also sort of breastfed in front of my father-in-law.  I accomapnied him when he took my son swimming.  As I waited for them I was feeding my daughter and I got too hot and uncomfortable.  Knowing there was nothing to see anyway I took off the scarf I had over my shoulder.

So, I am becomeing more comfortable with breastfeeding in front of others.  But, as I do so I am beginning to ask much bigger questions.  Why does it matter if people breastfeed?  Why does it matter to me?  Why is there an issue with breastfeeding in public?  Some of these have seemingly easy answers, but I think that it may run much deeper than we like to think.  As I start to make sense of these questions I will try to blog about them.

In the meantime, please include my grandmothers in your prayers.


Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Messing about on the river

I went out to Canterbury today with the kiddies.  Spring is just rearing her head.  It feels like that grey winter misery is blowing away. 

We went to Dane John gardens and played in the little maze/fort there.  We then climbed to the top of the mound to look out at the city srawling around us.  After a walk around town baby was starting to fidget in her baby carrier so I knew a feed was imminent.  So, I took the boy to a bakery to choose a cake to keep him quiet.  He insisted upon a chocolate brownie (to share of course) and then patiently sat in the pushchair till we reached our destination.  We walked through the historic Westgate towers to reach the Westgate gardens, which follow the Stour river.

We chose a little picnic spot where we could watch the ducks.  I spread my scarf on the grass to sit, while the boy decided to remain his pushchair to scoff his cake.  I realised that in my newfound relaxed mindset towards breastfeeding, I had not brought anything to cover up with (other than my scarf, which was now shielding me from the damp grass.  However, I just shrugged this fact off, latched her on and enjoyed the beautiful setting.
Soon after, a hoard of students came to disturb the peace.  I thought they were playing a raucous game of pooh sticks.  However, it transpired that they had lost their frisbee in the water and were chasing it along the river trying to reclaim it. I smothered a laugh watching them try and throw sticks at it. I didn't bother to cover up as they lolloped past.  Some ducks swam past and splashed about as they dived for little food.  Not long after, a man sat at a bench on the other side of the river.  Again I didn't bother with modesty - all he could see was the back of baby's head.  I sat chatting away with the boy and then I looked up to see that the man had moved two benches along.  Was this because of my breastfeeding?  If he didn't feel comfortable then fair enough I suppose, what he did wasn't unkind and didn't hurt my feelings.  Although, I suppose a newer mum may have felt a dip in her confidence.

Maybe the scenery at that particular spot not beautiful enough for him.  Some may argue that we improved the scenery., not because of the breastfeeding thing, just because we're really really gorgeous :D

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Can you breastfeed in church?

I previously blogged about my experience of breastfeeding at church.  If you didn't read it, I lost the nerve to feed in the pews as I was unsure of the response. 

This morning the family went to a Saturday children's service.  I was very impressed when another mum confidently fed her 3 month old boy under a muslin.  This got me thinking again.

The vicar was having a discussion with me about making the church child friendly and mentioned providing bean bags to breastfeed on.  So, with her having raised the issue herself I asked her what she thought about breastfeeding in church.  She said 'Well, I think some in the congregation may be uncomfortable, but there are those that do it.  Usually it's very discreet and only I notice.  I am quite happy with it personally."

So there you go, thats the official word.  Well, in my parish anyway.

Friday, 1 March 2013

8 week jabs

Baby had her 8 week jabs this week.  When the nurse asked whether I was breastfeeding she then commented 'I don't know why I have to ask this' as she ticked the box.  I said that I figured it went towards the Infant Feeding Survey, although I really don't know.  I wonder if any of you out there know.  Is it just for information?   I did feel a bit strage about her comment, I wasn't sure whether to feel it was good that she didn't see the point (as breastfeeding should be normal) or if it seemed ignorant.

After the jabs I sat in the waiting room to see if there were any side effects.  I had dashed out of the house as we were running late as usual so I had nothing with me.  So, I breastfed uncovered in a room with two old men and an old lady.  Nobody cared and it was wonderful.  I am fast coming to the conclusion that, for me at least, public breastfeeding is widely accepted.  I know it's not the case for everybody, but ladies, please have the boldness to try.