Tuesday, 22 March 2016

The Breastfeeding Furore

Jamie Oliver was quoted earlier this week saying that breastfeeding was, well easy, and within minutes social media was awash with tweets, news articles and blogs condemning Jamie as a breastfeeding crusader who basically knew nothing of what he was talking about. Angry parents in their droves were offended by the statement. 

Jamie later posted on his twitter feed that actually he had been misquoted and that breastfeeding was just an area he was interested in as part of his nutritional studies.  Th enormity of the breastfeeding debate completely overshadowed the work he had done earlier this week in trying to tackle childhood obesity and sugary drinks tax.  How sad is that.  And how very sad that we still haven't got this whole feeding thing figured out. 

The biggest thing to come out of all of this debate and headlines is the emotive topic of breastfeeding.  As a parent you really want to do everything in your power to do the best for your baby, so for anyone to judge you or question your parenting based on your feeding method alone is soul destroying and grossly unfair.  

How sad that new mums still feel judged whether they breast or formula feed.  How sad that we still haven't got this feeding right and in the UK there are countless stories of mums made to feel inferior, that they are doing the wrong thing.  Whether breast or formula fed, no mum should feel this way when they have a tiny newborn to care for. 

We all know the benefits of breastfeeding and it has been linked with the governments strategy to reduce obesity since as long as I can remember. What Jamie has shown is that there is so much work to be done on feeding methods to erase this 'them' and 'us' culture of breastfeeding vs formula.  Because there is no 'them' and 'us'.  There should be no versus.  We are all winging it and trying to grow healthy and happy individuals.  

There is no quick fix to increase breastfeeding rates, it's very complex and will involve support at all levels, changes in how we view breastfeeding. But it also involves changes in how we view formula feeding.  Both methods need to be rid of any stigma.  No parent should be made to feel that they are not doing a good enough job. 

As for Jamie commenting on breastfeeding, I think he should. Just because he's a man and has never breastfed doesn't mean he can't have an opinion or know about the topic.  The guy is trying to improve the health of future generations, breastfeeding is naturally a part of that.  

When I first started health visiting, I supported mums who breast and bottle fed.  I had never done either myself, but I would like to think that my knowledge and empathy meant I could support and guide those mums. I have never experienced postnatal depression or domestic violence, but in the same way, that never stopped me from working with mums who had. 

Breastfeeding isn't easy.  Formula feeding isn't easy.  But we are all missing the point. Parenting isn't easy.  The decisions we make aren't easy. It's only when everyone feels supported, with no stigma or judgement that I think we'll move forward.  There is no versus.  






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