Insulting People's Feeding Choices - Why Shaming Has To Stopby Sabrina Hackett-Saikul
As a breastfeeding mum, I’m a huge advocate of encouraging mothers to breastfeed their babies, for however long or short a time that that might be, any amount of time feeding your baby is an achievement. Breast milk is giving your baby the best start in life including antibodies that no formula can ever replicate. For many people they will give it a go anyway, which I believe everyone should (unless you have a medical reason not to).
But the popularity of feed shaming is on the rise again, shaming mothers on their do’s and don’ts, as well as shaming what they’re proud of, and it really has to stop. Lately, I see this far too much on the internet and usually from other mothers who should really know better than to shame fellow parents, when we are all learning how to weather our own boats in this storm together.
People keep saying fed is best, but actually, it’s “Informed is Best”. If you are given the best possible care, help and advice after the birth of your child, then you can make an informed decision on how you want to feed your baby. And nobody should be allowed to comment on whether you are making a wrong or a right choice, so long as you made that decision yourself with what’s best for you and your baby.
I just reached a huge milestone of breastfeeding for two and a half years. If someone asked me two weeks into this journey would we indeed be feeding past a year or eighteen months I probably would have said I doubt it! But hindsight is a wonderful thing, I thought it would be easy and it wasn’t. And we have overcome my son's jaundice after birth, my mastitis, ductal thrush passed between us twice, my son’s several food allergies and his bad eczema. And now we can add “Fed through a Global Pandemic” to that huge list of accomplishments too!
The one thing I can say with pride is that I’m glad I chose to breastfeed my son and not give up every time we hit a bump in the road. He is happy and he is thriving and nobody can take that pride away from me. Also, the best piece of advice I was given by a breastfeeding coordinator was this, “Don’t quit on a bad day”.
Celebrity Jessica Simpson recently gave birth to her third child, and after she posted a picture of a bottle of breastmilk that she had just pumped, the internet went crazy. People were shaming her and saying it took things away from people who couldn’t breastfeed or pump for their own baby. People took offence to her hard work! Breastfeeding is not easy and she was well within her right to be proud of that big bottle of breastmilk! Posts like this one should really be doing the opposite to offending, because women should be encouraging one another and praising their accomplishments, like with pumping. I have taken many a photograph of my pumped milk especially in the early days when it was beautiful liquid gold. I’ve seen a mixture of pumping and breastfeeding posts the last year or two from Celebs such as Rachel McAdams and Myleene Klass, and they have received mixed messages. Lots of positive ones are on there, but also people still taking offence to another person’s achievements.
And I have felt the shame first hand; I once posted something on my personal Facebook wall when I achieved a year of feeding. After six people negatively commented on it I deleted it. It really upset me and I felt like my achievement wasn’t valid, when in reality I was having my pride shunned. It was about the benefits of breastfeeding past a year, but friends of mine saw it as offensive. Because they had not reached a year themselves, they took offence and said I shouldn’t share information that would make others feel bad. It was not my intention as I was sharing interesting facts that had been knowledgeable for myself. Yet I was made to feel so bad for sharing my happiness in reaching this milestone, so I deleted the post. People should be able to post what they are proud of, without other people being offended by it.
If your child came second or even third on sports day, you wouldn’t say to them, well it’s not first place, is it? You would totally praise them and know that they did their best and achieved what was possible for them at that time. So if you did your best when it came to breastfeeding, then you shouldn’t feel the need to tell the person who has since achieved more than you, that their pride means nothing as you cannot share in it. Everyone has varying levels of appreciation for things in life, and we are all different people, raising different babies. But one thing that we all have in common is that we want to feed our babies and take care of them, the best that each of us can do. Whether that is breastfed or formula-fed, or even combination fed! It’s the fed part that is the most important thing, and if you can give breastfeeding a wholeheartedly good go then well done to you! How far you get is an achievement for you no matter what society thinks.
If you would like more information on breastfeeding things I have mentioned in this article such as Mastitis, then please see my other articles on Your Baby Club, or contact your midwife or health visitor. Also, make sure you have read up on the important bits for when you have your own baby. Things that are useful to research include Latch, Colostrum, Breastfeeding Positions, Cluster Feeding, and The Fourth Trimester.
Remember that if you’re proud of an achievement don’t let anyone make you feel bad about it, we all experience life in different ways, but doing what’s best for you and your child is all that you can do. So make sure you do it with pride.