Isn't it funny how a few comments can make you aware of your own prejudices. I was chatting to young family member and suddenly he just clobbered me with a few really daft comments. I knew then how much I cared.
We were talking about his impending fatherhood and breastfeeding came up as a subject. He said that, obviously breast is best, but he did not want to see the Mum with 'droopy baps' (I quote) and besides neither he, nor his 3 siblings, were breastfed and they turned out okay. I almost spluttered that maybe if he had been breastfed he may have had some more sense - but I resisted.
Breast is best - there is no doubt about that. It protects both Mum and babe, it is free, no need to sterilise equipment and it is on there on tap. I appreciate this is tempered by the fact that I never had any difficulty with breast feeding and despite being a well endowed old bird (41) my 'baps' are still remarkably pert despite gravity and extended feeding (although I gave up publicly at a year).
I know though that breastfeeding is an emotive issue. For non parents it can be a taboo, there is little reason to form an opinion on breastfeeding until you have a baby, and in our culture breasts are either very private or highly sexualised. I breastfed where ever I needed to, but always managed to find a quite area and used either a scarf or a sling to give us privacy and discretion . To be honest though, I have never too worried about the opinions of complete strangers but I do not impose my values.
I also care deeply about what Mums have to go through. One friend started to worry about feeding while still pregnant, having heard about the traumas that it may possibly cause, and another talks about sitting at a breast feeding clinic in a local church biting on a bit of rope as a way to try and combat the pain. Breast may be best for all concerned, but not at the expense of the vital bonding experience if it is going to cause undue stress.
That makes me think of another attitude that has failed to impress me: if a Dad gives baby a bottle it helps him bond, therefore, formula is better. Is feeding the only way that you can bond? The Hubster found his niche with burping (in this case winding the Pickle, no comment on his manners) - something he could excel at and a role that was very much his. This task was every bit as important as feeding and as he cuddled and stroked to relieve the wind he could bond over burping (seemed appropriate) and I could breast feeding secure in the knowledge that it was a win:win situation.
Is a Mum a better parent because she can breast feed? Certainly not - although being able to have milk on tap for the night time feed without having to get up and make up the formula certainly helped my energy levels. A good parent is one who takes the time to find sort the real facts from myths, suppositions and scare stories, who is prepared to acknowledge their strengths and weaknesses and is strong enough to seek help or advice when needed. While breast is best, if despite best informed efforts it is still not working I can't believe that any Mum should suffer and should gladly, and without guilt, find the best formula for their baby (I do have a prejudice here, I can't work out a good reason to use a Nestle formula but that is a whole different story).
I hate the way breast feeding has become a political issue, it deeply annoys me that the Daily Mail writes with glee about how 'Feminazis' are terrorising Mums into breastfeeding and that standing up to 'pro-breastfeeding propaganda' is a virtue. Bollocks, why polarise the debate along political lines? A Tory has the right to breast-feed as much as a socialist can use formula. Also feminism is a debate that can discuss and inform all areas of life, and there is a huge potential for feminist debate around the subject of objectification of the breasts (or as my young relative would put it, about what are baps are there for). However we should be able to consider breast feeding on the basis of the pros and cons the health and relationship attributes for Mum and Babe without becoming dragged into this tangential debate.
Do I hold a wishy washy belief? No, for me it is about balance and, if well informed, Mums can make up their own individual decisions, because when it comes to their child they really can know best! Can I be a lactivist who supports a Mum's decision to bottle feed? I don't care if I am allowed but that is my decision and I will stick by it!
Here is a starting point for help for breast feeding La Leche League offer great support as does the NCT through their website and a network of local councillors the NHS also actively supports it.
Here is an alternative view that this blog elicited from Delighting in the Detail aka @Sunflower26
This is a great post too from the perspective of one Mum who has a babe with food sensitivities Sisters n Cloth - Breastfeeding a baby with food sensitivities
Here are loads of links from Baby Friendly News on breastfeeding (which even has a link back here)