Gravey and Rice

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

"Breastfeeding is Best!!!!"

Now, I agree with that statement- wholeheartedly, I do. But, I'm just a little perturbed at the sheer amount of propaganda that goes along with it. Now, on one hand it's a good thing. The midwives and doctors, the NHS- they're all on board with it. Which means perhaps big business doesnt have a grip on everything after all. After all, the more mothers that can be strongarmed into breastfeeding, the less profit the formula companies are making.

But here's where I start getting a bit peeved. From day one of pregnancy the soon to be mum is assaulted with literature on breastfeeding. Pamphlets, fliers, posters you name it. At her birth class she will spend an hour hearing all the great things about breastfeeding, while the negatives are smoothly glossed over and formula feeding is easily demonized. At the end of the class, however she will be told it's "her choice". Yeah.

But all during these 9 months of constant exposure to how wonderful breastfeeding is and how baby will surely get sick and perish if it's formula fed- noone ever actually asks the woman how she feels, what she wants or what her concerns are. Does that same midwife who is so dedicated to breastfeeding ever once break out a doll and actually show the woman HOW to breastfeed? Where is the video showing how to get baby to latch on properly? And after baby is born- does the midwife spend an intense 20 minutes with mum and baby showing them what to do?

It seems that after all this- when baby is actually born and mum is expected to do her duty, she is left out in the cold. It doesnt take long for this well meaning mother, who was so ready and excited to breastfeed her child, to realize that it isn't quite as natural as they like to make it out. That the slogan "at first it was hard, but after a little help...." is anything but realistic. As she sits hunched over her nursing baby, quietly sobbing because it feels as if her nipple is slowly being ripped off, the midwives bustle around her. When she tearfully begs for help, they tell her to "aim the nipple at the roof of baby's mouth", and are off again. When the pain has morphed into an intense burning that engulfs the nipple, and races up the breast into her arm and she again begs for help she is told "baby is latching on fine- it's swallowing, hopefully the pain will go eventually".

This mother is left alone with a poor baby who only wants to eat and has no idea of the pain it's causing. She is left in tears from the pain, wracked with guilt as she dreads the next feeding and can't help wishing she could avoid it. Knowing that if she doesnt breastfeed she is certainly doing her child a grave injustice as it will cause allergies, obesity and disease later in life. Knowing she can't even express and bottlefeed as it will cause "nipple confusion".

She is left feeling guilty and wracked with pain as she trys to do nothing but what's "best" for her child.

Perhaps our midwives aren't as comitted to breastfeeding, and the health of mum and baby as they like to make themselves out to be.

Perhaps the breastfeeding mission has gone a bit to far, when the mothers who are persuaded to nurse are not even given the support and help that they've been promised, that they need. When they are left feeling guilty, alone and in excruciating pain.


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