A few years ago I considered Jamie Oliver ‘just another celebrity chef’ but with his work on ‘Jamie’s School Dinners,’ his ‘Food Revolution,’ his ‘Ministry of food’ and more recently his campaign to tax sugary-sweetened drink, he has really won me over (I’m sure he’ll be glad) and shown that he is a true advocate and ‘in it for the right reasons’ – but I knew as soon as he brought up the issue of breastfeeding there was going to be an outcry; not because he is a man; not because he has never breastfed; but simply because the issue of breastfeeding is highly emotive from many women.
In fact I deliberately avoiding talking about breastfeeding on my Facebook page because no matter how tactfully or diplomatically I approach the issue there are always women who get up in arms because ‘they couldn’t breastfeed and they already feel bad enough.’
Obviously, this is not my intention and I know I am going to piss off a lot of women when I say this but – it’s not about you.
Yes, I empathise with you that you were unable to feed your baby as you wished; No, I am not blaming you; No, I am not saying you are a bad mother or have doomed your child by providing them formula – you have provided them the best alternative to breastmilk you could, you have nourished them and loved them – but this does not change the fact that breastmilk and the act of breastfeeding is the best option for both mother and child; and by me (and I am sure many others) avoiding talking about this so as not to offend women who couldn’t breastfeed is silencing an issue that needs far more attention.
Not talking about breastfeeding, is not going to change the past experiences of mothers but it most certainly will have an impact on the choices and support of future mothers who are about to enter into the unknown world of breastfeeding – yes it can be hard, but the more we talk about it in a positive light, the more we can reduce the fear, the more we remove the stigma around breastfeeding in public or shaming women for sharing breastfeeding pictures, the more support we are giving to mothers to help them to breastfeed in the future.
We know that support is one of the key factors in initiating, establishing and continuing breastfeeding.
We know that women who were breastfed themselves as babies, are more like to breastfeed their own children – with their mothers likely to play a key role in providing support.
We also know that women are more likely to breastfeed if they have the support of their partner – so maybe Jamie’s message would be better received if he was advocating the importance of fathers in supporting breastfeeding.
I understand that many women feel that the support of midwives and child health nurses is inadequate and this is something that needs to be addressed – but we also know that women who attend playgroups and mothers groups with other breastfeeding mothers will continue to breastfeed for longer.
So my advice to women who are pregnant or are struggling to establish feeding with a new born is to seek support; talk to other breastfeeding mums; ask your child health nurse about mothers group and playgroups in your area, or look them up yourself (here), and find out when your local Breastfeeding Association meets (here).
And my request to women who were unable to breastfeed; please don’t feel you are being picked on, bullied or shamed – you’re not; but please help us support other women, who like you, want a positive breastfeeding experience.
At The Kids Menu, Nikki is our resident Blogger. She is a mum of 3, a Nutritionist, Adult Educator and a Personal Trainer.
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