'the politics of breastfeedin' - Gabrielle Palmer

(63 Posts)
Annpan88 Fri 30-Dec-11 15:51:32

I was wondering is anyone had read this? I'm only up to about page 15 and am finding it so interesting.

I think breastfeeding aside its a really interesting text on women in society and the trappings of a male dominated world.

Would really love to hear other peoples opinions

Thanks smile

everydayisabluesday Fri 30-Dec-11 17:55:50

I've read it and her arguements are very strong in relation to the health of women and children in developing countries, where access to clean water and reliable formula is scarce.

But the evidence of the health benefits of breastfeeding in the west in relation to health is very weak, I feel. The pro-breastfeeding lobby, I feel, is as manipulative and powerful as the big businesses she is argueing against.

When you have finished, I would recommend Joan Wolf's book 'Is Breast Best?: Taking on the Breastfeeding Experts and the New High Stakes of Motherhood' if you want to look examine other aspect of the issues.

EdlessAllenPoe Fri 30-Dec-11 18:01:43

"The pro-breastfeeding lobby, I feel, is as manipulative and powerful as the big businesses she is argueing against"

pro breast feeding - the nHS, NCT, LLL, other charities

pro formula - nestle, cow and gate, SMA ...

not for profit vs profit-making enterprise.

the formula manufacturers marketing budget dwarfs the NHS pro-bf promotion budget. so is not nearly as powerful. Aptamil has a side-ad on my facebook, notably the NHS doesn't....

i really couldn't disagree more strongly to this assertion. what is the factual basis?

SardineQueen Fri 30-Dec-11 18:19:16

A lot of interesting views on breastfeeding out there. There was a french woman recently who said that breastfeeding is oppressive to women, that caused quite a furore. Can't remember the details though, sorry.

I have not read either of the books here but have my own experiences in the UK and also have had some lively (ahem) debates on here.

My feeling is that the BF message in the UK is in real danger of being counter-productive. Personally I just wanted people to STFU about it and answer my actual questions about how to make it work - but they wouldn't. I had a rather difficult time at an NCT BF class with it all. Anyway. I might just offload here as I am a bit bored.

I get annoyed with the assertions from the pro-BF types that women need to have it shoved in their face every 5 mins because the ignoramuses just don't understand what they are supposed to do. The statistics do not bear this out. The vast majority of women in the UK aim to BF and start out trying to BF. The next thing that gets on my tits (HA!) is the way the exclusive BF stats are wheeled out to show that UK women are useless and they all give up on it. When in fact the stats for any BF are very different. Time and time again I link to the stats for any BF which actually show a much rosier picture. Yet they are ignored. Why?

Well I did ask the question once and pointed out that the exclusive stats will exclude women whose baby had eg one sip of formula once in hosp and then went on to be exclusively BF for 2 years. I was then told that if a baby has had even a sip it's gut will be damaged and that's why the exclusive stats are used.


And that's where it falls down for me. The very strongly pro camp sets the bar too high. The message is it's all or nothing.

Whereas the reality is that the message is out there - the vast majority of women set out to BF. Many more than we are led to believe on these pages actually keep it up. The ones who fail usually do so because of poor support with BF post-natally. But the message I read on here so often is that women need to be told even more about the benefits of BF and the post-natal support point is overlooked because the pessimistic stats are being looked at.

Sorry that was a bit of a stream of consciousness.

everydayisabluesday Fri 30-Dec-11 19:58:29

BF is emotive and now political to the detriment of women IMO. Women in the west should be free to chose or not to breastfeed and not feel pressurised in their decision by anyone.

The stats on the health benefits of breastfeeding often orginiate from the WHO, nothing wrong in that. But they include women from all parts of the world, and are applied to all. If you look for reliable data on the benefits of breastfeeding in the west, the data is not very strong.

The majorty of the population in the UK were not exclusively breastfed. It was rare until 20 years ok, and before then it was demonised by health professionals as backwards and dangerous! The complete reversal of opinion says a lot about a powerful BFeeding lobby (who have made importnat gains for women) but at the cost of women's choice again IMO.

Greythorne Fri 30-Dec-11 20:16:58


You may be thinking of Elisabeth Badinter. She is a French philiosopher and heiress to an advertising company and fortune (Publicis).

I found her breastfeeding argument completely risible. Especially when you learn that she is on the board of Publicis who have SMA and Nestlé as clients. Coincidentally (not!) they also have P and G as a client and she also laid ito the cloth nappy concept as it keeps women chained to the kitchen sink and disposables are so much....well, better.

She is a disgrace to the name feminism and very divisive.

I downloaded this for the Kindle a couple of weeks ago but haven't read yet. My experiences of bfing match SQ's assessment. More post natal support is required and good support at that. And not only that it needs to be offered rather than the mother having to seek it out. The biggest problem is what to do and where to go to get answers when it goes wrong. Bfing can be very isolating when it goes wrong.

MN is a fantastic resource with so many knowledgeable people. One if things I have learnt from MN is that almost all Bf problems have solutions. It's just those HCPs you speak to in RL don't necessarily know the answers. So the knowledge is there, it just needs to be out there in RL too.

Beveridge Fri 30-Dec-11 21:37:44

I read PoB as an eyeopening case study of how capitalism actually works and how markets are created for things that we do not actually need. The fact that there is an 80% mark up on formula blew me away.

Annpan88 Sat 31-Dec-11 00:41:53

What I'm taking from it so far is the fact that breast feeding has been linked to the oppression of women. I really agreed that it was the fact that society is sort of based around men and therefore breastfeeding at work is a big no no.

I think it ties heavily into the 3rd wave/2nd wave feminism divide. Do women want to be the same as men or do we want to have our differences respected more by society as a whole?

SardineQueen Sat 31-Dec-11 11:06:52

Greythorne yes that sounds familiar. And I think President Sarkozy recently echoed her ideas which was a bit jaw-dropping coming from a head of state.

SardineQueen Sat 31-Dec-11 11:14:44

Annpan that is a wide and interesting question and you will get different answers from the people who post on this section as we have talked about it in the past a bit! I was surprised at how strongly people felt one way or another.

Reading what you wrote suddenly reminds me of a recent thread about "male brain female brain". I suppose the answer to your question "Do women want to be the same as men or do we want to have our differences respected more by society as a whole?" depends on how different you think men and women actually are.

Obviously biologically we are the ones doing the pregnancy, childbirth and potentially BF and society needs to support these very important roles, with financial and emotional support where required so that babies are born into as secure a situation as possible. After that, for me, is where I part ways with some others. The idea of having a workplace full of babies makes me feel quite twitchy. Quite apart from the difficulty of working, I don't really want to have babies all over the place! My DH and I are reversed to the usual situation where he likes nothing better than being covered in babies, while I spend most of my time plotting how to escape.... So a society set up to "allow" me to have babies all over me the whole time, at work, and fulfil my natural feminine nurturing role would end in me gibbering in a corner.

For me the solution is to be more child / family friendly across society, to make workplaces more flexible for everyone. That way people will be better able to organise their lives and family situations in ways that suit them as individuals. Rather than having to toe the line in a strict gender manner (as happens at the moment really) when it makes so many people unhappy,.

Himalaya Sun 01-Jan-12 22:49:35

I read it a long time ago (when I was breastfeeding...) I feel torn both ways - that women should be supported to breast feed for as long as they want, and that they should be able to give up whenever they want without heartache. Not sure that is possible with such an emotive topic though. choices are always hard when there are real pros and cons on both sides.

I agree SQ there should be no assumptions that all mums should want (or be pushed into) family friendly workplaces full of babies, and that dads dont.

I don't think there is any conflict between thinking there may be aggregate trends which differ between males and females accross the whole population (the brains question...) and thinking that individuals should be able to choose what works for them and not be forced into strict gender boxes.

i.e. respect for differences as individual human beings.

philbee Sun 01-Jan-12 22:52:35

I've not read the book, sorry. But breastfeeding does also mean that it's the mother who has to respond to the baby whenever it wakes up at night etc. I think formula is more egalitarian in that respect.

I personally found what pps said, that when DD was young there were a lot of pro-breastfeeding messages, but no proper detailed help when things were wrong. People just changed 'feed on demand, feed on demand' at me whenever she cried, and they had no ability to deal with even very common complications and problems. There was also a clear message that it was all or nothing, and lots of stuff about nipple confusion if the baby was bottle fed, which I think is really exaggerated and scaremongering. I think this is where it falls down for a lot of women, the support and understanding of how hard it is is just not there.

Beveridge Tue 03-Jan-12 00:19:02

But breastfeeding does also mean that it's the mother who has to respond to the baby whenever it wakes up at night etc. I think formula is more egalitarian in that respect.

True philbee but formula feeding also requires washing/sterilising of bottles as well as making up feeds - do you think these tasks are done as equally by fathers as mothers? Or does bottlefeeding actually create more work for mothers overall even if occasional feeds are given by fathers?

SardineQueen Tue 03-Jan-12 18:04:49

I do think that in our current society where women are increasingly expected to spring back to how they were before they got pregnancy, BF is a difficult thing.

In the olden days you had stuff in different cultures to do with having to lie in bed and have everyone look after you for a certain period of time after having a baby. I guess in those days (and I'm not sure which days or cultures I'm talking about here grin) women did more manual work generally and so really needed not to be going back to their normal lives for a while. But the current idea that after having a baby women should be out and about, glowing, with immaculate babies in lovely ironed clothes, the figure should revert to how it was before pregnancy with an elasticised "ping!" and basically life goes on as before but oh look! a lovely baby now as well.... I think that the reality of having a baby is for many women quite different and they feel that they are somehow not doing it as well as they should be - and BF can be very difficult to establish and is time consuming and in our culture it's quite a thing to start BF when out and about and... and ... and

So I think that on the whole, with society the way it is and the messages the way they are, for many women BF on top of everything else just feels too much on top of everything else, too restrictive.

I think we need as a society to loosen up on women who have recently had children, expectations at the moment (often ones that women put on themselves due to media influence) are just way too high and it causes all sorts of problems.

Stream of consciousness again, apols grin

I agree with OP. I'm saddened to think that bottle-feeding mothers might skip reading it when it has so much to offer women.

I love the version of feminism where women should be valued for being women rather than their ability to compete with men.

SardineQueen Tue 03-Jan-12 18:12:46

Not just the actual feeding - but your body does not go back to "normal" while you are BF, you aren't supposed to wear underwired bras, many women need to wear breastpads and leak a lot which can affect their sex life.... Speaking from experience here grin as someone who had to sleep on a towel even with breast pads in, it's all a bit smelly and leaky and soggy and I wouldn't blame anyone for deciding that actually they want to get back to normal.

And again, these are the sort of things that IME are simply not mentioned at ante-natal BF classes.

I really think that ante-natal classes (or the ones I went to) go too far in not mentioning any potential problems. They seem to think that women are feeble ickle things that will be scared off even trying if they thing it might be a bit hurty. When in fact if women know what can happen, then they are better prepared for the real life experience. Again, expectations are often too high - and in this case they are being set high by the people who are supposed to be promoting BF.

This is just such a wide subject I could ramble on for hours!

honisoit Tue 03-Jan-12 18:14:13

I read it about 20 years ago. I remember enjoying it and feeling empowered by it. There is another book of the same name which is also very good.

I don't think there is enough time to go into the details in classes, which is why leaflets are handed out with bfing helplines on.

Also, the 'Lobby' simply don't have enough volunteers/resources to make sure that women DO know what it is like. There is no secret, but the information and availability of quality information-givers is just not there. So women can only get a basic understanding which is based on the physiology and the benefits rather than the complexity of competing cultural expecations and undoing the years of damage caused by the increasingly clever advertising of the formula companies.

SardineQueen Tue 03-Jan-12 18:58:32

All I know is that when I asked specific questions about problems my friends had with BF, in order to avoid them myself, I was given an absolutely awful response. This was in a BF class with the NHS. My questions were not answered on the NHS ante-natal course either.

I have never seen leaflets giving information about potential problems either. In fact I don't recall being given leaflets in the classes or informed about helplines. There were some leaflets in the "oh look you're pregnant here's your NHS pack with your book in it" thing but I don't remember what they were.

SardineQueen Tue 03-Jan-12 18:59:23

Sorry the awful response was NCT that should say, but NHS wouldn't answer either.

My sense was that they simply did not want to even mention anything negative to do with BF.

I think one of the issues is that many of the 'problems' have cultural and political routes.

It is a 'problem' in this country that the baby feeds every hour during the night which takes it's toll on a mother who is expected to be up, dressed and greeting guests in a house with a clean bathroom by 8:30am.

In countries where breastfeeding is more prominent and the babies are held close and co-slept with, they feed for an average of every 24 minutes day and night and yet the mothers have no 'problem' with this. Neighbours clean her house and cook for her etc.

It is a 'problem' that we are so competitive that maternity leave is used by some to retrain, do an MBA or if not the mother feels depressed for 'doing nothing' in her 'time off' and puts pressure on herself to achieve other things which mean sleeping in the day is forbidden, as is an untidy house etc.

Paid maternity leave is only for 6 months and not at full salary which puts pressure on women to think about bottles.

Friends that live within the same culture expect the woman to continue with social life outside the home etc.

It is very very complicated.

roots, not routes.

And also a lot of 'problems' are not problems per se with bfing, but with expectations. It is very hard to prepare a woman for a baby she has not had, especially in the run up to the birth where her thoughts are pretty much rigidly fixed on labour.

moondog Tue 03-Jan-12 20:26:50

It's an amazing book Annpan, and although I come from a family of breastfeeders, with a very positive attitude to it, I can tell you that it really changed my life.

It's one of the five most important books I have ever read.

SardineQueen Tue 03-Jan-12 21:10:10

The problems that I raised in the BF session were things that my friends had had trouble with - I just said that all of my friends had experienced difficulties of one type or another - from cracked nipples to mastitis - and was there anything that we could do to help avoid things like that. I was told that these things are very rare indeed and that it was impossible that all of my friends had had trouble with BF.

Which left me confused and pissed off, frankly.

SardineQueen Tue 03-Jan-12 21:12:33

My thoughts weren't rigidly fixed on labour and nor were the thoughts of the other women. I find assumptions like that really strange. I was told repeatedly by ante-natal leaders that they wouldn't talk about x, y or z (basically anything I asked them) as people weren't interested and only wanted to talk about the birth. But talking to the people on the course (both courses) that was not the case. But they simply wouldn't answer questions - NCT or NHS. I found it peculiar and unhelpful.

hazchem Tue 03-Jan-12 23:15:59

annpan I'm reading this at the moment (in fact came on here to think about starting a thread about it!)

As with so many things it's following the "money trail" that is interesting.

I'm also enjoying the section on sexuality. particularly because it's something I'm struggling with.

The thing I am finding hardest is how do I balance my knowledge about breastfeeding in a personal context. How do talk positively about breastfeeding without offending formula feeders? (actually do people who formula feed worry about offending breastfeeders?)

MillyR Wed 04-Jan-12 00:21:27

I read it when I was breast feeding my first child, so 13 years ago, and really enjoyed the book.

The thing about breast feeding is that while I understand that it is an important health issues and so on, that isn't my main feeling about it. And like Hazchem, I worry about offending formula feeders so don't generally talk about it. I find that rather sad, because I absolutely loved breast feeding and fed my second child for over two years. It is one of the most enjoyable things I have ever done. To have not breast fed would, to me, be like never having laughed or never having run.

And I feel that we can't talk about it in that context. It has become a rather clinical topic with the constant talk of health benefits, almost as if it is like sterilising a bottle. We can't have conversations where we talk about it having fantastic elements to it (for some people) and horrible elements to it (for some people). I both loved it and had mastitis twice, which I hated. Breast feeding is a unique thing for the body to go through, but it is generally discussed in a very narrow health context.

Annpan88 Wed 04-Jan-12 09:10:56

I personally am loving breast feeding. I don't agree with the argument that its oppressive. I think its a remarkable gift that women have to create and sustain life.

I found it interesting in the book how women in papa new guinea couldn't understand breast feeding problems, as if to say its only in the west we have problems. Before I gave birth I was very naïve and assume breast feeding was easy. I had lots of problems and I cant say I think they stem from negative breast feeding messages. It could be argued though that as I wasn't really exposed to people feeding before I had not point of rerence.

hazchem Wed 04-Jan-12 22:36:30

I'm still reading but think I must be very lucky. Lots of the things that help normalise breastfeeding in traditional societies has occurred naturally in my life.
Including seeing woman breastfeed, having a female relative attend me after the birth and then spending several months rooming in at my parents.

I certainly don't feel it is oppressive. Interestingly i have been trying to look at work that i could do from home in a really flexible way and this appears to have been how things were done in working class homes so woman could continue to breastfeed.

One thing I have been wondering is about the effectiveness of breastfeeding as contraception. I clearly remember the midwives repeating that breastfeeding is not an effective contraceptive. However it seams like it might be

BranchingOut Wed 04-Jan-12 23:03:48

I think I have posted this on the feminism section before, but it was as if becoming a mother and breastfeeding awaked a huge feminine side of me that had been slightly dormant before.

A few days after giving birth I remember looking at my postnatal body in the mirror (clothed) and thinking how amazing it was. I could grow a baby and then I could make this beautiful, sweet food to feed him! All by myself! I was a woman and I didn't give a damnn about anything else.

My main reaction to reading the Politics of Breastfeeding is one of anger. Anger that so many women who wanted to breastfeed have had the opportunity to do this taken way from them by ignorance in HCPs, by social pressures and most of all by commercial influences.

I feel hugely angry when I think of the actions of the formula companies in the UK and incandescently angry when I think of the actions of formula companies in the developing world. Infant ill health and risk of death is what it comes down to, at the end of the day.

It isn't a historical issue. Look at this from last year.

And most of the people who are trying to support women to breastfeed in the uk? Volunteers. Unpaid mothers. I am one of them, but do I have issues with unpaid women doing what the medical and midwifery establishment has failed to do! I think that breastfeeding and support for breastfeeding is a feminist issue if there ever was one.

betternextlife Wed 04-Jan-12 23:40:59

I BF mine because I wanted too and luckily I did not experience too many problems. There is not enough support for women who want to breastfeed and barriers within current cultural context.

But what I resent deeply is that instead of offering proper support to women in both breast and bottle feeding they just try to make women feel 'bad mothers' for not breastfeeding.

Forcing women to breastfeed in 'baby-friendly' hospitals removes women's right to excercise choice over their bodies.

hazchem Thu 05-Jan-12 21:24:03

While I fully believe that woman should have the right to choose it should be informed. The risks in formula feeding need to be explained.

I've been surprised, while reading the book, that the risks of formula feeding are really quite clear but they are just not talked about. while i had been aware of risk i had assumed that these mainly related to developing countries where poor sanitation and lack of money meant formula is dangerous. I'm shocked that babies in developed countries die because they are not breastfeed.

betternextlife Thu 05-Jan-12 23:29:25

I found that teh book exaggerated the risks of bottle-feeding and over-looked the fact that if formula wasn't avialable then babies who could not breastfeed would die.

It is simply not true that all women can produce enough milk, I have worked with a number of women whose babies were deteriortaing because of a lack of breastmilk.

SardineQueen Sat 07-Jan-12 14:37:50

There is also the issue of dehydration in babies who are being BF but not getting enough for whatever reason - babies are admitted to hospital every year for this reason. There was a study a year or 2 ago which looked at the numbers but a lot of people said it shouldn't be publicised as it might put women off BF.

I think that there is a lack of proper neutral information and support unfortunately and that there are problems across the piece.

MuslinSuit Sat 07-Jan-12 15:06:27

Marking place smile

SQ I appreciate your posts about how difficult and far removed from any cosy notions of motherhood the first few months can be! <gazes fondly and slightly claustrophobically at gorgeous boy>

I have left the house precisely 3 times in as many weeks since the birth, house is a bombsite and I have washed my hair for the first time in god knows how long today - am too scared to blow-dry it in case babe wakes for his feed.

Oh and I'm formula feeding. I had a traumatic birth, a CS with numerous complications leaving me in a lot of pain, doped up with morphine. I intended to exclusively bf, had attended the NCT classes, and had the view that it would all be instinctive and lovely. And it was, in recovery after the operation, and straight away in the ward. But then the pain kicked in, and with drugs, drips, catheters, blood drains hanging off me and being flat on my back, I struggled to hold him in a good position to bf, despite being confident and happy to persevere, cuddle and bond. After a couple of lonely nights of agony and various HCAs and midwives being less than supportive, the breastfeeding 'counsellor' reduced me to hyperventilating and a panic attack by shoving babe on to my boob despite my continual protests that I wanted to do it myself and for her to just give tips on positioning. Latch wasn't a problem, nor was the slight pain of latching on, but she kept banging on about it and when I was crying out in pain from my wounds on my tum, she actually said to my DH 'does she really want to breastfeed, she doesn't seem to want to' angry

I was advised to give formula after that (of and told that I was being referred to the HV for 'enhanced post-natal care' ie 'you're failing as a mum and you haven't even left the hospital yet) and I didn't even try to bf again after my panic attack.

I wish I'd been told just how difficult bf after a traumatic c-section can be, and given sensitive support. The bf counsellor seemed oblivious to the pain I was in, and to the fact that I was high as a kite from morphine.

It has been great for DH to be able to share the load though. Now that I've had my rant about lack of support post-natally blush , I might be able to make more measured contributions to the thread re the positives of formula (of which there are clearly many, from a practical and feminist pov)

MuslinSuit Sat 07-Jan-12 15:06:53

Oops sorry for massive rant! <ishoos>

SardineQueen Sat 07-Jan-12 15:33:19

This is exactly the sort of thing I'm talking about.

The support post-natally just isn't there but it is expensive. The cheaper option is to tell women they ought to BF and then leave them to get on with it. I think it is terrible that the current advice is basically guilt inducing but due to poor support the guilt for many women is almost inevitable. Society and lack of funding means women are in many cases set up to fail.


Congratulations on your little boy smile I hope your recovery is speedy, take care of yourself, and don't try to do too much. Everything apart from looking after your little family unit's immediate needs can wait smile

philbee Sat 07-Jan-12 17:25:14

hazchem - what are the risks of bottle feeding in the west?

hazchem Mon 09-Jan-12 22:55:49

philbee They are the same as the are in developing world.
For instance 720 babies (under 12 months old) die in america each year because they are not breastfeed (i'm quoting Politics of breastfeeding here and have recently seen higher figures )
other risks include diarrhoea and respiratory infection
increased risk of meningitis and other infections
increased risk of SIDS
increased risk of diabetes
There are more but i'm not sure its that helpful. Oh and as a side note am I posting this to make anyone feel guilty about formula feeding as i do understand that it lifesaving and needed.
I do however think there need to be much tighter regulation on formula companies.
I think breastfeeding should be seen as a valuable contribution to society .

hazchem Mon 09-Jan-12 23:01:47

Shit just realised it should read I am NOT posting this to make anyone feel guilty. I must use the preview button! Sorry

I think it's fantastic, a very important book. Personally I have found breastfeeding a very empowering experience. Despite serious difficulties getting breastfeeding established (baby lost nearly 20% of birthweight, week in neo natal followed, serious feelings of guilt) I am breastfeeding my son over 2 years later. The advice I received whilst in hospital was bloody awful, truly crap. All I heard was "You can't make him", "Some babies just won't feed, just give him a bottle, it's ok." Not remotely helpful. The pro breastfeeding posters were up everywhere, but the support wasn't. Thanks God for this one nurse who was evangelical about breastfeeding, and just simply 'popped' him on my breast for our first successful breastfeed at 12 days old. I will be eternally grateful to that woman.

I feel so angry that so many women don't receive the correct advice and support. I am angry that breastfeeding isn't seen as the norm, and I am fucking furious with the formula companies. So many of my friends tried to breastfeed, but through crap support did not manage to continue past the first few days/week.

Like BranchingOut, I was amazed (and still am) that my body carried a child, gave birth, and then managed to feed him too. Women are fucking amazing.

Mostlymum Tue 10-Jan-12 01:52:53

WOW SardineQueen I found myself nodding in agreement with so many of your posts.

I was very pro-breastfeeding, before I started......I assumed like many that I had the equipment and my baby had a mouth, and so it was straightforward ....How wrong was I?

I found LLL, NHS local helplines, MW and HV all pretty unhelpful - they did try but I felt under incredible pressure to BF exclusively (I had twins, one who got the hang of it and one who just simply could not/ would not open mouth). Docs on ward tried to medicalise it as low blood sugar or tongue tie.

I was so desperate at 5 days that my DS had not had enough to eat/drink and had bone dry nappies for all that time, yet when I asked what to do I was told to persevere. I began to hate BF so much.

Lol! my last job at work prior to Mat Leave had been to ensure everything was in place for a BF support person for my local NHS.

I did feel cheated, BF was far from the rosy ideal painted in ANC, if I did not have such a a) strong grip on the benefits of BF b) shame at going back to work and saying I had failed I would have given up, but boy was I miserable and angry and resentful.

Worst of all when I was readmitted to hospital I was prevented from BF 24 hrs because I needed some sort of radioactive scan, could not get a breast pump in time to offload the amount I needed for 2 in 24hours, no one seemed able to advise me how much anyway, and when I asked for help about formula feeding so as to feed my little uns for that 24 hrs was told point blank by a MW that she could not tell me as it breached her ethical guidelines. shock

Luckily the formula tins tell you what to do, so it was mad dash to supermarket and rapid purchase of bottles, sterilizers the works, and so my DS&DD were introduced to Formula and I felt upset and unsupported.

While flashing blue lights to hospital 5 days post birth and the disruption that brings could not be accounted for in ANC, I do think that if I had more realistic knowledge of the possible problems I would have been more prepared.

I look back to those first few months until DS proved the MW, BF support, and all the diagrams WRONG by latching on in his own unique way as a wash of sour milky smells, loads of day time TV,soreness and the sound of a child crying for a feed.

I kept on till they were 17 months. Mixed as they never got weaned off formula after the hospital saga, as much as I tried.

Would I do it again??? I would like to think yes but honestly unsure.

Finally best support I got was off Google, just looking for answers

InMyChime Tue 10-Jan-12 02:31:15

I have to second everything you say, SardineQueen: the reason that more women don't breastfeed is not because of brainwashing by the patriarchy and the evil formula companies. It's because breastfeeding is bloody difficult! And the support is just not always there.

The NCT was similarly unhelpful for me when we had our breastfeeding session as part of their ante-natal classes. The bf counsellor giving the class just claimed that bf is 'natural' and the baby will just find the nipple and feed himself if you leave him on your chest, skin-to-skin. Will he bollix. Possibly at 6 weeks old when he's been trained to breastfeed already but not as a newborn! When I asked questions about pain, cracked nipples etc, I was simply told that if it hurts, you're doing it wrong. Every piece of information I got about bf-ing from NCT, NHS etc was an absolute lie. That was one of the main reasons I gave up too soon on bf-ing with my DS because I thought 'my god, I'm obviously crap at this and it's just not working out'. WHen I spoke to other women later, they all had had some similar issues with bf-ing, not quite as many issues as me but some. Bf-ing has to be learned by mother and baby and, yes, it maybe easy and natural in Papua New Guinea but we don't live in that kind of society and haven't for centuries now.

I think, as you say SQ, there is pressure from public health organisations not to ever say anything even slightly negative about bf-ing in case the little ladies get scared. They can't admit that bf-ing is anything other than natural and easy and simple because otherwise they feel they're endorsing formula. Honesty about problems and solutions would be more effective.

Mostlymum Tue 10-Jan-12 14:32:41

So true Chime

I am now half way through the book and really enjoying it.

I have had problems with both my sons breastfeeding, one of which wasn't solved and the other was, only after I banged on some tables and insisted on seeing someone.

I agree BFing is difficult, however, I think one of the mesages from the book is that it has been made far more difficult than it needs to be because of how it was (and still is) taken over by the men who thought women couldn't possibly know what was best. This has had a massive knock-on affect in the western world and a lot of word of mouth knowledge has been lost as a result. Advice that would have been passed from mother to daughter; aunt to niece; sister to sister etc just isn't there. In addition society isn't set up for bfing. Women don't walk around with babies latched on or breasts out, because they are seen as sexual organs, not feeding organs.

Taking a couple of examples. Above a couple of people mentioned about dehydrations/not enough milk. I really get the impression from the book that problems like this are, in the main, down to the way we breastfeed in the western world. Babies do not have unlimited access to the breast, for various reasons. Palmer described women in other countries who were feeding every half hour even through the night while asleep. That isn't mentioned in any ante-natal class I went to. In fact co-sleeping is positively discouraged.

Another example is the medicalisation of birth which causes knock-on affects for breast-feeding. I had an epi and forceps delivery for DS1. He wouldn't latch on, had a hypoglycaemic fit and we were separated for a week. At no point was skin-to-skin suggested or promoted as a real way to try and get him to latch on. Another suggestion I have heard since those dark days was a deep bath with the baby (which worked when I was having problems with DS2 latching on). I was basically told that I had missed the window of opportunity to get him to latch on - he was less than 2 weeks old at this stage. This was a LIE. Kangaroo care would probably have been the way to go.

It is all about support. It isn't there. If breastfeeding hadn't been mucked around with in the first place, then this support wouldn't be needed, it would already be there in the form of relatives, friends, neighbours etc. If we invest in support now, then a generation or two down the line will have the knowledge and support already there and available within the women they know. The longer we delay in providing this support then, exponentially, the longer this problem will exist.

InMyChime - I don't think women have been brainwashed by the patriarchy as such, but the patriarchy have made it more and more difficult to breastfeed in this society. That is really the crux of the matter. Formula companies have capitalised on that.

BranchingOut Tue 10-Jan-12 14:40:20

I urge any woman on this thread who has bf and feels strongly about this issue to train as a peer supporter. It is hugely rewarding and you can do it via the BfN, the NCT, LLL and Association of Breastfeeding Mothers. The training I have received from BfN has been very high quality and has opened up avenues for me in my working life. Contact your local infant feeding coordinator via your local authority website, hospital or midwife and they should point you in the right direction.

BranchingOut Tue 10-Jan-12 14:42:42

To add, I think you can also do it if you have ff due to lack of bf support and feel strongly about this issue!

HoleyGhost Tue 10-Jan-12 15:01:06

I agree with Sardine Queen's excellent posts.

There is some weird "breastfeeding is natural" notion, which seems to mean that sod all support is given to women, and the problems that we have are not taken seriously. Even 60 years ago, when breastfeeding was the norm, women were accustomed to seeing it done, and usually had extended family support - breastfeeding often failed, or so my Grandmother tells me. It is utterly marvellous that we have formula as an alternative, and don't have to try and make our own.

The risks of formula are minimal here in the UK, and so the benefits of breastfeeding are wildly exaggerated. It all adds to the pressure put on women at the most vulnerable time of our lives. Antenatally, I got lots of leaflets, a dvd, a whole antenatal class of breastfeeding propaganda - and none of it covered common problems like thrush. I memorised the positions but still could not get my baby to latch on. Hospital staff were worse than useless.

They have chosen to devote so much money and midwives' time to pressuring women antenatally, but very little to breastfeeding support. That says a lot about the respect they have for women and our ability to make informed decisions.

BranchingOut - I definitely want to do that! Thanks for the pointers.

MuslinSuit Tue 10-Jan-12 16:14:30

I would say that the breast-feeding counsellor in the hospital was not v sensitive at all, and showed no awareness of the pain I was in post-c-section, blaming my lack of commitment to bfing instead for my tears. If she'd been trained properly she could have helped me better. Also she came to see me about 30 mins after my morphine injection which meant I was high as a kite, which caused me to hyperventilate when I got stressed. I agree with the poster who said they concentrate on banging on about bfing and how important it is, but by not providing proper help to new mums they make you feel like a failure. I'm not a failure for ffing, and my baby is beautiful and healthy and my DH is taking an equal role in his feeding and nurturing from day one.

astreetcarnamedknackered Tue 10-Jan-12 16:16:31

What branching our said!

astreetcarnamedknackered Tue 10-Jan-12 16:17:00

Sorry branching: Out not our.....

hazchem Tue 10-Jan-12 18:01:36

This thread is raising some really interesting questions.

The big one I see is how do you offer good quality and timely support and encouragement without coercing woman to breastfeed? How can formula feeding be an option while not undermining breastfeeding?

As I was reading the book I did think i would get to the last chapter and have a bit of blue print for how to make things better. What to ask for? what to rage at?

MuslinSuit Wed 11-Jan-12 00:09:09

I wanted to bf and intended to bf. It was a logical decision - natural, free, bonding with baby. Also if I'm honest, a smidgen of wanting to be a 'real mother' after having a c-section so not going through labour.

But postnatal support issues aside: now that I am ff, I know logically that it is a bit of a faff sterilising and making up bottles, but that DS is thriving and will continue to thrive. It's no small thing for me as an adult, a feminist, an independent person and someone who likes to low-carb diet when I want to be lean, to drink alcohol to relax, as someone who wants to look good in a bikini, that ff is not at all a bad thing (I hesitate to say choice, because it wasn't really one). Most of all, my DH having a wonderful 5 weeks of paternity leave at full pay, he has taken as full a nurturing role as I have with our son, allowing me to recover and rest, not be overwhelmed and have lots of lovely bonding time with our son.

People who want to bf should be helped, not coerced or made to feel guilty. Ff isn't evil, the companies may well be but it's hardly heroin. It's removed a painful, difficult and incredibly demanding part of being a mother and made it into an equal opportunity role for both parents in my relationship at least. As a very new mum, the shock of having this beautiful little creature reliant on me for everything is a shock - feeding takes about 45 mins every 3 hours. I can't even begin to imagine what this would all be like if I was breastfeeding too. I have massive respect for women who do - not because they are somehow magical or superhuman, or achieved something great, but because they have actively chosen such a huge self-sacrifice for the benefit it has to their baby, when they have another, far far easier option which I pragmatically fail to see as a lesser option healthwise, and I am trying to make it a bonding experience by maintaining skin-to-skin and eye contact during feeds - these things aren't exclusive to bfers.

Just my thoughts smile

Mostlymum Wed 11-Jan-12 00:35:22

I find it very odd that breasts are seen as sexual organs, but then I spent my teens in rural Africa were breasts were predominantly stuck in babies mouths.
It really was a shock, I recall the instant someone told me they would have a problem breastfeeding cos of sex. I was like what? There was a very interesting documentary looking a young women's attitudes so I have got my head around it better. ie understand why, but don't have the view myself.

I did better at bf when I got home, I just lay on my bed and kept my babies very close, it was claustrophobic but I was determined to succeed which is also why I never went out for 3 months - except brief visit to hospital.

I used to keep a diary of feeds as I was so sleepy, each twin, latch on, off, and duration of feed per day at the end, just so I knew who had what as I was so exhausted I really did not know which nappy had been changed etc.

The upside for me was I was on Mat Leave, DH knew his way around a cooker and vacuum cleaner, I did not do anything except BF one child, and struggle to BF the other.

The women in Africa that I had seen somehow managed to feed their children, get firewood, fetch water, go to market.......

no particular point I am trying to make, odd jumble of thoughts, memories. BF is complex and wonderful, and rewarding and hard too. If I had only my expert intuitive bf child(DD) I would not have realised all this. If I had only my "er mum what are you trying to do to me with THAT Aaaaargh" child DS, I may well have given up in the first week no matter my convictions. DD taught me that I should not blame myself I wasn't a failure. DS to keep trying and not everything you were taught to expect is right.

HoleyGhost Wed 11-Jan-12 12:52:49

That is a lovely post MuslinSuit. I managed to breastfeed my dd for over two years, and I still wish I had set out to formula feed.

Breastfeeding is wonderful when it works out, formula is also excellent, nobody should be brow beaten about their choice.

Annpan88 Sat 14-Jan-12 16:02:24

Really good to hear points from mothers who ff.

I'm reading this book at a really interesting time, not only because I'm bfing, but because the birth of my son has really made me rethink a lot of things. For example, I don't think I ever truely respected the role of a mother (didn't disrespect it, just thought 'have baby, then go back to work after 6 months) and I never thought I'd even consider extended breast feeding, but now it just makes so much sense.

ClothesOfSand Wed 18-Jan-12 00:12:48

Muslinsuit, I breastfed two babies and I really don't feel that I have made any kind of sacrifice or that FF would have been an easier option. Like most things in life, some people find one way easier and others find another way easier.

I don't think breastfeeding mums are more likely to make eye contact. Yes, it is time consuming to breast feed, but I spent a lot of the time reading books or the paper, as I didn't at the time know about the eye contact thing! Certainly beyond a certain age, the baby breastfeeds itself at night, so I wasn't even awake when that was going on.

And I can't really be bothered with all that washing of bottles and heating of milk. I did express some milk, and did find it a bit of a hassle with all the sterilising and heating and so on.

When you get on to extended breastfeeding, the amount of time you spend doing it each day is tiny compared to how much you'd spend feeding a newborn. By 2 it might just be one feed when the mother gets in from work or when the child gets in from playgroup.

And I enjoyed breast feeding. It was no more of a sacrifice than being asked to eat chocolate every day. Of course some days I'd rather not, but overall I found it very enjoyable.

So I don't think it is a self sacrifice for women who it worked out well for. FF and BF is perhaps like some people playing the violin and some playing the guitar - not harder or easier, just different and suit different people.

Finished the book and really enjoyed it. It got me so angry about how bring has completely been taken away from women by men because they thought they knew better. How many women and children have died because of this. Millions, literally. The "Maternity Letters" bit made me want to weep for those women.

I liked how it also delved into other aspects of having children such as giving birth, recovery from birth, childcare and working and breast feeding (and here I have to disagree with SQ in that I think we have been socially conditioned to not accept bfing in the workplace. If the whole working system was overhauled from a female perspective then breastfeeding and working would be much more normal and preferable).

I did think that Palmer minimised a bit the problems women in the Western world experience and painted more traditional communities as idyllic. Women are having real problems, they aren't imaginary. For example she barely mentioned tongue-tie which causes a mass of issues, pain included, and is under-diagnosed in this country. I did agree though that the way we give birth, the way we recover and the lack of ongoing support and BF structure in our society all lead to breast feeding issues.

I agree with you Annpan that extended bfing makes so much sense now and I would never have considered it before.

That first sentence should say bfing not bring.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now