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To say if you don't want to bf then fine but don't lie that you can't

(423 Posts)
Lily1986 Fri 23-Nov-12 10:21:42

A friend is ff her baby son. She tried to bf but gave up after a few days. Privately she told me that she didn't like having to bf and wanted her dh to share the load. To everyone else she is saying that she didn't produce enough milk and is seeking sympathy from others that her body wasn't able to provide for her baby. Really laying it on thick.

I really don't have a problem with how anyone chooses to feed their baby.

AIBU to feel angry at this friend trying to make people feel sorry for her?

Edma Sun 25-Nov-12 19:40:31

Ballerina I am sorry you have a phobia (I also have one although very different so I can understand) and although BF is not always a walk in the park, you certainly have a horrific vision of it!

As far as value, even formula company advertise that Breast is best, so this, I would have thought, is not debatable!
And regarding education, Scandinavian countries could teach us a thing or two.

I will leave it here as I find it tiresome to have to walk on eggshells just to have to state the obvious:
Breast is best.
The formula company spend hundred of thousands in clever multi-platform marketing campaigns (I work in the marketing industry).

FlangelinaBallerina Sun 25-Nov-12 19:54:08

Edma thanks but I don't have a phobia. I'm not frightened of having my nipples touched, it just goes through me. I find it physically horrible, and I'm not alone in this either. Which is why I hated bf so much, I suppose. As for telling me I have a horrific vision of bf, that won't really do: I've done it myself and the other examples I mentioned were taken from experiences of other women here (if I'd had a DC who woke for a feed that often I think I'd have lost my marbles by now!).

What it comes down to is this. You can't really dismiss the bf experiences of me and other women. They happened to us, so they are valid, and they did not happen to us because of advertising or our lack of education. There is no magic combination of circumstances that will make the circumstances I mentioned less excruciating for the women concerned. Some babies just wake up more than their mothers can cope with, it happens. Some people find it impossible to get rid of thrush, it happens. nothing to be done about it. For women who cannot endure such situations, ff is a godsend. Prior to that, we'd perhaps have been amongst those who sank into postnatal depression, harmed our infants when at the end of our tethers, or who turned to unsuitable alternatives that left our babies ill. This all happened before ff advertising, and it happened because some women find bf an impossible ordeal.

Nobody is saying breast is not best so I wonder why you mention that? The issue here is that you think there is a problem that can be solved with better education and, I assume, advertising reform. I, on the other hand, don't see the current situation as a problem and feel there is insufficient acceptance from some pro bf advocates that many women make well informed choices to ff because they want to.

PropertyNightmare Sun 25-Nov-12 20:00:08

Yanbu. Anyone who knows anything about breastfeeding understands that there are very, very few women unable to bf. I always take the statement 'oh, I tried to bf but I didn't produce enough milk' with a large pinch of salt. You hear it countless times. To me, bf is the fourth trimester. It can be hard work and demanding but is the absolute best start you can give your baby. I completely understand that some women don't want to bf (pregnancy and birth are exhausting) and that is 100% their choice. Be honest about it though. Don't spread negative lies about bf. Lots of people wean their babies on jars of food. You don't hear them saying " I tried cooking fresh food but could not do it". If you are going to make a choice then own it. Just say "I made a decision not to bf as I find bottle feeding easier".

MyGoldenNotebook Sun 25-Nov-12 20:29:39

I know what you mean Ballerina! This whole debate really riles me. I have three degrees, a successful professional career etc ... I am educated and more than capable of researching important issues! I did try to breast feed but after a short time I made an informed choice to FF (for reasons I don't feel the need to justify to anybody at five months down the line - did suffer in the early days from guilt but I'm over that) and I do not need to be patronised.

I think the OPs friend can be forgiven for lying if she feels guilty / pressured. The OP has royally betrayed her trust though.

WhenSheWasBadSheWasHopeful Sun 25-Nov-12 20:37:34

I don't think the op is BU. Her friend could very easily just tell people, I tried bf but it didn't work out. Lying to get sympathy would annoy me too.

I do think the nhs, health visitors etc should be more honest about what bf is like in the early days. At our antinatal class we were told the baby would be born and instantly climb up your stomach and latch on. Bf would then be simple. I was livid with them for painting such an unrealistic picture for the class who were all first time mums (as was I).

I then went on to give birth to a baby who crawled up my tummy and latched on straight away.
Problem was getting her off, she fed every 45minutes for an eternity a month.

PropertyNightmare Sun 25-Nov-12 20:45:26

^^ agree entirely. I've extended bf all four of mine but it is hard at the start and no-one warns you. An unrealistic picture is painted by health professionals and this leads to people stopping bf as they feel that they are someone failing as it is not easy as they have been lead to believe that it will be.

verylittlecarrot Sun 25-Nov-12 20:52:59

A few people have asked why it bothers the OP so much that her friend used a fake excuse.
I suspect that it isn't the individual woman's excuse that is causing the 'bother'. I can understand that someone might choose to say one thing because it helps gain sympathy and avoid judgement. And no-one deserves flack for their feeding choices, regardless of their reasons.

The 'bother' comes more from the cumulative effect of many, many, many people repeating the same reason; "not enough milk". More people repeating that as a reason than proportionately truly suffer from the complaint. And the cumulative effect is that many people are subsequently convinced that "not enough milk" is a huge problem, affecting a majority of mothers, resulting in doomed breastfeeding attempts. This means that doctors, midwives, health visitors, mothers, friends, husbands, mother-in-laws and Uncle Tom Cobley and all are all on hand to unwittingly undermine the confidence of a new, struggling mother by suggesting that she too might have this very common problem.

And so on it goes.

My heart does sink a bit when I hear people quote this as their main reason, although obviously I say nothing and I offer sympathy if it is wanted. I have no way of knowing if they have a medical problem or a problem of technique which was potentially fixable or are in fact covering up their real reasons. And it isn't my business to enquire either. But it is sad that it is thought to be a very common (as in affecting far more than a few percent) and unfixable problem.

FlangelinaBallerina Sun 25-Nov-12 20:53:50

See I knew bf could well be awful, but wanted to have a go anyway. Perhaps slightly optimistic given the nipple thing, but I thought it was worth a try. The reason I stopped wasn't due to an unrealistic idea of what bf would be like. It was because of a realistic idea of what bf was like! But yes, it does no good to lie to women.

I've yet to see anyone explain why exhausted new mums who find bf an imposssible ordeal should take the responsibility for ensuring others aren't put off. That's the job of the pro bf organisations, not women like OPs mate who are frightened of being judged by women like some of the obnoxious militants we've come across this thread. Fortunately, women do have access to sources of information other than their friends.

WhenSheWasBadSheWasHopeful Sun 25-Nov-12 21:05:00

flangelina I think people (and new mums) do have a responsibility to be honest about the problems you can face.

I thought I wasn't producing enough milk because dd was feeding for so long. If I had listened to friends telling me, they had had the samd problem and to just top her up. My milk would have dried up.

WhenSheWasBadSheWasHopeful Sun 25-Nov-12 21:06:00

Oops didn't proof read that last post

gimmecakeandcandy Sun 25-Nov-12 21:15:45

Totally agree PRopertynivhtmare, which is why I tell those who I help how hard and how relentless it can be.

FlangelinaBallerina Sun 25-Nov-12 21:35:00

Ok WhenSheWasBad, I disagree strongly because new mothers are going through so much already. Putting any more responsibility on them is outright cruelty, as well as being utterly unnecessary in this context given that there are so many sources of information out there already. Because it is too much to expect of new mums, it is the responsibility of people who are not going through as much to get the message out there. And the fact that you didn't listen to your friends rather undermines the argument that people like your friends put women off. Presumably there was some reason why you didn't do this. If you didn't, I have to wonder why you assume lots of other women do.

But as we do know that some ff mums lie because of stigma, the good news is that you can help. You can do everything you can to stop people who insist on broadcasting their negative judgements of women who ff. This is what leads some women to lie.

WhenSheWasBadSheWasHopeful Sun 25-Nov-12 21:49:36

Sorry I should have been clearer.

If I had listened to friends telling me, they had had the same problem and to just top her up. My milk would have dried up.

I didn't have any friends telling me to give the bottle. That was just an imagined scenario. I was lucky and had tonnes of support (and a baby that fed well). Sorry that wasn't clear.

I'm not saying she should have stood up and said "I stopped bf cause I couldn't be arsed" a simple "we tried and it didn't work out" would be fine. People really aren't that nosey in RL.

Also new mothers don't stay new mothers for long. The ops friend has a 6 month old, I am assuming there is no pnd.

EasilyBored Sun 25-Nov-12 22:02:57

I spent ages trying to decide whether to continue BFing (DS was thriving, I was not), and talked to so many people about it. I got advice from here, from LLL advisors, from friends and family. None of it seemed to deal with the fact that I really hated it even though there was nothing practical wrong. In the end I think it was my mum who said that all I really needed was to feel like I had permission from someone to say actually, I HATE this, it is making me miserable and making me resent my baby, I don't want to do it anymore. When people asked afterwards, I explained for ages all the myraid little ways it was difficult for me, now I just say that it didn't work out for us. Because 11 months down the line I can see that, for us, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't matter. At the time I felt like shit about it, like I was a horrible selfish mother who was putting her needs above her baby. Many tears were shed. I look back now and all I remember is that I did love the first few weeks of snuggly feeds, and also the sheer relief of finally deciding to give up. I felt like a huge weigh had been lifted and I was so much happier and more engaged as a mum afterwards.

BUT, none of that is anyone elses business. Where I live, it is just assumed that you will BF at least for the first couple of months, and I did get a few 'oh, you're not BFing anymore hmm ' comments, but most people were either supportive or just not really invested in how I fed my baby, except for a couple of notable exceptions. I know now that I don't need to justify my choice, and now I recognise that anyone who would think less of me for making that particular choice, is not a friend I want.

FlangelinaBallerina Mon 26-Nov-12 08:53:48

Thanks for the clarification WhenSheWasBad. Unfortunately, it's incorrect to say that nobody's that nosy in real life. People have posted examples of such nosiness in this thread- so we know that there are certainly people out there that are. It happens. As for new mothers not being new mothers for long, that's irrelevant: during the time when they are new mothers, you want to put an extra responsibility on them. Not only is that cruel, it's also daft, because new mothers are not exactly renowned for their ability to accomplish things beyond sorting the baby out and sometimes themselves.

cory Mon 26-Nov-12 09:40:28

PropertyNightmare Sun 25-Nov-12 20:00:08

"Anyone who knows anything about breastfeeding understands that there are very, very few women unable to bf. I always take the statement 'oh, I tried to bf but I didn't produce enough milk' with a large pinch of salt. You hear it countless times. To me, bf is the fourth trimester. "

Ah, so you'd take it with a big pinch of salt then if somebody told you their baby had been born prem? hmm

I still don't get the logic of this: "It has been shown that problems occur very rarely, therefore we should not believe anyone who says they did have problems."

Where else in life do we apply this kind of logic?

A. -My baby was born at 26 weeks of gestation.

B.- No, no, I'd take that with a big pinch of salt, because statistics show that most babies are born between 36 and 42 weeks of gestation. I think you're making excuses.

A. -My aunt died from Reyes syndrome.

B. - This has got to be a myth, because over 99% of the population do not develop Reyes syndrome.

A. -My 3yo can't walk.

B. - Don't try to make us sorry for you: the vast majority of babies learn to walk before they are 2 if you just keep trying hard enough.

The problem with the bf promoters on this thread is that they are talking about two different questions without seeming to realise it:

a) should we assume that the vast majority of any given population of women would be able to breastfeed if given adequate support (yes, we bloody well should!)

b) should we assume that any one individual has got to be lying if she claims to be unable to breastfeed (no, that's a different issue).

In the same way, playschools, schools, towns are laid out on the assumption that the vast majority of 3yo's will have learnt to walk. And very right and proper too. But I think we could all agree that it would be cruel and counterproductive to assume that any one mother whose child doesn't fit in, is lying (and rather ignorant to assume that doctors would always be able to diagnose the reason straight away).

cory Mon 26-Nov-12 09:48:06

In my case, it would have helped enormously if someone had said at an early stage:

"look here, I don't want to upset you, but has it occurred to you that some babies do actually have SN; if your dd is one of them you won't change things by insisting that she has to be able to do the same thing as other children; you may just have to go with what works for her"

You see, I had got muddled between "you should be able to expect this of the majority of children/mothers" and "you should be able to expect this from yourself and your own child". And I was even taught logic at school, so really had no excuse.

PropertyNightmare Mon 26-Nov-12 10:09:24

Cory, a prem baby born at 26 weeks is obviously that is not a usual situation therefore taking feeding issues outside the norm re ability of mother and baby to bf successfully with perseverance.

As I said, there is no shame in not bf. People need to be honest about their reasons for not doing so though. 'I didn't want to' or 'I wanted my husband to share the load' are both fair decisions. Saying 'it was impossible due to lack of milk and a starving baby' is unfair when it is not the truth. Every damaging lie told about bf makes it that little bit harder for women to bf successfully.

cory Mon 26-Nov-12 11:03:16

Ok, never mind about the prem baby: an aunt dying from Reyes syndrome or a toddler unable to walk at 3 is an unusual situation- so does that make it a lie? What you seem to be saying is, anything we know about is the truth, anything that is rare and little understood has got to be a myth.

What I am trying to drum home again and again is that many parents go through parenthood blaming themselves for what later turns to be undiagnosed SN/medical complications.

Believe me, I've been there. Being told again and again not to make excuses for all the things I failed to do with dd and having no idea what was wrong, why she was failing to thrive, why she wasn't walking.

Diagnosis for us came after 8 years; before that I was routinely dismissed as a parent with no perseverance. A liar. Would you have liked to live through those 8 years surrounded by people who thought your muddled explanations were wrong because they were making it harder for other women to parent their children?

How could I possibly be honest about anything when I didn't know what I was supposed to be honest about? What form should that honesty have taken? What could I have said except "dd is starving, she is losing weight, I have lots of support and am following all the advice and feeding round the clock and she is still losing weight"?

cory Mon 26-Nov-12 11:07:29

And in case you think I am unusual, can I just point out that a survey made of people with dd's condition revealed that over half the sufferers surveyed had waited over 10 years between first seeking medical opinion and finally receiving a diagnosis. So expecting their mums to know what was going wrong during the first months of their lives might be asking rather a lot...

PropertyNightmare Mon 26-Nov-12 11:48:47

Cory, I don't know the back story to your situation but I can appreciate that it must have been very upsetting and stressful not knowing what was wrong with your child. I'm sorry that you had to go through that. If you were one of the people unable to produce enough milk or for some other reason your dc could not thrive on breastmilk then I understand that it must have been very distressing fir you and dc.

The point people on this thread are making is that it is wrong to lie about reasons for stopping bf. Most of the people I know who stop bf give lack of milk/starving baby as their reason. Statistically they can't all be telling the truth, though obviously the odd person is. It would be better for the minority telling the truth if people like OP's friend did not lie. If I had only heard a few people mention failure to produce milk then that would fit with the stats. It would also be better for breastfeeding generally if people admitted to stopping bf being due to a 'choice' rather than as the result of medical impossibly to bf.

The latest friend who gave up bf due to 'failure to produce milk ' did so at 24hrs post vaginal birth. The midwife explained that her milk had not yet come in but my friend was convinced her baby was starving (her husband was quite vocal in agreeing it was cruel to deprive the baby of milk) and so she turned to bottles. Absolutely fine and her decision. No one would have milk at that point though and I find it sad that my friend (and her dh) thought her body had failed her when it hadn't. All the shouting about 'lack of milk' can subconsciously sabotage women and men's belief in bf being a good choice.

cory Mon 26-Nov-12 12:05:00

"Statistically they can't all be telling the truth, though obviously the odd person is."

But the problem is, you can't know which one. So assuming that any one woman has to be lying can do a lot of damage to an innocent person. Your friend probably was lying, I wasn't. So judging me by her would not have been right.

And I feel a bit hurt at the suggestion that any mention of our problem constitutes shouting and that I shouldn't really talk about my difficulties because it would be wrong and upsetting for the "normal ones".

chipmonkey Mon 26-Nov-12 12:10:47

When SIL was pregnant with her first dd, she was very vocal about NOT breastfeeding. She wasn't going to do it, she said herself that she was "too selfish" wanted to be able to go out and leave the baby with MIL, have her dh share the feeds etc etc etc. So she ff her dd.
When she was pregnant with her ds, I remember having a similar conversation with her where she said MIL was pressurising her to bf and she told MIL that if she hadn't bf the first, she was hardly going to bf the second.
All four of her children were ff.

Then a few years later we were standing around talking to neighbours and she told them all that she "tried to bf dd but failed miserably"
It DID annoy me because I knew it was a lie. I didn't actually care that she'd ff but I didn't like the lying, particularly because I was the only one of the neighbours there that had bf, and she knew I knew her reasons for ff and wasn't bothered, so I wasn't sure why she was bothering to lie about it.

PropertyNightmare Mon 26-Nov-12 12:25:55

Cory, I did not mean to hurt you and I am sorry if I have. I simply wish that people would be more honest about reasons for stopping bf. As someone telling the truth I can see that you have strong feelings about this. People like mine and OP's friends are doing a disservice to both bf and mothers like you.

cory Mon 26-Nov-12 12:55:55

"People like mine and OP's friends are doing a disservice to both bf and mothers like you."

Afraid you can count me out over this one. Over the 8 years before dd's diagnosis and the 8 years that have passed since, I do not recollect any harm coming to either of us through anybody else's muddled account of their own parenting difficulties. I've never had the slightest difficulty in listening sympathetically and accepting that people have different experiences and what happened to you is no guide to what will happen to me.

Otoh enormous harm has been done by suspicious people who have persisted in believing that if our experiences did not tally exactly with what they knew about, then we had to be lying. That was the attitude that nearly drove me into PND when I was trying to keep dd fed and things weren't working out. That was the attitude that later drove dd to school refuse, to self-harm and eventually to attempt suicide- because she knew people would think her a liar if her explanations of what was happening to her body didn't make sense to them.

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