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in thinking breastfeeding needn't mean martyring yourself?

(320 Posts)
kentishgirl Tue 26-Aug-14 12:14:49

Hi - sorry to start yet another bf thread, and I realise this might be contentious, but so many of the bf threads on here make me look like hmm. I realise I'm probably a bit out of date with current thinking on all this, but bf sounds like so much hard work these days...and a little bit of me thinks some bf mums kind of enjoy being a martyr and it's competitive about how hard and such a sacrifice etc etc. This is not about mums who find it physically difficult or impossible to bf.

I bf in the 80s for 11 months. Babe had the odd bottle of formula if I wasn't around.

What puzzles me a bit is this stuff, that I read about on here a lot. Is this the reality now of bfing for everyone/most mums, or is this a minority who just talk about it a lot?

Cluster feeding - having a baby whacked on to you nearly non stop for weeks. Er...this wasn't 'a thing' when I bf. Sometimes babies were hungrier than other times. But no one sat there constantly bfing. Feeding on demand was a thing - but flexibly and not to the exclusion of being able to live a normal life. It just meant it wasn't feeding strictly to the clock. You expected to feed roughly every 2/3 hours within a couple of weeks once feeding was established.

If a baby cried, then it wasn't assumed to be hunger. You'd think 'well I only fed him half an hour ago', check nappy, play, distract, give water, is baby tired etc. It was accepted that there are times that babies just plain old cry. It's an easy solution to pop them on the breast, but it wasn't seen as their really needing a feed.

Longer and bigger bfs - it sounds like babies are on and off the breast all the time for a few mouthfuls these days. We used to do a good feed, if baby started nodding off or losing interest, you'd tap their cheek/stimulate them to get them feeding again. So you'd have a more 'normal' spacing between feeds, they didn't on the whole get hungry again a short time later.

Is it just me, or just the threads I read, that make it sound like every time a bf baby squeaks these days it's straight on to the breast, and there are women who literally have no life of their own or time of their own for months on end, because of this? And isn't this awfully off-putting to new mums about starting to breastfeed?

I know more mums start breastfeeding these days, and that's great. But so many drop out and switch to formula instead, whereas I think in the past, a higher proportion of those who started breastfeeding, continued with it. Is the new 'baby led' attitude to bf a bit of a double edged sword because of this? More try, but it's harder, so more have to give up?

LadyLuck10 Tue 26-Aug-14 12:18:52

Yanbu, I feel the same. I think a lot of people have lost the plot along the way in their obsession and competitiveness with others to be be martyrs and in fact are the ones who make their own lives difficult.

StillStayingClassySanDiego Tue 26-Aug-14 12:20:14

I realise this might be contentious and yet you started it anyway grin

MrsWinnibago Tue 26-Aug-14 12:22:15

YANBU! [ducks and runs off to avoid buns]

SweetsForMySweet Tue 26-Aug-14 12:30:57

I breastfed for 2 years and found it no problem. I think that the public are a lot more judgemental outspoken these days and don't make it easy for mums to bf. A lot of people did comment on how hard and demanding it must be to breastfeed an older baby but I didn't find it difficult. Every woman's experience varies, some struggle more than others, I wouldn't think they are being martyrs imo

CrohnicallyDepressed Tue 26-Aug-14 12:31:22

To be honest, very little of what you say seems familiar to me. I am still breastfeeding Dd (nearly 2) and have been involved with peer support groups at sure start and online, so do have a little experience.

Cluster feeding to me doesn't mean having a baby whacked on almost non stop for weeks. Some babies cluster feed in the evenings, this seems to be a way of tanking up for a longer overnight sleep. This is manageable as it occurs at a predictable time, so you can arrange to be on the sofa in front of the TV at the right time. There is also growth spurt cluster feeding which tends to happen more round the clock, but only for a day or two, while baby sends the message to increase milk production. Once production catches up, baby goes back to taking longer, less frequent feeds.

If someone told me they were feeding non-stop for weeks, I'd look into why that was happening. Is baby feeding effectively? (Tongue tie is under diagnosed and can mean that baby can't drain the breast effectively and doesn't get enough fat, so they're hungry again quickly). Or are they comfort sucking? (In which case I'd be looking at introducing a dummy!)

So yes, if a mum was complaining about feeding round the clock for weeks on end I'd think that either she was exaggerating, in need of support, or enjoying being a martyr. Or a combination of the above.

thisvelvetglove Tue 26-Aug-14 12:41:51


'Normal' feed spacing expectations come from a FF culture. Tiny babies feed very frequently, this is normal.

All babies are different and feed at different times.

Cluster feeding is normally an evening thing, not normally all day.

I've bf 2 kids to age 2 without feeling like a martyr at all.

BitchPeas Tue 26-Aug-14 12:44:56


I think it's the need for complete control, as that is what we have become used to in our everyday lives. So pregnancy, birth, newborns and breast feeding freak people out, as you simply can't control them.
From my own experience there is a lot more competitiveness about it as well. No one can chill out and go with the flow. Out of the 10+ pregnant people I've known, 4 have lied or over exaggerated symptoms to get an early scan at the epu (they have admitted this) just because they didn't want to wait for the 12 week scan or pay for one privately. I've had a TFMR in the past so am consultant led with many extra scans, I had one tell me how jealous they were that I got this hmm shock
Then you get gender angst, name angst, natural labour angst, bf or ff angst, cot or co sleep angst, 4,5 or 6 month weaning angst, blw or purée angst.

It just all seems really exhausting. People have always commented how laid back I am and how they couldn't be like that. Like I'm a slattern that doesn't love my children enough to get angsty. Yawn. Just unclench people! It's actually quite enjoyable if you do.

Sorry for the rant. I'm surrounded by these types of people. blush

ArabellaTarantella Tue 26-Aug-14 12:52:56

We never had such a thing as cluster feeding in my day, nor growth spurts, nor anything that seems to plague bf these days. Perhaps we had a more laid back attitude to it. And if we didn't get on with bf we put the baby first and ff so it wasn't hungry and distressed. It all seems so exhausting and complicated these days confused

diggerdigsdogs Tue 26-Aug-14 12:57:10

I think it depends on the kind of person you are and how you view having a tiny person relying solely in you.

I had conversation about feeding with the babysitter today. Her experience (and stated that those of he frieds were the same) was that bf was a pain in the arse that tied you to your child and prevents you from leaving them them for any length of time. Not being able to go away or to weddings or out at night etc.

I on the othe hand had no wish to leave my children for any length of time whilst they were tiny and loved the convenience of not needing bottles or cleaning them or worrying about running out when out etc.

I bf for various lengths of time (longest 8 months) and really think that it must come down to what is best for mum.

Yabu because not EVERY bfing mother is a martyr to it now a days!

diggerdigsdogs Tue 26-Aug-14 12:59:20

I'm not saying I'm superior for not wanting to leave my kids while they were small btw confused

hollie84 Tue 26-Aug-14 12:59:45

I had one baby that didn't cluster feed and one that did - cluster feeding being frequent feeding in the evening between say 7-10pm, for the first 6 weeks or so.

My mum remembers her baby needing to be bounced and paced about with all evening ("colic") as a newborn whereas with the others she just fed/cuddled. That was in the 80s so I'm afraid it was a thing then too!

If a baby cried, then it wasn't assumed to be hunger. You'd think 'well I only fed him half an hour ago', check nappy, play, distract, give water, is baby tired etc.

I definitely couldn't be bothered with loads of trying to distract and give water instead of getting a boob out - talk about making life harder for yourself grin

Frusso Tue 26-Aug-14 13:01:16

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Hakluyt Tue 26-Aug-14 13:02:18

"If a baby cried, then it wasn't assumed to be hunger. You'd think 'well I only fed him half an hour ago', check nappy, play, distract, give water, is baby tired etc."

Why would you go through all that faff when a quick feed works every time?

HamishBamish Tue 26-Aug-14 13:03:32

'Normal' feed spacing expectations come from a FF culture. Tiny babies feed very frequently, this is normal.

All babies are different and feed at different times.

Cluster feeding is normally an evening thing, not normally all day.


The mechanics of breastfeeding are very different to those of FF, especially in the early days. A milk supply needs to be established and maintained, which is carefully balanced and requires feeding on demand.

I breastfed 2 children to just over 3 and never felt like a martyr. It was easy and natural, hard work of course, but not any more than I believe FF would have been.

Charitybelle Tue 26-Aug-14 13:04:00

Oh dear, I suspect this will turn into a scrappy thread. YANBU to think this way, if that's your experience, but it does smack of yet another person who found breast feeding easy having a pop at those who have a bit of a tough time with it. I'm sure that's not your intent? Just accept that you don't necessarily know how hard it is for some people, be pleased that you found it simpler and leave it at that? Of the women I know who breastfed, we all struggled to a greater/ lesser extent and no I don't feel like it was self-imposed out of martyr-like intentions. I do think increased societal pressure prob has more of an impact tho!

hollie84 Tue 26-Aug-14 13:04:04

Also OP remember that people who post for advice on message boards like Mumsnet generally do so because they are having problems - feeding non-stop for weeks on end is probably down to poor latch, tongue tie, some kind of problem transferring milk.

Few people are going to post just to say "my baby feeds for 20 minutes every 2-3 hours and then a bit more frequently in the evening before sleeping for a few hours" - what would be the point?

BarbarianMum Tue 26-Aug-14 13:04:09


I have never thought that breastfeeding meant matyring yourself but it is different to ff and there is no nice neat formula of Xoz X times a day. And cluster feeding and comfort sucking are both things that happen and can easily tie you to the sofa for half the day in the early months.

firesidechat Tue 26-Aug-14 13:05:36

Kentish, my experience of breastfeeding in the 80's was the same as yours. I've always said that breastfeeding, if you can do it, is the easy option, but some of the threads on here have been an eye opener. I'm not sure if I would have persevered with bf if my experiences had been the same as some of the women on here. It sounds exhausting. I can only assume that it is down to general changes in advice and attitude.

Neither my mum nor my daughter could breastfeed, so I do understand that it isn't the doddle that I make it sound.

Messygirl Tue 26-Aug-14 13:05:41

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

diggerdigsdogs Tue 26-Aug-14 13:05:49

God another post sorry.

I think we also have more understanding of feeding now too. My dmil is still sad and guilty that her milk dried up. It dried up because she was strictly told ONLY to feed every 4 hours and then when the babies became hungry she was told to top up with formula as she didn't have enough milk. Now she would be encouraged to feed MORE and boost supply.

Isn't that a good thing?

Messygirl Tue 26-Aug-14 13:06:32

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

HamishBamish Tue 26-Aug-14 13:07:15

"If a baby cried, then it wasn't assumed to be hunger. You'd think 'well I only fed him half an hour ago', check nappy, play, distract, give water, is baby tired etc."

Why would you go through all that faff when a quick feed works every time?

Exactly. Breastfeeding isn't just about addressing hunger, it's can be for comfort, to get the hormone hit for drifting off to sleep, any number of things.

CultureSucksDownWords Tue 26-Aug-14 13:07:20

The view of breastfeeding on a discussion forum will always be skewed IMO as people generally only post when there is a problem. There will be lots and lots of breastfeeding women who have had very few or no problems. They are unlikely to come onto the Breast & Bottle feeding section and post about how they don't have any problems.

Another issue is that expectations of baby feeding can be influenced by comparison to how formula fed babies feed. What is normal for a bfed baby can be different to a FF baby. This can lead some to feel there is a problem when there is mismatch in expectations.

I don't think that many women want to martyr themselves or make life difficult when it doesn't need to be. I think there is a huge lack of actual support post natally for breastfeeding.

tittifilarious Tue 26-Aug-14 13:08:00

Being a martyr isn't restricted to breast feeding mothers so for that YABU smile

A lot of what you say rings true though.

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