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The anti-breastapo

(52 Posts)
MsChanandlerBong Mon 08-Aug-11 15:17:19

I am currently 34 weeks, and yesterday I had another evening of what I have (privately) termed the anti-breastapo and wanted to see if I am the only one experiencing this phenomenon.

As I understand it, the breastapo is a body of people who go around trying to force you to breastfeed and making you feel horribly guilty if you don't. I have not come across one person like that (either socially or medically).

However, I continually keep having people tell me "oh it is really hard to breastfeed, just give up if you can't do it, it is more important that you are happy, it isn't any better for the baby, you'll struggle so don't worry about failing at it" etc etc. These comments are not in response to me talking about breastfeeding, they are almost exclusively out of the blue.

This is my first baby, so god knows how I will get on with breastfeeding, but I don't want to be a self-fulfilling prophesy and start out with the intention of quitting.

So my current experience is that the breastapo is a myth. But I keep meeting lots of very defensive women who have chosen not to breastfeed (and I respect their decisions, I truely believe it is a personal choice based on individual experiences) and I am beginning to wonder if this is where it comes from.

Anyone else come across the anti-breastapo?

Sargesaweyes Mon 08-Aug-11 16:16:08

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

YouDoTheMath Mon 08-Aug-11 16:30:41

It's a funny one...

I assumed I would be able to breastfeed, although I only ever intended to do it for the first six weeks.

When baby was born, she simply wouldn't latch on. I panicked and gave her a bottle, and despite trying again and again to breastfeed, it never took off and she remained on formula.

I spent a lot of time accounting for my actions in those early days, anticipating that people were going to judge me for not breastfeeding.

In truth, nobody did. Nobody said anything negative about formula feeding, nor did they try to persuade me to breastfeed. I had a lot of people telling me how they had been through the same thing, had ended up formula feeding, and their children were fine. People I knew who had successfully breastfed were supportive, too.

But I think the reason I was expecting people to criticise me was because I had wasted so much time reading unhelpful forums on the internet.

You know what it's like - when people are safely tucked behind their keyboards, they say what they really think - or at least they say what they know will get a reaction. I encountered the complete cross section - from the defensive formula feeders to the holier-than-thou breastfeeders.

Basically, go by your own experience rather than what you read on the net. The people who matter will support you whatever you do.

GwendolineMaryLacey Mon 08-Aug-11 16:35:40

I assumed bf would be easy too. Given the total lack of support that I got and my subsequent inability to do it, I ff and, to my surprise, every HCP I came into contact with, without exception, that it was no big deal, ff was fine, don't worry about bf. I wasn't expecting that.

I felt like I was making a fuss about nothing. I kept asking for help and was more or less told to stop making a fuss about it, it didn't matter.

MN in particular is a very harsh place if you formula feed so best avoided in vulnerable moments. You just have to do whatever works best for you. The only time I've ever wondered why the hell someone is bothering to try to bf was when DH's niece was hospitalised because she was literally starving and her mother was on the verge of a breakdown. Otherwise, do whatever feels right to you.

NingNang Mon 08-Aug-11 16:38:48

My boss has twice said to me "you need to stop breastfeeding!", apropos of nothing then tried to add "so you can have your body back/have a drink/have a break". That's twice on the only two occasions we've spoken since DD was born and DD would have been between 5-7 months old. I found it pretty upsetting coming from someone who has a child development qualification and manages a facility where they 'promote' breastfeeding.

There's another woman I bump into who keeps telling me "she'll sleep through when you get her onto bottles". She's almost 9 months and eating roast dinners. Still wakes every 2-3 hours. Most of the others at bf group sleep really well.

I've had a pretty straightforward time with bf but it's blooming well hard enough without comments like that.

Poweredbypepsi Mon 08-Aug-11 16:38:54

I found this. With my first three i didnt try breastfeeding the stories had been so horrific and i didnt know anyone who breastfed, no one ever tried to convince me in fact most people i talked to agreed it was easier to bottlefeed.
With dc4 I suddenly (dont really know why) decided to try breastfeeding and got the same response things like oh well you can try for a day and if it doesnt work out it doesnt work out etc.
I found it fine and although no one has ever been particulary positive about breastfeeding I found that once I had made my mind up people just ignored me and i got on with it.

I see alot online about people being pressured to breastfeed but in my experience i found the opposite it was seen as a choice the was unusual or something that i would change my mind about.

I was at the gp recently and when he heard i was still breastfeeding my one year old he seemed pretty shocked although he did then say that where he grew up this was the norm just not something he sees in this country much, which was nice!

26minutes Mon 08-Aug-11 16:42:00

God yes. Also never met any who try to force bf on you so to speak. I have 3 dc, all successfully bf (I know I'm one of the lucky ones, luckily I had great help when I had ds1 otherwise it would have been a short lived thing). With the 1st 2 bf around my peer group was normal, no-one batted an eyelid whether you breast or bottle fed. No-one cared, your baby, your choice. However with dd I was living in a different area (same city) and actually felt like a bit of a freak for breastfeeding. All people round here seem to be very anti-bf.

Other times I've come across it were when I was expecting ds1, 2 people said to me "you're not going to breastfeed are you?" in a way that made it seem like a disgusting thing to do. Nobody ever said "you're not going to bottlefeed are you?"

And more recently a couple of women really slagging off anyone who "titty-feeds".

MsChanandlerBong Mon 08-Aug-11 16:47:42

Youdothemath - I think you have hit the nail on the head. I think people spend a lot of time anticipating what people are going to say to them about not breastfeeding. And the reality is, that other than people saying "you ought to give it a go" there is no pressure or judgement so the breastapo is (dare I whisper it) all in peoples' heads...

There seems to be loads of militant formula feeders out there. Whereas - in my experience - people who breastfeed just get on with it, and daren't mention it for fear of being accused of being the breastapo (hate that term btw). In fact, the mums who bf that I have met are almost apologetic about it for fear of being shouted at, not the other way around!

Sargesaweyes - glad it isn't just me. Wouldn't it be nice to hear the odd positive story about bf. Rather than loads of horror stories, and people insisting that I won't be able to do it.

Also, for the record, in all my adult life I have done whatever feels right for me... I don't think there is any chance I will change this approach just because I become a mother smile At this stage, it feels right for me to give bf a bloody good try so I wish people would just let me have a go without writing me off before my baby is even born.

Poweredbypepsi Mon 08-Aug-11 16:48:13

I do feel sad recently though as my sister is pregnant with her first and plans to bottlefeed, I dont care what she wants to do but when she says its because breastfeeding is "disgusting" and then holds up my oldest three as an example of perfectly healthy children who havent been breastfed (she seems to be glossing over the relfux and emergency dashes to hospital with chets infections and feeding problems but there you go). I would never say anythign to her but it does make me a little uncomfortable to be called disgusting!

mumwithdice Mon 08-Aug-11 16:49:17

I think many people will tell you about the difficulty of breastfeeding because the "Breast is Best" slogan sends out the message that bfing should automatically be easy.

Just because it is natural doesn't make it easy. Both you and the baby are learning a new skill together and it may take time. I was in hospital with DD for a bit while we learned how and got good support. She's now 8 months old and still BF-ing. It was well worth all the effort.

I suppose what I'm saying is that you shouldn't go into BF-ing expecting everything to go rosily at first because that's not entirely realistic. But then neither are all the horror stories. You might be lucky and baby will latch on instantly. If you aren't, that doesn't mean you've failed; it just means you might need a little more time or help to get to grips with it.

MsChanandlerBong Mon 08-Aug-11 16:59:29

I'm so glad it isn't just me finding this. I had begun to wonder if perhaps it was just me that people thought wasn't up to it! blush

The only support I seem to get is from my Mum (who says she doesn't know what all the fuss is about as she found bf really easy, so is trying to cast her mind back 30-odd years to remember how she did it to help me!!)

Oeisha Mon 08-Aug-11 17:04:06

I'm pro-breast, for all the sensible health reasons, including the increadable bonding expereice it can be. However, am aware that it's just not going to be good, or sensible for all mums.

Give it a fair go, and get all the help you can, but ultimatly, your happiness is MUCH more important to baby than bf...especially in a western society where we have access to clean water and adequate nutrition from other sources. Anxiety and depression are so destructive, and like it or not, HCPs are ina position of 'power'. It is often a lack of training or frankly, common sense on their behalf that causes the majority of bf problems and can lead to PND etc. If you've never had mental health problems you might not see how destructive depression/anxiety can be, but it is HUGELY desctructive and can take years to recover from. Ultimatly, your child will never look back on you and resent you for not bf, but will if you're absent/distant from their childhood due to unmanaged depression.

It does frustrate me hugely that people will talk about how bad a time their mothers-friends-cat had with bf, as if mums are shown properly and given proper support it is a wonderful expeience...I guess they're just trying to 'make it real' for us "newbs", and are just all increadably jealous that we're growing a sprog trying to seem better than us because they've done it before trying to warn us that it's not the fairy tale we imagined (honestly, does anyone think it will be easy?!).

One thing I am learning about PG is to bascially ignore 99.9% of stuff people tell me and do what I rationally know is best for me and my family. If I'm not sure, my DH is pretty sensible, as are my brothers.

MsChanandlerBong Mon 08-Aug-11 17:04:41

Oh but I'm quite clear that it may well be hard work (painful, weird feeling, difficult, uncomfortable, bloody, etc etc). And I am willing to persevere and try my best. Someone I know gave up after less than 24 hours of trying... IMO it takes longer than that to break in a pair of shoes so why would you not try a bit longer to try and get to grips with bf?!! Ultimately, if it doesn't work for me then obviously I will look at ff instead.

I guess the point I am making is, yes it isn't necessarily as easy as just deciding Breast is Best. But please don't write me off and push me into giving up before I have even given it a go!

MsChanandlerBong Mon 08-Aug-11 17:08:41

Oeisha - I think you're right about ignoring 99.9% of advice. And I agree - if you are going to tie yourself up in knots about it combined with PND then obviously bf might not be realistic.

Personally, having suffered (on and off) my whole life with depression and/or anxiety, I could just do with a bit more optimism!!

RitaMorgan Mon 08-Aug-11 17:10:12

I think people are generally quite reluctant to say anything pro-breastfeeding for fear of breastapo accusations! You can't even say you found breastfeeding easy or enjoyable without qualifying it by saying you understand how difficult it is for most people or you'll be told you are smug.

Anti-breastfeeding sentiments are much more common/acceptable in real life than anti-formula ones.

Poweredbypepsi Mon 08-Aug-11 17:11:40

MsChanandlerBong I have suffered anxiety for a long time (panic disorder and general anxiety at different times) and I actually found that while I was breastfeeding this was much more under control than normal (hormonal possibly?) I think it would have been different if I had had problems with breastfeeding obviously but I actually really found it helps.

Daisybell1 Mon 08-Aug-11 17:15:15

Please forgive me if this is slightly 'off-track' but where I live, the culture is definitely breastapo and anything else is a failure... As I result, I'm very scared of being judged if BF-ing doesn't work out, although I will give it my best shot.

I went to the BF-ing workshop at my local MLU which was nigh-on useless - an airy fairy talk on the benefits, the watching of a video, and then a 'visitation' by two women who run the local support group. I found it completely disheartening as they didn't even know where the town I live in is, let alone cover it for support.

My advice? Go to another hospital and attend their workshop/find out about their support. I went to another unit a couple of days later for their workshop and it was full of practical advice (with dolls and pillows to try out positioning), they have a 7 days a week support line, will visit to help sort problems, and the support group is run by professionals (rather than a group of 'friends'), much more reassuring! I guess each health trust/unit has a different approach...

MsChanandlerBong Mon 08-Aug-11 17:18:25

PoweredbyPepsi - oh that is really interesting to hear! Thank you!

blowthewindsoutherly Mon 08-Aug-11 17:18:27

I've often thought Health Visitors are like this probably because they've seen so many women who are devastated when they can't breastfeed.

If you struggle, and feel crap aboout it, it does help if people tell you it's not the end of the world.

pookamoo Mon 08-Aug-11 17:30:19

OP (and others) have you had a look to find out if there are local breastfeeding support groups near you? Your midwife should be able to point you in the right direction, or have a look on nct or la leche league websites to find out where they are held in your area.

I have a 2 and a half year old DD, who was bf until she was 2, despite a very rocky start (which I won't go into!). The volunteers and professional breastfeeding counsellors were so encouraging and supportive that we managed to get established, and carry on until the WHO recommended age, and DD and I go along to our local group as I am now a Peer Supporter.

We welcome women who are pregnant, and it's a great idea for you to go along before your baby is born to find out where the group is, and get to know some of the faces there. Then, after the baby arrives, you will feel more confident to go back there for advice. It sounds like your mum is being really supportive, but the advice has changed a bit in 30 years! Why don't you take her along with you for some moral support?

Good luck with it all!

starjules Mon 08-Aug-11 17:35:43

I am only 20 weeks but already have only encountered such pressure to BF, its being rammed down my throat at every opportunity and in all honesty would like to talk to someone independent and get both sides as the pressure is already getting me down. Even a friends dad in the pup told me I would be bf. My situation is that in all reality FF may be best for me but it seems like its not an option here.

pookamoo Mon 08-Aug-11 17:38:17

Oh, and as daisybell says, theory workshops can be interesting, but nothing beats a practical session. If you can get to the support group before you have your baby, you will be able to see breastfeeding "in action" which is invaluable. It helps to normalise it, and you can hear real stories from real mums who are actually doing it.

As an aside, most support groups are run by organisations other than the healthcare trust, so the people there will be volunteers although they will have undergone training. Peer Supporters at our group undertake a six week assessed course (3 hours a week) to give us the up to date, evidence based information, and to learn listening skills. The Breastfeeding Counsellors are qualified to Diploma or Degree level. This is much more training than many midwifes have, and certainly more than GPs get!

Sargesaweyes Mon 08-Aug-11 17:38:20

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

OhdearNigel Mon 08-Aug-11 17:45:02

When I was pregnant I hardly had any positive "vibes" from colleagues and friends about BFing, just got the "it probably won't happen" and "don't worry about it" rubbish. It made me doubt whether I would be able to feed. The only person that was uniformally positive that I would be able to do without ever suggesting it might not work out was my DMIL.

So I, a proudly militant BFer of a now 18 month old, agree with the OP

MsChanandlerBong Mon 08-Aug-11 17:46:44

Pookamoo - I think you're right and I will seek out a local support group. I asked the midwife but she didn't know of any (See! No pressure from anyone medical to bf!!). I am going to an NCT course in a couple of weeks time, including the breast feeding session, so I hope that will be practical (rather than theoretical as I have already bought into the concept!). I notice from my NCT newsletter there are some phone numbers too so perhaps I will call them. I hadn't thought of going along pre-baby - but that makes complete sense so I will get in touch with them! Thanks smile

Sargesaweyes - glad you feel like me!! What is particularly frustrating is in real life when I try and raise this 'anti-breastapo' idea with people, they get the wrong end of the stick and then keep going on and on about "it is really difficult and painful, you should just change to ff, don't feel like a failure, etc etc" which I know is well intentioned but it is completely missing the point!!

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