Breast is best?

Hi, just a quick post to talk about the is breast best programme on bbc3 last night. Only just caught up now!

I have watched all of the other Cherry Healey programmes about pregnancy and marriage and really like them, and found them pretty inspiring. I like how honest and down to earth she is, and its really interesting and important to see all sides of different situations.

I watched the other programmes when I was pregnant, and didn't really have a clue how things would work out for me. I, like a lot of other people really wanted to breastfeed my baby, and formula wasn't really an option, as it seemed silly have to buy something that I could produce myself for free. Also that my milk is much better suited for the baby and is ready on demand whenever the baby needs it. The midwives do really drum it into you that 'breast is best' which I feel is really important, but on the other hand puts the fear and guilt into mothers who want to breastfeed but can't for some reason or another, which I feel is slightly unfair.

Before I gave birth I was under the impression that if you wanted to breastfeed it would be easy, you just put the baby on and away you go! But this was not the case for me at all. The first few days in hospital I couldn't feed without help from the nurses at all. At one point they even had to express some milk from me and feed Theo with a syringe, because he hadn't fed in over 6 hours. I used to get so hot all over with the stress of not being able to feed, and Theo would get himself so wound up because he was hungry that it seemed like fighting a loosing battle. It wasn't just that I didn't know what to do, but Theo didn't know either. You are led to believe that the baby will naturally know what to do, but he didn't, he just didn't open his mouth enough, ever. Luckily there was an excellent nurse who really calmly helped me to get better at feeding. She told me it wasn't my fault and that it just takes time, and that you and baby have to learn together. This took away all the pressure I had put on myself to feed him, and to do it right first time.

The good thing about me having to stay in hospital for a week, was that by the time I left I was confident with feeding. But had I gone home after a day, when he couldn't feed, I might have given up. Luckily for me there was also a really good breast feeding support group just up the road from me, who checked that everything was going well. By that point my feeding was well established, but other mothers were having problems. Speaking to some mums after, away from the midwives, they admitted that they have given formula when feeding was just too hard, and that the felt so guilty and that they were doing so wrong for their child. They also said that they had to go into another room whilst their partners gave the bottle. I understand why midwifes push breastfeeding, because it is really important, and if it is all going ok, it is the best for your baby. But I also feel that the level of pressure that is put on you to do it, even if like some, and Cherry the presenter, it is so painful and you physically can't do it anymore, is wrong. People shouldn't feel so guilty, you have to do what works for you, and make sure the baby is being fed.

Once I had feeding well established the next step was public feeding. I used to be very shy, and worry all the time what people thought about me, and feel funny about standing out too much. But after the experience for giving birth, and knowing that Rob and my mum and the midwife saw EVERYTHING, I sort of lost my inhibitions about that sort of thing. Also I knew that if I was out and Theo was hungry I would have to feed him. I would rather accidentally flash my nipple at a stranger than my baby go hungry. I feel also that knowing I was 100% legally allowed to feed my baby in public made it a lot easier. At first just getting over feeding in front of my friends was tough, but in the end like I said, feeding the baby is more important. Also when you get down to it, no body really looks, and if they do, all they see is a bit of nipple for a second and then its done. Everyone's seen a nipple before, and I'm sure they will forget about it, or not even notice. I think when you are the one who has to get your boob out you are so much more aware of everyone around you, but in reality not that many people even notice, and hardly anyone would ever stare. In the 11 weeks of feeding, and feeding in public I have never had anyone stare, let alone say anything derogatory towards me about doing so.

I feel sorry for the teenage mums who like they say, have no positive association with breastfeeding. It's sad that it is still seen as a taboo, and most don't ever even consider doing it, or weigh up the pros and cons.

I feel so lucky that everything has gone well with me, and I love breastfeeding. I love the feeling of it and knowing that Theo is getting all the food he needs, from me. But I understand how hard it can be, and feel lucky that it hasn't ever been painful for me. Now I know that it isn't as easy as it is made out to be, but it is something that given the right support, can be worth persevering with.

So here is the programme is breast best? It made me cry a lot too!


  1. This is an interesting article, on the subject of womany ...stuff.
    It's from Malcom Gladwell's 'what the dog saw' collection of articles/essays, which is one of the best bits of journalism I've ever read.



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