Family · Maternity · Maternity Matters · Mental Health · Politics · Pregnancy

Sometimes, Breast Is NOT Always Best

Bottle FeedingI promised myself I wasn’t going to chime in on this debate, it’s one of those subjects on which people will never agree and I completely respect the right of any woman to make the decision she wants to make in regards her own body and that of her baby. However, this latest piece of news about breastfeeding is leaving me feeling really upset. In case you haven’t heard, the Government has put forward a proposal to offer mothers who choose to breastfeed their babies a £200 shop voucher as a reward.

According to the BBC: “The pilot scheme is being targeted at deprived areas of South Yorkshire and Derbyshire and funded through a collaboration between government and the medical research sector. A third area is expected soon with the plan to trial it on 130 women who have babies from now until March. If it proves successful, a nationwide pilot could be rolled out next year.”

While I don’t debate that helping women who want to breastfeed is a positive thing, this scheme couldn’t be any less helpful to women who are not in a position to be able to breastfeed. Further to this, there needs to be a more general acknowledgement that being ‘physically unable’ to breastfeed isn’t the only valid reason for women to choose not to do it. What about those women for whom there’s a psychological issue? Is it fair to further add to the stigma for them?

The main reason I wasn’t going to comment on this issue was because of my own relationship with breastfeeding. As soon as I fell pregnant with Sausage, I knew that I would be unable to do it. The thought of breastfeeding is literally repellent to me; the thought of a child latched on to my nipple makes me feel physically nauseous (for reasons which are real and genuine, but I’m not going to go into here) and while some women may consider it selfish of me to not try and overcome these issues and feed my child, for me it was easier to reduce that pressure and give my child adequate nutrition by other means, enabling me to concentrate on being the best mother that I could be.

Am I jealous of earth-mother types who have no problem breastfeeding? Well, yes, I suppose I am, but only because they’re viewed as better mothers than me. As it turns out, because Sausage was in the NICU and I didn’t get to hold her until she was a week old, I never produced any milk at all, not even a slight leakage, so when people ask about feeding, this is the part I tell them, so worried I am about the stigma of bottle feeding by choice. But, consider this:

I’ve never smacked my child.

She’s never stayed with anyone other than Husband and I overnight and we rarely go out as a couple and leave her with anyone else.

She’s developmentally advanced for her age.

She’s kind, polite, well spoken and deeply considerate of others.

Do I deserve vouchers for this? Is none of this on-par in terms of importance with how I chose to nourish her as a baby? Does the person that we’ve raised not have more of an impact on society than whether she was fed from a bottle?

Whilst talking about this on Twitter yesterday, the Tots100 Twitter team asked:


In short, my answer to this is no, you can’t please everyone all the time, but I’m not sure if this scheme does represent the many OR the few in either case. I receive a whole load of press releases each day and this morning alone, I’ve received emails with the following titles:

“Newly-Qualified Student Midwives Cannot Find Jobs”

“Pay Freeze Forces Nurses To Take On Extra Shifts”

“Maternal Mental Health Alliance Launches Innovative Guidance About Specialist Mental Health Midwives”

I’ve blogged before about the fact that I’m a huge fan of the NHS, but surely these three short sentences illustrate perfectly that there are SO many more valuable areas in which money could be spent? I understand that it’s NHS policy to encourage breast above bottle, but surely improving care and empowering women by helping them to have happy births is a far more sensible distribution of resources? As a mother who dealt with more than her share of pregnancy and post-natal issues, I can wholeheartedly say that a very close second, in terms of importance, to the health of the child is the mental health and happiness of the mother and pressurising women with financial incentives is just cruel.

In typical Tory fashion, the areas which have been chosen to pilot this scheme are ‘deprived’, which means that the Government is basically making new mothers jump through hoops for a small financial gain. Does that not seem rather distasteful to you? What of those women who have genuine issues with breastfeeding, but feel unable to turn down the financial incentive because of their circumstances? One of the biggest factors in causing post-natal depression is the feeling of loss of control at some point during the pregnancy or birthing process, so by forcing women to make decisions which make them uncomfortable, because they simply cannot say no to the cash, makes me genuinely concerned about the potential for a huge rise in cases on PND in the UK.

And more to the point, what right do these people have to try and regulate our breasts? There are FAR bigger issues to deal with than this and encroaching on women’s freedom like this is disgusting. But I’m not at all surprised – it’s Conservative mandate to systematically dismantle and divide, starting with the poor.

I guess we should have all seen this coming, really.

5 thoughts on “Sometimes, Breast Is NOT Always Best

  1. I do think that it’s good that the government want to encourage breastfeeding, after all the health benefits are undeniable and last much longer than the baby days, but I’m not convinced that this is the best way to go about it. Then again I don’t live in one of the areas they are targeting so I wouldn’t really know, but I do wish that they would put more funding into breastfeeding support as I know so many women who desperately wanted to breastfeed but who didn’t get the help they needed and ended up stopping early on because of it. I’m not sure that a few vouchers will encourage women who don’t want to breastfeed given that the boob is already vastly cheaper than the bottle, but more education and support could make a massive difference to those who do want to do it and maybe even help those who don’t want to breastfeed to just get through it for those first few important days.

    I know that it’s really hard on people who can’t breastfeed for whatever reason to have to listen to the ‘breast is best’ spiel over and over again, I felt bad enough when I lost my own supply through stress and depression at six months so I can only begin to imagine how difficult it must be on women who can’t do it at all, but the thing to remember is that you are not the target audience for these campaigns. They want to encourage people who are not breastfeeding for social reasons to give it a try so that it becomes normal practice when possible. The methods may seem odd but the motives are good. It may seem like they are just penalizing people who can’t breastfeed but it’s really an attempt to encourage those who can for the health of the future generations (and as a previous poster mentioned, to ease the load on the NHS). It might not be the best solution but I try to think about it like any other government health campaign like the horrible images on cigarette packages, if you’re not the target then you should try not to let it bother you. It’s not worth the effort of getting offended by it and you never know, it just might encourage a few people to give it a go. I’m not saying that I think it’s a good idea, to be honest it sounds nuts and I believe those funds could be put to better use, but if that’s what the research has thrown up then I guess they might as well put it to the test.

    One thing is clear though, most women are not getting the support they need, whether they are mothers who are trying to breastfeed or mothers dealing with not being able to x

  2. I think this is one of those your dammed if you do and dammed if don’t kind of situations. I am afraid I am not talking from experience, and I do imagine that when/if I have children I will breastfeed, but I think that we need to support whatever the reason for deciding to breastfeed or not.
    I think forcing breast feeding woman to hide away, as if it is something to be ashamed is wrong. But I feel looking down my nose at another woman who is giving her baby a bottle is also wrong. I imagine having a new born baby is scary and nerve wracking at the best of time – why do we need to add more pressure to these new born mums??!!

  3. Very sorry to hear that none of you received the right kind of support when in need of help.
    While there are very few cases of women that cannot breastfeed due physical impossibility, the greatest number of case when brestfeeding fails (due to milk drying up or not being produced at all) are due to a system that, defacto, boycots breastfeeding, by not allowing mother and baby to be close, not providing adequate care and information, pre and after birth, and many other complex issues of which both mother and child fall victims. There is no stigma on mothers that can’t breasfeed or choose not too, simply there is a preoccupation with children. If the NHS is investing this little amount, in trying to push mums to break the ice with bf (mums that would not give it a go otherwise) is because research has shown that breastfed children are healthier and grow up into healthier adults, costing the NHS much much less than the formula fed ones.
    So, for them, it’s a long term investiment.
    It has taken 30 years of solid and sound research to gather the data, and more and more is being discovered about the endless, amazing benefits of breastfeeding.
    If we manage to normalize brestfeeding, to make it seen as the norm again, than women in the future may not develop disturbs and mental problems against it.

  4. *sigh* Where do you even start, my first inclination is to ay nothing because as you rightly say, it’s something on which no one will ever agree, and possibly one where no one is ever right. However my feeling is that there are positives to the scheme, mainly the financial aspect of breastfeeding (if possible), especially in ‘deprived ‘ areas. The cost of formula is stupefying, and if the famillies in this scheme could be redirect some of that money elsewhere in the child rearing arena, then I think that is fantastic. However that said I also think if they are going to do that there should be an equivalent subsidy of formula for those famillies that can’t breastfeed, for whatever reason.

    I recently attended a phonics workshop at the boys school, and a few parenting courses were promoted at the end, including things like what to put in a healthy lunch bag. One of the fathers straight away asked if there would be payment ‘received’ for going on the course, because he had previously been on a course where he had been paid. I’m not going to judge him, but if the government has measured people motivations correctly, then financial reward is probably one of the best ways to get people to engage in any sort of scheme.

    I also think people should stop seeing it as such a black and white process, my twins were mix fed, it was cheaper and convenient to feed them during the day, but physically and psychologically arduous for me to do it at the end of a long day, so they would have a night time bottle. i know a new mum who was not inclined to exclusively breastfeed but was considering mix feeds, her HV told her (despite wanting her to bf) that under no circumstances must she do both, it led to this mum giving up the boob completely. the government needs to be careful that they don’t approach this with such dogma, that it actually turns people off!

  5. Hi Jayne, I really enjoyed reading your post. As you know I have 3 children. With the first I could not even think about Breast feeding. I didn’t liked the idea of it in the slighted but with my second and third it was a completely different matter. I wanted to breast feed them but jack was tongue tied badly and struggled to breast feed. By the time we got this sort my milk was dried up. With Austyn I tried again but found my self avoiding contact with him other than a the times he needed a feed. I decided that if I was to develop a really close bond with him I needed to switch and this worked 100 per cent. I feel every ones different and even now I regret not breast feeding all 3 and YES the incentive to breast feed through vouchers would have made me feel a lot more under pressure!

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