Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Passion...or obsession?

A little while ago, Spud at Chez Spud asked 'What is your passion?' and I've sorta been pondering about it ever since.

Where does passion end and obsession take over? Do you need to be a little bit obsessed to be passionate about something or does the act of becoming obsessed mean that your passion has taken over? (deep thoughts for a Tuesday night, I know).

Because I'm not sure if my passion is *just* a passion. I fear I may have strayed into obsession territory. Which I don't think is necessarily a bad thing, but I'm not sure I want to be totally obsessed by it. You see, my passion is breastfeeding.

Now, a large part of that passion is probably due to still being in the throes of breastfeeding a very avid breastfeeder. My 11 month old is very much a boob man. Refuses a bottle point blank and will only tolerate a cup of cows milk if I'm a good 12 miles away in London town.

So my life, at the moment, still revolves around breastfeeding. He feeds at least 3 times a night (making up for feeds he's missed while I'm at work) and whenever he can during the day. But the reason why I fear we've strayed into obsession territory is because I found myself having a tense discussion on twitter last night with a TV celebrity doctor (of all people) about poor breastfeeding advice that had been given on his show.

Now, I know that sounds like a weird way to spend your evening, but it just made me so cross. There are so many harmful myths out there about breastfeeding and often the media fail to check facts or consult an expert. Instead, the same old tripe is spouted about 'don't feel guilty', 'breastfeeding IS tough', 'it's not the end of the world if you give a bottle'. Well, frankly I'm sick of it. 

*rant alert: if you've made it this far, get out now while you still can!*

Yes, breastfeeding CAN be tough, for many many reasons. But telling women that it is tough before they've even given birth really isn't very constructive. It just sets them up to fail: so you give birth (which in itself is fraught with opportunities to 'fail' unless you 'achieve' a totally natural, drug-free birth at sunrise on an auspicious date), tensions are running high, you're probably exhausted and an emotional wreck and now you HAVE to get this tiny little naked (read slippery) baby, who probably isn't that hungry (myth: babies are born hungry) to open it's mouth and latch on to your nipple. Yes, your nipple.  A part of your body that is usually kept safely tucked away from the cold, cruel world. And now you must expose it to every passing midwife and her dog AND get your newborn baby to latch onto it. Yip. Piece of cake.

Now, the thing is. Sometimes it truly is a piece of cake. With my second baby it was*. I knew to just chill out. I knew to turn the harsh lights of the delivery room off. I knew about skin-to-skin. I knew The Politics of Breastfeeding inside out and I knew where to find expert help. 

So surely, instead of running around telling everyone not to feel guilty and it's too bloody hard for the average Jo to do anyway. Would our efforts not be better spent helping woman understand how to make breastfeeding easy?

Not having support, or knowing anyone who breastfeeding or where to find help when it's not going well makes breastfeeding tough (I'd never seen anyone breastfeed before having my boys). And bad advice just makes it 10 times, no, 100 times worse. It perpetuates the myth that exclusive breastfeeding is some perfect mothering nirvana that very few women are capable of achieving. It just makes me so sad. 

Women need to know that breastfeeding is normal. (not the dizzy heights of mothering perfection)

Women need to know where to find help if breastfeeding isn't going to plan.

They need to know what to expect when breastfeeding a newborn baby.

They need to know that breastfeeding babies tend to work on a strict schedule of "I'm hungry. Feed me now" that often has no discernible pattern in terms of hours or minutes.

They don't need to be judged. Or patronised. Or placated. Or told breastfeeding is tough. Or made to feel guilty.

Now, if anyone is still reading, can you please pass me a ladder so I can get down off this bloody soapbox? I'm getting vertigo.

Now that's multitasking!
So. Passion or obsession? It's a close call I reckon. A close call.

*at first it was easy, then it all went tits up (boom boom), then we sorted it out and are still at it. Just wanted to clarify that. But that sorry tale is a whole other post.


  1. the single only thing I miss about having a (small) baby - nursing. both my girls self-weaned at about 10 months, I was really sad this last time cos that's what it was: the last time.
    good on yer!
    ps love that baby-gro, my cousin in the UK has the same one for her son - jealous!

  2. I know! It's such a cool babygro! I'll miss nursing too when he self weans :-( last baby for us too. Which is ok I guess.

  3. Witth my first it was fairly easy, although I got a coupe of breast infections.

    This tme round I had sore nipples for the first six weeks. I kid you not, I had to brace myself every time he latched on. Tears rolling down my face.

    In Norway they really don't advocate anything but breastfeeding. And it always shocks me when I watch The Doctors (yup) some of the very American (read unnatural relationship to body) advice they give. And it scares me to think that that can become the case in Norway too.


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