The news that breastfeeding mums who succeed in breastfeeding their babies for 6 months are to be rewarded with £200 had me digging my nails into my palm and muttering things under my breath this week. And not for the reasons most people were up in arms. For me, it was personal.
To be honest, I just don’t think breastfeeding mums who succeed in feeding their babies for six months need another pat on the back.
They’ve been having pats on the back every day since the baby latched on. Everyone from midwives on the postnatal ward to health visitors in the weeks following the birth, to the media who are obligated to acknowledge breast milk is best for baby every time the subject is mentioned have been cheering them on since the baby’s first feed. ‘Well done, by breastfeeding you’ve helped prevent everything from upset stomachs and chest infections to obesity, as well as encouraging better educational attainment,’ breastfeeding mothers are told at every opportunity.
Besides – as the mother of a son who breastfed till his first birthday and a daughter who only got 2 months worth – I know that the rewards of successful breastfeeding far outweigh a measly £200. Knowing I’d done the best for my son, that with every feed I was bonding and nurturing a closeness no bottle could replicate, that I had special relationship with my son no one else shared, that I could soothe and sustain him on demand – no plastic teats, bottles or sterilizing equipment required – that I’d never run out of milk, that I didn’t need to plan, budget or organize for every eventuality: the milk would always be there, that even if it was a teeny bit awkward getting my boob out in public sometimes, I’d always have the upper hand, the last word, the ultimate come-back. That the law, all the evidence in the world and every baby book I’d ever read had my back – was priceless. And made it even harder when I couldn’t do the same for my daughter.
All together now; breast is best. Don’t we bloody know it.
Am I being harsh and unfair? Probably. Bitter, twisted and biased? Hell, yes.
As a someone who struggled and ultimately failed to feed my daughter beyond 8 weeks, I’d have happily PAID over £200 to make it work. In fact, I think I probably did – now I tot up the lactation consultant fees, the breast-pump hire and the stupid supplementary nursing system that was suppose to wean her off teats.
That’s where I think the money should be going. Instead of giving those who’ve succeeded another pat on the back, why not reach out a hand to those mothers who want and need help, who are trying against the odds, who are failing and feeling crap about it, who are struggling with the realization that if breast is best, then their babies are losing out.
£200 would go a long way to helping those mothers get the help they need to hang in there – in my experience the NHS is rubbish in this department – and pay for expert help, a decent breast pump in case expressing is the only option or counselling if it all gets too much. I’m sure my failure to breastfeed my daughter beyond 8 weeks or hang in there with the pumping beyond 5 months contributed to my struggle to bond with her and my Post Natal Depression.
So sorry breast feeders, but I don’t think this is money well spent. You and your baby already have something money can’t buy. It’s those of us who’ve wanted to breastfeed, tried and faced failure who need the support.