So I got on the wrong side of the mummy mafia the other week. I broke the cardinal rule of Mummy Facebook Groups and expressed an opinion on... breastfeeding. If only I’d mentioned vaccinations and controlled crying in the same sentence, it would have been a triple whammy! Here's how it went down…
A breastfeeding mum posted a question asking fellow mums how much alcohol she could drink and still breastfeed her baby (standard question). As always, the commentary flowed in – mums exhibit a biological need to share their opinion with anyone that will listen. Yes, I realise the irony given that’s exactly what I am doing. Now back to my story...
Some suggested she should abstain completely. It’s only 9 months of pregnancy plus two years of breastfeeding (if you follow the WHO Guidelines) in the context of your whole life, right? Surely you can forego wine for a few years whilst raising a toddler…? If this is your choice, go for it. Be sure to check back in when your child is the next Olympian or Prime Minister and you can attribute it all to your willingness to sacrifice a glass of wine occasionally. And in the meantime you can bask in your Perfect Parenting glory with a glass of mineral water.
Others said to “pump and dump”. For those envisaging a sexual act involving excrement, you’re on the wrong website. It means expressing to remove the milk that may contain traces of alcohol, then dumping it and breastfeeding with “fresh” milk. If this makes you feel a little less guilty about having a glass of wine, go for it. Regardless of the fact that it has been rubbished by medical professionals, I’m all for a bit of ignorant bliss.
There were some who suggested expressing a bottle of breast milk and others who said “if you can drive, you can breastfeed” … the latter is alarming considering the rate of drunk driving in this country. Regardless, there was lots of different opinions from lots of mums, all within their rights to express a point of view to help a poor, thirsty mum out.
But there is always one know-it-all mum that feels the need to turn a benign parenting post on Facebook into an opportunity to teach us all a lesson.
Right, so according to the Australian Breastfeeding Association (which is in no way biased towards breastfeeding according to their name) states that a baby is better off with a mother drinking / smoking and continuing to breastfeed, than being fed “artificial baby milk” aka formula.
With doing absolutely zero research on the topic, I commented back: “Wow, what a horrible message for us mums who couldn’t breastfeed. I appreciate the breastfeeding association is pro-breast but struggle to see how feeding your baby formula is worse than drinking alcohol (or smoking) and breastfeeding.” … again, I reiterate, this is my opinion. In no way supported by medical research but 18 months of raising twins would suggest that predominantly formula fed babies grow and develop as per breastfed babies. In fact, you can’t even tell the difference!
But alas, here was the reply:
Now for starters, you can save your active listening techniques for your 3 year old. I don’t know you and the only interaction we’ve had is a 30-word comment on a Facebook post. So no, you don’t know that “I’m having a hard time hearing the facts related to breastfeeding”. Mental note, I can appreciate why a toddler cracks the shits when you tell them; “I can hear you’re having a hard time accepting the fact that you can’t take your nappy off and poo on the floor.” It must be equally annoying for them as it was for me being lectured by this woman.
The truth is that I really don’t have an issue with my choice to feed my kids formula. I had premmie twins that couldn’t latch properly, spent two weeks hospitalised with Mastitis (room sharing with my newborn twins while my husband slept on a mattress no thicker than a piece of cardboard on the hospital floor), suffered Post Natal Depression and suicidal thoughts (yep, told the nurses I was ready to jump off the building and was admitted to the post natal psych program) and still managed to breastfeed for a month. At which point, I decided my sanity was a greater gift to my kids than my boobs. So we swapped to formula and the best part was that my husband got to feed our babies (and wake up all night too)!
The Facebook thread went on… for two days. Back and forth between the staunchly pro-breast and others who shared a more inclusive view of the world. And all I could think was for the mums out there that are desperate to breastfeed but can’t for whatever reason and will be reading this post feeling they have somehow failed to do the best for their child despite all their love and sacrifices they’ve made.
Honestly, no one denies the benefits of breast milk (a point the woman in this Facebook post failed to comprehend as evidenced by her 10 subsequent comments reiterating the evils of formula). But the reasons for formula feeding are so much more complex than simply deciding it’s a bit inconvenient to breastfeed. And should you find yourself in the position where you need to feed your baby “artificial baby milk”, then I think we should all agree, it’s (a) your f**king choice and (b) providing you still love your kids, you’re doing an awesome job. It’s a bloody tough job raising kids and non-organic broccoli and a bit of formula shouldn’t be our greatest concerns.
So for all the mums present and future, I hope my opinion that no matter how you choose to nourish your baby, provides some reassurance that you’re a great mum. After all, no one will ask your kid when they go for their first job interview whether you breastfed (although there are some strange 50-something year old men who may ask on the street. Yep, it happened.)