My Tits, My Choice

You’ll no doubt be familiar with the plethora of click-bait articles that flood our timelines on social media. I try my very hardest not to click on them and yet still do with all the muster and rising adrenaline of a Daily Mail reader and this is how I came to be confronted with the headline:

‘Male Doctor calls for formula to be prescription only to raise breastfeeding rates’. 

Let’s just neatly and rather swiftly dismiss the whole ‘male doctor’ thing – you know, the bit where someone gives advice over a process that they will never have any experience of; like chewed nipples, that fucking horrendous toe-curlingly painful let down, feeding with an open c-section wound, or the bloody gripping after-pains. We’ll call him an ‘expert’ because you know, he knows the theory stuff, apparently. I’ll come back to the prescription thing, because actually, this isn’t just about what a man thinks, it’s our society in general. 

Nah, let’s just go and hurtle straight into the fact that here we go again, women are being TOLD what to do with their bodies. Because didn’t you know that when you get preggers you basically sign away all human rights, bodily autonomy and whatnot? You are MOTHER, ladies. The minute you did the diggily-do and got yourself up the duff (because, by the same token, fertility is your responsibility) you became Mother in a kind of automaton-robotic-Stepford Wifey way (only with saggy tits and gunt-shelf and hair that resembles Winnie the Witch rather than Nicole Kidman). Mother is your name, and Motherhood is your game.

Breastfeeding, like pretty much any ‘choice’ in parenting, is a much-debated topic. If you choose not to breastfeed, then you’d better hide thee away and mutter it to yourself for fear of the Breastapo raining on your formula feeding parade. If you choose to breastfeed, you’d better batten down the hatches because the Bottle-feeders are going to lob cans of formula at your head and chant ‘Tit Gang’ at you in angry, defensive voices. Because whatever your choice, there is someone with a bloody opinion on how you should be feeding your baby. When you are pregnant, every antenatal appointment will end with ‘And are you still considering breastfeeding?’ and you know that ‘considering’ isn’t actually what the sinister smile really means but rather YES YOU ARE. And then you have your baby and you are all over the place with latches and speed of flows and a baby who just Won’t Learn because they are hours old and a Health Visitor arrives and says ‘We need to move them onto the bottle because they are low weight’ JUST at the point you might have got there with a little bit of – god forbid – support. 

What no one says is ‘what do YOU want to do? Here’s the info, make your choice.’ Because there is this idea that nurturing a baby in your body for forty weeks and then breaking your hoo-ha or delivering by the sunroof and therefore scarring your body forever isn’t enough and you can’t be trusted to make the right decision for you and your baby. You’ve probably got ‘Mum Brain’ after all, dear. Now you must give every second of your being over and that starts with how you choose to feed your baby. Your only thought must be focused on the best thing for your child. Isn’t a lifetime of motherhood enough of a sacrifice?

After reading this far, you have probably assumed that I bottle-fed. Wrong. My eldest was breastfed for four months and I hit it out of the park with my platinum diamond aquamarine ruby boobies on my second with 19 months. I have loved and loathed breastfeeding. I equally loved and loathed bottle feeding my firstborn. Both girls are healthy, beautiful, bright buttons. The experience was different each time, but they are different babies. The eldest is a sleeper, the youngest a cuddler. The eldest is super-bright, the youngest super-funny. They are both taking their GCSE maths next year aged 6 and 4. Okay, that’s a fib. But you get my point. I have been a different mother each time, to a degree. And I have had PND with both. And I really wish that my tits ACTUALLY were now platinum with diamonds and rubies encrusted on the nipples because I miss those perky little feckers, despite loving these spaniel ears for the excellent service they gave. 

This isn’t about what is best for your baby, but rather what is best for you. Without a healthy mother, a baby cannot have its basic needs met, including feeding. It’s no coincidence that in the UK, the highest rate of breastfeeding is amongst educated, middle class women who have access to resource, nourishment, comfortable lifestyles and finances. They are the most likely to default to Google, or Mumsnet, or The Motherload when they want information and need a second opinion. Somewhere along the lines we are failing a huge swathe of women, mothers, in their ‘feeding journey’. So what’s the answer?

Well, for a start, making formula prescription-only isn’t it. I don’t believe for a second this will actually happen, but if we did find ourselves living in a Margaret Atwood novel (let’s face it, with Trump as the Leader of the Free World anything could happen) then this would only serve to penalise women who are physically unable to breastfeed, or demonise those who find it repulsive, or wish for the choice to not feed their babies from their bodies. Formula is a most wonderful thing – it provides a baby with all the nourishment they may need, and some. And yes, it’s not our ‘natural’ milk, but it IS a damn good alternative. Donor milk is a lovely idea but honestly, REALLY, who would even know where to start finding that? Not once, during either of my pregnancies or subsequent child raising has anyone ever said to me ‘If you can’t or don’t want to feed, then you can use donor milk’. Not once. In fact the only time I have ever seen that is now on ‘Fed is NOT Best’ campaigns and yet there is still no advice about where to access it. Without the information to know how to access alternatives in the public sphere, of course it is natural that women will go to the most familiar substitute. But what I am passionate about it is removing the judgement from feeding choice. If you can’t feed, that is shit. If you don’t want to breastfeed – that is FINE. Your baby will be fel0op-d through another method and you have the right to make that call. 

Perhaps if we present women with facts, realistic alternatives and a choice, and stop pitching against each other and actually seek to support each other, we might see a positive rise in breastfeeding rates in the UK. We have lost the village of support in this country that used to surround a post-partum mother, with aunts, grandmothers, wise women in the village visiting in the early days to offer a network of support. We’ve lost healthcare advice in the home, with a distinct lack of support for women in those early critical days. Sure, you can ‘pop out’ and find it at a Brasserie or local group but women NEED it in their homes, where they feel safe, nurtured, comfortable rather than desperately trying to battle through feeding issues sitting on a plastic orange chair in a lukewarm village hall with other screaming babies around them. We are doing women a huge disservice in the lack of breastfeeding support, and how can we then blame them for not choosing breastfeeding when it can feel so much easier to give your baby a bottle while your body is in recovery and sleep-deprived?

Make your choice. Be proud of the mother you are. Try your absolute best because it is GOOD ENOUGH. But importantly, don’t judge other mothers for not making the same choice as you. And if you get the opportunity, offer support, and let’s build the village back up and empower women to be the best mother that they can be. Breastfeeder, or not. 

Love this? Read Kate’s hilarious blog Thirty-six is NOT The New Eighteen and for the latest from The Motherload, pop over to our homepage

About Kate Dyson

Founder of The Motherload. Wife, mum to two girls, two cats and shit loads of washing in baskets that sit around the house waiting to be ironed. It never happens. Hater of exercise, denier of weight gain, lover of wine. Feminist. You can follow me on Twitter

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  1. […] this? Then share it and spread the MOLO love! Read Kate’s brilliant blog My Tits, My Choice and for the latest from The Motherload, pop over to our […]

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