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Born to Mum

March 18, 2014

I’ve been thinking long and hard about the media storm caused after a young mother was labelled as a ‘tramp’ when she was snapped by some idiot while she was breastfeeding her baby on a sunny step. The way she was tweeted / facebooked was revolting, the coverage she and the well attended mass feed in that she organised (and others which sprang up in her support) was offered across the world’s press unprecedented … let it be known that nobody messes with a breastfeeding mother.

Good on her for raising the stakes and turning the tables on the anonymous coward who posted the picture with its nasty caption in the first place, the mass feed in’s were supported and publicised by the NCT, MumsNet and other national UK organisations.

All good … very good.

Only a little voice in the back of my head was saying that for me breastfeeding is a personal and reflective time and not something to do in defiance… also, and truthfully, I’ve never had negative comments about breastfeeding in public and I have done it pretty much everywhere. I also did have a couple of difficult situations when I was either mixing formula to give baby Hope (before she started to refuse bottles at 5 months) or when I was giving her a bottle, both times other women were insulting as I wasn’t breastfeeding

I’ve written my second piece for Huffington Post about what I see is the importance of normalizing all kinds of baby feeding, breast, bottle, expressed milk, formula milk … clearly as I’m breastfeeding a 2 year old at the moment, I do have more than one foot in the breastfeeding camp. Having said that, Hope was also formula fed on and off for the first five months until she herself choses breast over bottle. From then on she was exclusively breastfed until we started baby led weaning, and even then she wouldn’t take a bottle or cup til she was nearly one. In hospital when she was born, she was poorly, I was poorly and rubbish at expressing so she had every other feed as formula for the first few days.

I was contacted by a considerable number of women after my first post for Huff Post saying that they were scorned for bottle feeding rather than breastfeeding, and other women who said that they’d felt “guilty” about not being able to breastfeed and had been deeply hurt when receiving negative comments while bottle feeding their babies.

To that end I’m not sure that its just breastfeeding in public that needs normalizing, it’s bottle feeding too … and ultimately it’s all about women respecting each other’s choices and not judging, we all have a story behind what we do. Yes, breastmilk is proven to be the best and is clearly the most natural form of sustenance for babies, but it isn’t always possible to breastfeed and there isn’t always support on hand to help at the point it’s needed, other people chose to formula feed for a myriad of reasons… and ultimately it’s all OK. The MOST important factor in nurturing a child is love.

Why people are so polarized in the debate is beyond me, we should all be celebrating motherhood, healthy babies and feeding and offering support to one another rather than bile or self righteous meanness. Come on women, lets pull together here, there are enough battles to fight along the way. For what it’s worth, I found the La Leche League and the local breastfeeding support networks to be incredibly supportive and helpful and utterly NON judgemental when I was breast and bottle feeding, they get a bad press in some quarters but from my personal experience of this incredible group of women both in the UK and the US it is entirely unfair.

Becoming a new mother is a hard deal as well as an adventure and a blessing, women need support from one another and not judgement.

Having said that I did judge, very harshly, the young Rothmans smoking pregnant mother who was giving her toddler a swig from her can of Red Bull outside the maternity hospital when I was pregnant, but when I ranted to my consultant about it she said that they can advise and ultimately it’s a free world. All I wanted to do was grab the cigarette, throw the can of caffeine laden energy drink into the bed and shake her, but clearly I couldn’t / didn’t do that and had to make do with an evil glare … maybe I should have said something, maybe she truly wasn’t aware of the potential damage she was doing to unborn and born… but as I say I did judge her.

That aside, and back to bottles and breasts … when I was writing my piece I was listening, as I often do, to Mr Springsteen, and in particular the track Born To Run. It made me smile … it always does, and then I had a eureka moment … thinking about the lady in Rugeley and the horrible comment made about her on social media, the offence she and so many (rightly) took at her being labelled a ‘tramp’, the show of unity, all the women together breastfeeding at nationwide mass feed ins … and there was me over the years at many Springsteen concerts proudly thumping the air and emotionally singing surrounded by other ‘tramps’. All we wanted to be was ‘tramps’ like Springsteen … here was I a tramp again, another breastfeeding tramp … and thinking of a way of making it a good word rather than a bad one in the context of breastfeeding.

Which gave me the perfect title, and ending for my Huff Post blog, Tramps Like Us …



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