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Breastfeeding led voting

May 7, 2015

Someone knocked on the door a few weeks back, I didn’t answer, I was preparing pasta pesto and fish fingers for my little girl.

Later, washing up done, small person snuggled in a deep breast milk induced sleep, I picked up the leaflet that had been posted through the letterbox, it was from the local Tory party, it went in the bin, but I fished it out again and read through, this election means so much more to me than any other. I have a daughter now. Not just my future, hers too, her schooling, her  opportunities, her access to amenities, all impacted by the government.

It got me thinking about the kind of world I want her to grow up in, the kind of world in which I’m now a mother. Each and every party will say they stand for family, for women, for children, for equal rights and opportunities.

I’ve spent the last three years in a blissful state, ignorant of much of the detail of politics, I’ve been busy relishing motherhood, playing with my daughter, splashing in puddles, singing songs about Dingle Dangle Scarecrows and Twinkling Stars and living in the immediate reality of being a new parent. The joy and the drama of day to day life with a child has been far more important to me, and the rare times I’ve sat and watched the news, I’ve had to turn it off as I found it too depressing, upsetting or frustratingly the same old same old stories of political infighting or uninspiring celebrity gossip. It may have been a naive way to spend the time but it was a very deliberate choice I made, one to move away from a previous life as a news junkie, to one where the most important news was how my small person’s friend who had chickenpox was doing, or that the amazing dancing teacher was starting classes nearer to where we lived.

The news I’ve followed in any kind of detail has been related to what has mattered to us, and over the last three years, one of the most important parts of our lives has been breastfeeding. I’ve written about it in the media, spoken about it on the radio, spent hours and hours actually doing it with a toddler who shows absolutely no sign of wanting to stop and has a remarkably varied diet on top of the gallons of breastmilk she consumes. I’ve supported the local drop in centre when it was faced with closure, and I’ve also written a book (for children and their families) about it. I’ve researched breastfeeding trends worldwide and I’ve joined lots of breastfeeding forums and been inspired by the courage, determination and single mindedness of women who have struggled themselves to breastfeed and then are there to support others.

The news that Nigel Farage wanted to consign breastfeeding mothers to a corner to nurse politely and out of the way rather than, damn their breasts and babies, ostentatiously in public, came hot on the heels of someone being asked to breastfeed her baby under a large napkin in a lavish London hotel. Then the news that the Govt have decided to cancel the 2015 National Infant Feeding Survey,  which is ridiculous when they themselves use the findings to demonstrate breastfeeding trends. These trends are of such huge importance in a world where the cost of health provision is facing major cuts and the benefits of breastfeeding are being proven and demonstrated by studies from around the world, and I should hasten to add, the importance of supporting those who struggle and go on to formula feed and are left feeling as if they’ve failed or are being judged due to the lack of support.

The news that the Cambridge Breastfeeding Alliance (and many other local drop in centres around the country) is faced with closure was of huge importance, the support they gave me early on was life changing, quite literally. If it hadn’t been for their kind and wise volunteers our breastfeeding journey wouldn’t have started and ultimately the writing it inspired wouldn’t have happened either. This threatened closure was due to cuts.

So… who will I be voting for? The debates have had no impact on me, but I did find the responses to the BabyMilk Action questions telling not least from the parties that couldn’t be bothered to respond.

Ultimately I want to live in a society where breastfeeding isn’t simply encouraged but actively supported, where mothers and mothering are nurtured, I love the Scandinavian approach, which has ultimately led to excellent breastfeeding rates, one where the importance of family and community in raising a child and shaping his or her environment are valued, one where mothers aren’t set against each other for parenting decisions often made due to lack of support or care. I want support for midwives and health workers, compassion for immigrants, tolerance in a multi cultural society and care for the elderly and the disabled.

All that in mind I’m off to nurse my little girl, to make breakfast for her and for my elderly mother, work, do some finger painting, vote and then find some puddles to jump up in.

Breastfeeding matters

because breastfeeding matters

My book, Milky Moments, is published on 14th May 2015 by Pinter and Martin Publishers

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