By Samantha Johnson
An article is doing the rounds online at the moment, which discusses a case study that claims to determine that there are no long term cognitive benefits to breastfeeding a child. This article, and the many others that have been popping up recently – the ones that claim the benefits to breastfeeding are overstated, that it’s not a necessary practice – are breaking the hearts of breastfeeding mothers everywhere. Not because we are worried, particularly, about the research they claim to be spouting, but because we are already shamed by our society so continuously for breastfeeding (YES – we ARE shamed, all the time) that every time another piece like this comes out, we have to brace ourselves. We have to get ready for the attacks; for the “well meaning” family and friends who will send copies of the article to us, who will tag us in it on Facebook, who will write things like ‘See? It’s OK for you to stop now’ or, ‘This article proves giving him formula won’t do any harm’ or even, ‘Maybe now you’ll get her off your boob and she’ll stop being such a mummas girl.’
Every time one of these articles comes out, it serves to instill more shame into women who are so frequently told that what they are doing is shameful.
If any parents who formula feed are reading this article, let me say this – keep holding your head high, as the rockstar parent you know you are. Do not, for one moment, think that this post is here to judge you or condemn your choices. Some of the most exceptional mothers I know – women I deeply respect and admire – formula feed their children and both they, and their kids, are phenomenal. The way in which we feed our babies has absolutely no relevance as to what type of person they will become; how loving they will be, how respectful and compassionate they are, how motivated and kind and determined. The way you feed your child does not determine what type of citizen they will grow up to be and how they will contribute to the fabric of our society; I am far more interested in knowing that you are committed to raising a well rounded, capable person that I am in knowing if their milk came from a bottle or a boob. This article is in no way here to judge you; rather, it’s here to be a voice for breastfeeding Mums who feel that if just one more document comes out telling them breastfeeding isn’t a good thing for their child, they’re going to break into pieces.
In Australia, at 6 months of age only 15% of infants are exclusively breastfed.
I have no doubt that mothers who formula feed in the first few months of their babies lives receive criticism and judgment. But in our society, seemingly from the moment a child turns 6 months old, the mother will be judged for ‘continuing’ to breastfeed.
I have no doubt that mothers who formula feed in the first few months of their babies lives receive criticism and judgment. But in our society, seemingly from the moment a child turns 6 months old, the mother will be judged for ‘continuing’ to breastfeed. She will receive dirty looks. She will leave venues and events and hide away while she feeds her child. She’ll be told the child would be less clingy, less demanding, sleep better, eat better, BE BETTER, if she would just stop breastfeeding. If she perseveres and continues feeding, by 12 months medical ‘professionals’ will be telling her she should stop. Most of her Mothers Group will no longer be breastfeeding and she’ll feel different, as though she is strange, she’ll feel the burden of the shame that’s being thrust upon her. She’ll be made to feel she’s being selfish and indulgent for ‘still’ feeding her child and any sleep challenges or behavioural difficulties she or the child experience will be automatically attributed to breastfeeding. More blame. More shame.