By Emily Brittingham
We’ve all seen images pop up in our news feed of the beautiful new mother with a baby at her breast: calm, composed, almost ethereal – and recognised this as the ‘natural’ way for a mother to feed her baby. But what if breastfeeding doesn’t come naturally? What if breastfeeding is uncomfortable or painful? What if you don’t make enough milk? What if your baby is not content like the one in the picture? The list goes on.
Our bodies can perform the amazing accomplishment of conceiving, carrying and birthing our babies, so where does this seed of doubt about our ability to breastfeed come from?
It comes from our very human need to conform to cultural norms, in a culture which views women’s bodies (and especially breasts) as sexual. It is common for most of us to see a mother feeding her baby a bottle, but it may be less common for us to see a mother breastfeeding her baby. The less breastfeeding we see as a part of our everyday lives, the more we believe it is an activity which needs to be hidden, or at the least, done ‘discreetly’. It also means that so many of us have never actually seen a woman feeding her baby up close before we have our own baby! Then, subconsciously, a seed of doubt about our ability to breastfeed is planted, and ultimately contributes to some mothers not meeting their breastfeeding goals.
Society’s expectations of the contemporary mother to do it all, have it all and be it all places an enormous amount of pressure on women.