We breastfeed. Do I make a big deal out of it? I don't know, but I don't think so. We just kinda get on with living our lives and when our son is hungry he latches on to my breast and gulps away at my milk until he's done. Wherever we are and whoever we are with, we just get on and feed when he needs to. I don't make any effort to be particularly discreet but have pretty much got the whole "one top up one top down and in your mouth it goes" down to a fine art. It's natural, necessary and normal, and needs to be seen as such. The uk has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates with 'social pressures' commonly given as a reason.
But despite the fact breastfeeding is a very normal part of any normal day for us, I am damn proud of the fact we are here, we are doing it. And I am sick of people telling me I have no right to be proud, in case it offends other people.
Breastfeeding, for us, was bloody hard work. In the beginning our son was 3wks early, in hospital and sleepy from antibiotics for about a week and a half, and wouldn't latch at all, so I spent days expressing my milk and feeding him by syringe. Then he would latch, and it was the most excruciating pain I have ever experienced. People told me to stop and to formula feed, I didn't, I continued to nurse him because it was the best thing for him and I had absolute sheer determination to get through it. Then he would only latch with a nipple shield, a flimsy piece of silicone which falls off 20 times whilst you are trying to position a wriggling newborn and get him to open his mouth enough. The amount of times I lost them was ridiculous, cue much screaming from the boy whilst we hunted for it and washed it ready for use! Then there was the tongue tie division, which left my son screaming in pain whilst they held him still and cut his tongue. But I let them do it because I knew it was the best thing for us. And then we had to re-learn how to feed, him with a new moving tongue and me without the protection of the shields. I have cried many tears whilst holding my hungry boy to my chest, I have wanted to formula feed him so many times through hours and hours of cluster feeding sessions, I have thought I might just die of tiredness when he has wanted to nurse night after night every hour on the hour. But we have gotten through it, and for 16 weeks I have provided our son with milk that was made especially for him. And I am so damn proud of that.
Does any of what I've just written make formula feeders feel inadequate, awkward or like I am trying to shame them? No. Well at least I hope not. Because my journey, with my son, is about me and him and no-one else. I am not telling you that you SHOULD have breastfed, I am not saying you COULD have tried harder, and I am certainly not saying I am better than you because I was successful. It's like my friend saying to me that they are better than me because they wanted to run the London Marathon and so they did. I have no intention of running the London Marathon, but even if I did, her saying she completed it wouldn't make me feel less adequate about the fact I haven't.
So, although I really hate the term "fed is best", what I do really believe in is maternal choice. Every single person had the right to choice, and to be proud of the way they fed their babies and the journies they took to get there. I will stand up for my sister's right to formula feed her daughter who is slightly older than Oskar and I will also stand up and say I am proud of myself. For getting through what we have, for all of those tears, all of that pain, for all of those awful nights when I just didn't know what to do anymore. I am a successful breastfeeder. But in order to be that I really don't need to tear down anyone else's choice of feeding. Isn't it about time we all built each other up instead of tearing each other down? Or being afraid to say we are proud of ourselves in case someone else takes offence? We are all doing our best to mother our beautiful children, can't we just leave it as that?