Crimes of Breastfeeding

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In honour of Breastfeeding Awareness Week (19th-25th June 2011), I intended to write a post a day about my breastfeeding journey. I’m a few days behind, but I’ll get there in the end. Like breastfeeding, I am taking it a day at a time…

The more time I spend on baby and parenting forums, the more often I see the phrase “a rod for your own back”. It seems that everything you do as a parent is setting yourself up for future issues.

This is my guide to the heinous crimes committed by breastfeeding mums:

1. Feeding to sleep
caring mother by limaoscarjuliet - http://www.flickr.com/photos/limaoscarjuliet/154567026/Don’t do this. Not under any circumstances. If you feed a child to sleep, they will NEVER learn to go to sleep alone.

Bad mum tip: Breastfeeding makes babies sleepy. Fast. You get little enough sleep. Why spend hours rocking or try to wake a baby up again when you could have a nice cup of tea and a biscuit. Make the most of it. They won’t always be so easily manipulated!

2. Feeding for comfort
Congo: A Mother's Comfort by babasteve - http://www.flickr.com/photos/babasteve/4557682552/Don’t let your child use your breast as a dummy. You are just spoiling the child… Mothers are for nourishment, not for comfort!

Bad mum tip: It is OK to comfort your child. Babies need to suck. Don’t tell anyone, but breasts are surprisingly effective for this purpose. They are a similar shape to dummies, cheaper and don’t need sterilising. They are also very comforting… Breastmilk cleverly adjusts in line with your child’s needs so your “atrocious” parenting will have few ill effects. The only time you need to change it, is if it is making your breastfeeding relationship difficult. If it works for you and your child, it’s right.

The facts: Kellymom on comfort nursing and feeding to sleep.
3. Not having a “routine”

Copyright © 2010 Umbrella ShotYou are making a rod for your own back if you don’t get your child into a routine as quickly as possible. Babies don’t need feeding more than 4 hourly, they are just snacking…

Bad mum tip:Feeding on demand” is the most successful way to establish, and maintain breastfeeding. When you follow their cues, babies are less grumpy and give you an easier life, so why fight it? Besides, everyone knows that the ideal place for breastfeeding when out and about is a coffee shop. Treat yourself to cake while you’re there! Baby will settle into their own routine before long anyway. It will change if they’re teething, ill, they’re having a growth spurt, or even in hot weather to make sure your milk always meets their needs.

The facts: Is snacking that bad? Great article by Diane Wiessinger.
4. “Still” breastfeeding (at any age)
At some point in your breastfeeding relationship, you will hear the dreaded, “are you still feeding?”. Depending on your particular circle, it may start earlier or later… but it will start. It usually comes just at the point when you feel you are finally getting the hang of it. It’s sometimes curiosity, often well-meaning, and occasionally downright rude, but the effect is always to undermine your confidence when you’ve worked so hard to get to this point.

Bad mum tip: There isn’t one really. They are wrong. The WHO recommends exclusive feeding to 6 months, and breastfeeding alongside solid food to 2 years at least. The proportion of mothers in the Western world that manage that is tiny so to criticise a mum who is trying to do the best for their child at any age seems incredibly harsh. If you are “still” breastfeeding, whether at 4 weeks or 4 years, you probably know why you are doing it. This is my favourite list of responses for those times when the criticism gets too much.

I have made lots of rods for my own back. I chose them myself and, so far, they are wonderfully supportive rods and I don’t regret the hard work at all. Of course my daughter will probably grow up to be clingy, spoilt and dependent. You are welcome to tell her that… if you can catch her…

The other posts in this series are My Breastfeeding Journey: Pregnancy ; My Breastfeeding Journey: Breastfeeding a Newborn ; My Breastfeeding Journey: Finding My Style

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15 Replies to “Crimes of Breastfeeding”

  1. The 4 hourly thing is just plain wrong. Our first child woke every two hours for a feed, and he drank his fill, not a little snack. We used to joke that we could use him to set our clocks. The second would only wake for a feed at most twice a night right from early on.

    1. It’s always strikes me as daft. I struggle to wait 4 hours for food as an adult. The idea of disassociating hunger from feeding at such an early age strikes me as a fast track to obesity.

  2. What a wonderfully reassuring post for mums. I know that right from the start, my eldest fell asleep on the breast. So I panicked when I was told I shouldn't 'feed him to sleep'. How was I to avoid this?I panicked so much about doing everything wrong I spiralled into postnatal depression. How I wish I'd had the knowledge and strength to tell people where to go, and to trust my own instincts.

  3. Hurrah! From another mum who’s doing it all ‘wrong’. But my kid is so happy, independent and confident, I know that i am doing exactly what he needs.

  4. Great post. You and me = same views on all this. I get so angry at people who basically say you are creating a high maintenance child by being there for them. Isn’t that what a mother is for??????? Visiting from silent sunday.

  5. I believe that when you offer a child the absolute security that you will always be there when they need you, they have more confidence to step out on their own, sleep on their own and self-wean. When that happens depends on the child. While I don’t think there’s any harm in a little routine, trying to force a rigid timetable on a small child is counterproductive.

  6. Excellent article. I did all of these things and worried about them constantly but at 10 months I have a happy baby who has recently weaned herself from breast to formula (better that I cried and mourned than she did) and goes down awake and goes straight to sleep all night and nap time every time, 99% of the time. I spent many hours feeding her to sleep night time and naps no adverse effects, actually think it prepared her to sleep. Desperately miss feeding her but happy that she is happy.

  7. I know some people are ignorant but I didn’t realize these ideas were sooo common. I feel sorry for the children of these people who are so convinced that a child should not be an inconvenience to the parents preferred way of living, and that treating a baby like an adult now will make them behave like one later. Uh, no, they are a child. Treat them like an adult when they are an adult, please. (I know you are about breastfeeding but You should do a post on the other things on this subject, like how your are supposed to let your child cry to sleep instead of cuddle him to sleep or play with him until he’s actually sleepy. That one gets me every time. Really, people, you are so selfish that you think your sleep schedule comes above the care-taking and security of a your own child?)

  8. Yep I have had this phrase thrown at me a lot even from my mum who had been really supportive. Just coz i don’t let E cry it out & cuddle him lots. I’m definitely bringing up a mummy’s boy! That’s why I was able to go get a pedicure this morning! He was fine with his dad! I just retort “we like it this way” which is true, we do!

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