Why does breastfeeding have to be a battleground?

June 20, 2011

It’s National Breastfeeding Week this week. I don’t have a problem with this at all – I’m sorry that funding has been withdrawn.

What I do object to though is women lecturing and telling other women how to feed their babies and the assumption that anyone who doesn’t breastfeed needs educating so that they can feed their baby ‘properly’. I simply don’t understand why it’s anyone else’s business how other women choose to feed their babies and I’ve heard all the arguments, believe me.

I didn’t breastfeed my baby because I had enough to cope with (given the brain tumour and associated problems) and it was better for both me and my baby that I fed him in a way that was comfortable for both of us. Did it harm him in any way? Did it hell. He’s bright and beautiful and growing into a fine young man.

For me, it’s a no brainer. You want to breastfeed your baby? Fine. You think breast is best? Fine. But the lecturing and criticising of women who don’t? Enough already.

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  • Rachel Ragg November 22, 2011 at 11:14 am

    What a sensible and succinct post.

  • Jo June 22, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    I read this post yesterday but didn’t have time to comment. I’ve just come back, and notice that Happy Homebird has said more or less what I wanted to!

    I do think it cuts both ways. I loved breastfeeding, found it easy, my daughter loved it and seemed to find it easy too. I breastfed her for much longer than I expected to and some of my happiest memories of her babyhood are breastfeed related!

    However, I hardly ever tell people the above. Almost like it’s a bit of a secret. Why? Because I feel judged! I feel people will stereotype me as a militant breast feeder who looks down on formula feeders and makes them feel bad, when the truth is, I couldn’t care less what other people do, as long as their child isn’t neglected or abused.

    My daughter is 4.5 now, and certainly doesn’t have a perfect diet. In fact, she is a picky eater, but I don’t assume that people who manage to get varied meals into their children are judging me.

    The whole thing just seems so needlessly sensitive!

    • Liz Jarvis June 22, 2011 at 6:59 pm

      That’s exactly it – it’s something that’s so fundamentally personal, and about individual choice; it’s ridiculous that any of us should be stigmatised because of the choices we make, whether it’s breastfeeding/formula feeding, schools, healthcare, whatever. And sadly it does seem to be women who go out of their way to make other women feel bad.

      As far as I’m concerned, as long as a child is thriving, that’s all that matters.

      Thank you for your comment x

  • Laura June 21, 2011 at 11:33 pm

    I fed both my eldest girl for 1 week but it just didn’t work for us so we changed to formula & it was the best decision we made. I also fed my second girl for a short while then moved to formula and it was the worst decision.

    There is no right or wrong, there is nothing set in stone, all we can do is what we feel is best at the time and the sign of a truly great mum is caring enough to worry that you are making good decisions.

    • Liz Jarvis June 22, 2011 at 8:11 am

      Totally agree with you x

  • Fantasticpru June 21, 2011 at 11:45 am

    Couldn’t agree more! Happy mum = happy baby. My two are now grown ups, both were breastfed. In retrospect I was fortunate not to have problems and settled into feeding them with just a few usual problems. Daughter is nearly 22 now and I have to say I didn’t have strong views one way or the other during my pregnancy apart from the fact ‘I’d give it a go’ when baby arrived. I had a group of first-time mum friends at that time and some of us BF others didn’t – no-one judged anyone else. In fact back then it more more unusual to BF (this might just be where I lived – was frowned upon that the father didn’t marry me as soon as I got pregnant but that’s another story!). It does annoy me that mums are revered on the one hand but absolutely castigated for every little decision by one side or another! Give mums the credit for knowing what’s best.

    • Liz Jarvis June 22, 2011 at 8:11 am

      Hear hear!

  • Soozi Hadj Lazib June 21, 2011 at 11:17 am

    I don’t breastfeed my twins – I tried at first but it didn’t work out. I don’t know if there was a medical reason – I don’t care to be honest. I’ve moved on and so have they – they’re 7 months old and fit and healthy.

    It makes me sad that some of you saying it’s your choice still feel the need to back that up with a medical reason why you yourself couldn’t or didn’t breastfeed. No one should feel they have to explain themselves.

    You know what… Instead of a breastfeeding week (or a bottle feeding week) we should just have a week where we give all mums the support they need with no preaching or advice being rammed down our throats…

    • Liz Jarvis June 22, 2011 at 8:10 am

      I think that’s a good point – we feel we have to justify the decision we made for our babies. It’s very unfair that mums should be put under so much pressure.

  • Happy Homebird June 21, 2011 at 9:47 am

    I agree, it’s nobody elses business as to how you choose to feed your own child. However, I would like to raise a point that sometimes the criticism/lecturing goes in the other direction too.

    I am still breastfeeding my son at 18 months old. The amount of negative comments I have received from bottle feeding friends is unbelievable.

    Comments ranging from formula is scientifically better as it contains all the necessary vitamins and that’s why my son ended up anaemic at 6months to it will make him too clingy. Also, comments about it being weird and my breasts will go droopy and I’ll have no life as I’ll be constantly breastfeeding.

    Even my own mother, who bottle fed me, was negative and tried to convince me that bottle was better and that’s why in the early days he was always feeding. ‘Give him a bottle, he’s obviously not being filled up by your milk’

    I often find that this side of the story is not mentioned and it’s always breastfeeding mums getting a roasting for lecturing other mums. I don’t. I agree it’s individual choice.


    Sam x

    • Liz Jarvis June 22, 2011 at 8:13 am

      Very well said – it’s important for everyone to remember that their are two sides; we all need to back off from each other.

  • I Heart Motherhood June 21, 2011 at 9:39 am

    thanksd Liz, this debate comes up all the time on baby forums with people making all kinds of ridiculous proclamations that women shouldn’t be mothers if they don’t breast feed and the like. A stressed mother makes for a stressed baby in my opinion, so we each have to do what we feel is right.

    • Liz Jarvis June 22, 2011 at 8:12 am

      I’ve seen some of those forums *shudder* – so unhelpful for new mums who may be anxious about feeding their babies.

  • Crystal Jigsaw June 21, 2011 at 9:16 am

    I don’t believe breast is best, I believe the mother knows best and she chooses to bottle feed rather than breast feed, it is no one elses business whatsoever. I am sick, sick, sick of adverts and do-gooders smothering new mums with their judgemental and arrogant messages. Mums should NOT be put under pressure like this, they have enough to contend with and having society ram down their throats that breast is best can very often tip the new mum over the edge. I never attempted breastfeeding, Amy was given a bottle right from the start; she’s a big, bright, healthy and beautiful 11 year old.

    To the people who think they have a right to lecture women about the benefits of breast feeding, they should have more respect for women’s individual freedom of choice. In a nutshell, these dictators anger me deeply. They are ignorant. Some women, like me, couldn’t and can’t breastfeed because of medical conditions (epilepsy medication) but that does in now way mean they have failed. I get extremely irritated also when I read a blog post, article or tweet where a new mum (and sometimes experienced mum) has written about her “failure” to breastfeed. We are women, we have rights, we also have a brain and a wonderful capability to make a choice.

    Sorry for the rant, Liz.
    CJ xx

    • Liz Jarvis June 21, 2011 at 9:19 am

      Very well said CJ!

  • Ann Wright June 21, 2011 at 9:05 am

    Absolutely. I had to mixed feed my son from three weeks because I simply didn’t produce enough milk and he was starving. Breastfeeding lasted another couple of months until he just rejected my breast totally. No amount of telling me I wasn’t latching on properly is going to convince me that I was doing it wrong. The lack of information about how to bottle feed correctly was astounding compared to the amount of info about breastfeeding, but no-one bothered to investigate if there was actually something wrong with my breasts that they didn’t produce milk, they blamed technique (I have always had v. lumpy boobs so suspect there was something else causing the problem.)
    My son now is a thriving three-year-old who is never ill.

    • Liz Jarvis June 21, 2011 at 9:18 am

      I think also what some people don’t realise about bottle feeding is that it’s still an extremely rewarding and bonding experience.

  • @Kanga_Rue June 20, 2011 at 10:23 pm

    The support needs to be there to help women breast feed… but for whatever reason if they don’t it’s nobody else’s business!

    • Liz Jarvis June 20, 2011 at 10:32 pm

      My point exactly! x

  • Lucy @ theprojectlab June 20, 2011 at 10:04 pm

    This does make a nice change to read. I keep reading all the breastfeeding tweets and articles and it is all still a bit too recent for me. My little one is 15 weeks this week and I breastfed for 8 of those.

    Since I stopped we have all been SO much happier. Obviously this is just us and everyone is different. I put a lot of pressure on myself to try and breastfeed for longer and to be honest I should have stopped earlier. All the talk of breast is best had pre-progammed me to try and carry on when in fact breast was not best for us (and my sanity, and therefore baby’s wellbeing). Luckily I saw it in time but there is still a bit of me that feels I gave up and failed. I even had to blog about it to justify the decision. Thanks for sharing, Lx

    • Liz Jarvis June 20, 2011 at 10:32 pm

      Ultimately it has to be about both the mother’s and the baby’s wellbeing I think. Thank you for sharing too x

    • Charlie June 22, 2011 at 8:27 am

      This was exactly my experience too Lucy! Well done for being so pragmatic about it already x

  • Natalie June 20, 2011 at 10:02 pm

    I BF my first son and that was just fine – it was comfortable for me having had a c-section and he was an easy baby to feed.

    Having just had my second, this time it all went wrong – after a traumatic c-section this little one ended up in SCBU and I fought a tough battle to be able to express/BF him. In SCBU they were pro BF but step outside the unit and the hospital staff couldn’t have cared less… too much hassle to locate a breast pump apparently. Things just never really got going but I persevered with pressure from doctors and health visitors but all the time feeling I wasn’t giving him enough milk. At 12 weeks he was admitted with dehydration and finally a doctor reassured me it was ok to give him formula. He drank the entire bottle and slept like the preverbial baby.

    It was incredibly hard to tell everyone they he needed to be bottle fed to ensure he caught up after his difficult start, due to the negative attitudes that I had ‘given up’. Now the pregnancy hormones have subsided I have to say no one has the right to judge your decision, expecially when circumstances outside your control force your hand.

    • Liz Jarvis June 20, 2011 at 10:31 pm

      I can’t believe you encountered negativity after what you’d been through, utterly ridiculous.

  • Dia June 20, 2011 at 9:46 pm

    I am so glad you wrote this. Thank you! I was planning to breastfeed my baby. But when he was born, he was underweight and the Dr said he should have 2 formula feed first. And then I totally lost my nerve and decided to bottle feed. Every single person that visited us asked if I was nursing and then wanted to know why I wasn’t. The person who went on the most was my mil. I wasn’t breastfed and I’m perfectly healthy. And my son is happy and healthy too!

    • Liz Jarvis June 20, 2011 at 10:30 pm

      It sounds as though you were going through enough, without added pressure. I’m so glad everything’s worked out for you x

  • Charlie June 20, 2011 at 9:14 pm

    Wow – common sense does exist! – I was so determined to BF my little one and when things didn’t go to plan I was so distraught. We were all so much happier when I finally gave in and gave him a bottle, but I still feel belittled and condescended to by some ‘breastfeeding enthusiasts’ as to my decision.
    It’s good to see that lots of Mums can see the good in both methods; that it is more important for your family to be content and not to worry about others views but about what is best for you.
    Thanks for this post Liz I feel much better now!

    • Liz Jarvis June 20, 2011 at 9:38 pm


  • Ally Rosser June 20, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    I have 3 children and I have both breastfed and bottlefed. I admire any woman who breastfeeds but equally I admire those who have made an educated decision on how to feed their baby and at the end of that day that is what matters. The facts are there for all to see but how you feed your baby is your choice.

    I resent the suggestions that breastfeeding gives you healthy and more intelligent children. Any child can be healthy or ill and any child can be intelligent or not. Who asks if you were breastfeed on school application forms or at a job interview?

    I breastfed my 9 month old exclusively for a week, this my fiance started chemo and i had to rely on others to look after my children while I looked after him. At that point bottle feeding became easier for me.

    Bottlefed/breastfeed, who cares? You do what is right for you and your baby and sod those who feel they have the right to be judgmental when they dont know you or know your circumstances.

    Rant over!

    • Liz Jarvis June 20, 2011 at 9:14 pm

      Could not agree more!

  • Kara Guppy June 20, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    I agree it’s the woman’s right to choose.
    I have breastfed all my children and had a really tough time with my youngest at first and felt left alone as all the midwives assumed I was quite capable as I’d done it before.
    I came really close to giving up but persevered through and after 6 weeks the pain eased!
    I just wanted to let everyone know that us breastfeeders get frowned upon too…..I fed all mine until 2 years and the comments from friends, family and strangers could get quite nasty as to why I chose to continue!

    • Liz Jarvis June 20, 2011 at 9:13 pm

      This is my whole point – breastfeed, don’t breastfeed, up to you – but no one should judge you for the decision you make.

      Thank you for commenting!

  • Anonymous June 20, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    Here, here, I am being stigmatised at the moment over this issue and I believe that breast is best but I am a realist and know that there are many situations, including my own that mean that breast is just not possible and the most important thing is that all mums make the best decision for their baby and themselves. Afterall show me a great mum that doesn’t want what is best for their babies and I’ll show you a pig that can fly.

    • Liz Jarvis June 20, 2011 at 9:13 pm

      It is so wrong that you are being stigmatised and I feel very cross on your behalf, I hope you are able to do what it is right for you and your baby without being judged x

  • Monica DeLaCruz June 20, 2011 at 7:46 pm

    Couldn’t agree more!!! I find that it’s similar to the SAHM vs. working mom debate. Enough already. Moms have enough on their plates to be spending time judging other moms’ decisions.

    • Liz Jarvis June 20, 2011 at 9:12 pm

      Exactly. I do wonder what makes these women want to judge others though. Why is it so important to them?

  • Nicki Cawood June 20, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    I too have fed both my boys by the bottle. I chose this route because it was what we as a family were comfortable & happy with and so far both are thriving. I hate the discrimination breastfeeding Mums have to face when out in public, I hate that essential support services are being cut, I absolutely loathe the feeling that I am a second rate mother because I haven’t chosen the “right” way.

    Please society, don’t judge me. I’ll spend enough of my time second-guessing whether I’m raising the boys right, don’t add to the pressure.

    • Liz Jarvis June 20, 2011 at 9:11 pm

      It is the judging that makes me most cross of all. We’re all doing our best x

  • Sarah Gainsborough June 20, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    Here here! I am faced with guilt whenever I talk to friends who breastfed, or see TV adverts or read magazines. I tried breast feeding and in the end I needed to get myself well so stopped so I could take medication. A healthy, happy mum makes for a healthy, happy baby surely. But still I blame myself for every cold or bug she gets. I don’t think that is fair.

    • Liz Jarvis June 20, 2011 at 9:10 pm

      A healthy happy mum and a healthy happy baby is all that matters. Please don’t blame yourself – I know lots of breastfed babies who get colds and bugs also!

  • Tania @ Larger Family Life June 20, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    What a breath of fresh air this post is. Thank you, Liz.

    • Liz Jarvis June 20, 2011 at 9:08 pm

      lol – welcome!

  • Michelloui | The American Resident June 20, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    Brain tumour?! Wow, I had no idea. Of course you had other things going on, the easiest thing for you would have been the best thing for baby as well.

    I breast fed, but it was easiest for me. I hold firmly to the opinion that whatever works best for the mother will work best for baby. We live in a time when formula is very well researched and healthy. Stress from the mother is worse than formula by FAR!

    And while I’m on my soapbox, I feel the same about childcare–whatever is best for the parents, whatever will help them be the best parents they can be is the right decision for them, even if it means full time childcare. My daughter was only in nursery 3 days a week from the age of 2.5 but thats all I needed.

    Parents experience too much stress caused by societal judgements and pressures–it can ruin or have a negative effect on good parenting.

    • Liz Jarvis June 20, 2011 at 9:07 pm

      Totally agree – trying to dictate to women how to live their lives/raise their children is completely wrong IMHO

  • Rebecca Ring June 20, 2011 at 10:57 am

    I agree with you Liz, Yes I’m very pro breastfeeding but have also bottle fed one of my sons. I would never push my opinion on others regarding breastfeeding and feel it is up to the individual how they choose to fed their child. At the end of the day we all have to do what is right for ourselfs and should not have to endure endless negative comments from others because of the choices we make.

    • Liz Jarvis June 20, 2011 at 9:06 pm

      Exactly. Thank you so much for sharing a well balanced view x

  • Fi June 20, 2011 at 8:25 am

    Thank You! Finally a decent post about breastfeeding that doesn’t judge and accuse those who don’t as weak or doing wrong for their child.

    Your baby, your body, your choice.

    I’m sick of all the added pressure on new mums to breastfeed when some can’t or just don’t want to.

    I receive around 50 emails a week from stressed mums and half of them are to do with the pressures of breastfeeding from HVs and other mums.

    Breastapo- back off!

    Thanks for this post Liz.

    • Liz Jarvis June 20, 2011 at 9:06 pm

      It makes me so cross that women think they can dictate to other women how to raise their children. It’s ridiculous!