Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Is Breastfeeding 'Creepy'?

To breastfeed or not was touchy territory before Kathryn Blundell stepped into it. That is why she stepped in, to represent the side not heard from often: the group that decides not to even try to feed their newborn from anything but a bottle.

Already on explosive ground, she lit the match by using the adjective "creepy" to describe breastfeeding. And she did so in the July issue of the widely read British magazine Mother & Baby, of which she is the deputy editor.

Under the headline "I formula fed. So what?" she wrote:

I wanted my body back. (And some wine)… I also wanted to give my boobs at least a chance to stay on my chest rather than dangling around my stomach… They’re part of my sexuality, too – not just breasts, but fun bags. And when you have that attitude (and I admit I made no attempt to change it), seeing your teeny, tiny, innocent baby latching on where only a lover has been before feels, well, a little creepy.

She acknowledged studies that have found health benefits to mother and child from breast feeding, but said “even the convenience and supposed health benefits of breast milk couldn’t induce me to stick my nipple in a bawling baby’s mouth.” She continued:

I don’t think I’m the only one, either – only 52 percent of mums still breastfeed after six weeks. Ask most of the quitters why they stopped and you’ll hear tales of agonizing three-hour feeding sessions and – the drama! – bloody nipples. But I often wonder whether many of these women, like me, just couldn’t be fagged or felt like getting tipsy once in a while.

(Translation: fagged is the Britishism for exhausted.)

The parenting blogosphere on both sides of the Atlantic (and all the way down to Australia) lit up when the piece was published last week. Critics were furious that a woman whose job it was to give advice to mothers was steering them wrong, and for what were seen as trivial reasons. Supporters praised her for saying what other mothers often think (how often, no one knows) but rarely say out loud.

Today Blundell responded. On the magazine’s Web site she wrote:

My motivation behind writing this feature was to give a voice to those many women who simply do not want to breastfeed, and as a result of this choice have felt guilty, alienated and distressed.

I also wrote with humor as I wanted to take a more relaxed approach to the topic, in a climate where unfortunately the type of milk a woman feeds her baby seems so open to serious judgment and criticism.

Having a baby leaves a mum in a very vulnerable position and I feel it’s important for all mums to feel confident and comfortable with themselves in order to do what’s best for their baby.

If that choice is to breastfeed, then of course this is really fantastic, as it is certainly the best food for a baby – as I stated in my feature. But, as I also made clear in my feature, breastfeeding just wasn’t for me, and I was happy to take the formula route.

As a supporter of all mums and mums-to-be, Mother & Baby magazine continues to promote breastfeeding as the norm and offers support and advice on feeding – which is just one part of successful parenting.

Source