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The difference between theory and reality

One of the big issues I see being pro-breastfeeding is the gulf between the hard theory and the reality of women’s actual lives.

You see, taken in isolation, taken away from the realities of life, and looking purely at hard science, there is a very strong argument that every child should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of their life and that breastfeeding should then continue until age two or when the child self weans.
There is a weight of evidence to suggest that doing this is best for the baby, best for the mother and best for society.

The hard fact of reality is that the overwhelming majority of people just aren’t going to manage to do this.

Real life, real emotions, real misinformation get in the way.

These cold, hard facts obscure the reality of insufficient support, conflicting information and society where bottle feeding is the norm and expected outcome.

The role of breastfeeding supporters has to be to inform, to support and to understand.  Judging, criticising, attacking just widen the imagined divide.  Has continued to suggest that there is a difference between breastfeeding and bottle feeding mothers when really there isn’t.

We are lucky that there is another option for mothers who can’t, who won’t, who have had to give up breastfeeding.  We are lucky that we live in a society with clean water to make formula preparation safe.

We are lucky that our infant mortality rates are so low.

Where we are unlucky is that some mothers are making decisions based on incorrect information, some healthcare professionals seem determined to undermine breastfeeding, society has grown away from the breastfeeding mother as the norm.

You see, I could, if I was inclined towards the militant end of the breastfeeding spectrum, say that breastfeeding and supplementing with a bottle of formula is wrong.

Yes, I know that with biological nurturing, babymooning, changes in diet, possible supplements it is possible to avoid topping up.

But you know what, every drop of breastmilk delivers benefits, every single one.

And if you’re a busy mum, or a stressed mum and your baby does need more calories than your body is easily able to produce, especially if you’ve other children, or have other pressing demands on your life, the reality is you do what you need to.

You supplement but you continue to be committed to breastfeeding.

And the bottom line is that that is a good thing.

Not something for people to take pop shots at you about.

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8 comments to The difference between theory and reality

  • PantsWithNames

    >Hear Hear.

  • platespinner

    >Nice post. I'm starting to feel quite apprehensive about BF second time round, this time with a toddler in tow. I had a lot of problems feeding first time round and really struggled to maintain exclusive BF. With hindsight, I'm not sure getting myself into such a state with it was what was best for me or monkey, even though we did manage to feed for ten months in the end. This time, I am going to try and take your attitude a little more and give myself a break if reality is it is becoming such a struggle it is having an impact on the whole family.

  • Domestic Goddesque

    >platespinner- you managed longer than I did first time round, and I still managed it second time round. It is a juggling act feeding a baby with a toddler in tow, but they both get used to it.

    Muddling- as ever, a great post on breastfeeding. I struggled twice, more with my emotions than anything else, and compounded by the uselessness of HV. There doesn't seem to be a standard for the sort of support you get. I'm just grateful I don't live in Indonesia, where they are bringing in laws to make anything other than breastfeeding for the fist six months illegal (according to Dotterel/Bringing up Charlie's post a while back.) The idea that I could be prosecuted for non-compliance would add to the stress.

  • TheMadHouse

    >I think as a mum and a parent that other woman should all be about empowering women to to the best they can, not judging and picking faults. So this post is wonderful

  • Preseli Mags

    >Hear hear. Wonderful balanced post. I found it so much easier to supplement breast with bottle – it was my 'guilty secret' and it shouldn't have been.

  • I'm So Fancy

    >I agree! And I am guilty of being a breastfeeding Nazi, until I tried induced lactation with my adopted daughter. Not for the faint of heart, that was. But the paranoia when you whip out a bottle in public and look to see who is watching and judging you is palpable!

  • Babies who brunch

    >too true. good post. doesn't explain why i felt i had to avoid formula at all costs. nothing does. maybe another time i'd be different.

  • cartside

    >I'm so committed to breastfeeding. And I supplemented with older daughter. Not a lot, and it was hard (I was crying my eyes out when I fed the first bottle of formula) but I've no regrets because it helped me continue breastfeeding and keeping it up until she was 2 years. Without that occasional emergency formula (I never managed to express for those emergencies, my boobs were dry as stone between feeds) I don't know what I would have done.

    Platespinner – As to 2nd time around and with toddler in tow – I find the feeding bit easier. honest. I would have been happy not to give myself a hard time and mix feed, but seriously, I'm having a much easier time with breast-feeding this time around.

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