Breastfeeding - Milk, Sweat and Tears - First posted 2nd Aug 2016
It's international breastfeeding week. Can you imagine a world where breastfeeding, and especially in public was as common place as any other type of feeding? I am still amazed at how political and jarring breastfeeding in public is, imagine if we had the same reaction to someone eating a ham and cheese sandwich. It feels ludicrous to even write that.
When I think back to the birth of my son and my first encounter with breastfeeding, we'd had the conversation, we'd heard and read about the importance of breast feeding. We knew it was best.
Then reality hit and it was hard. It involved a lot of pain, frustration and concern about whether our son was feeding correctly, was it really meant to be this difficult? What with the sleep deprivation, it's hard to be rational and logical when there's blood coming from your wife's breasts and your baby is crying non-stop through what we thought was inability to feed. The first few days and weeks are tough to say the least.
That was over seven years ago, and this year we're heading down that road again, with the same level of excitement about welcoming a new baby into our family. Also with the same fears about breast feeding. It's not meant to be like this though is it? It's meant to be this beautiful bonding time between the new mum and baby.
Breastfeeding feels like one of those media myths akin to the labour that takes five minutes and is well just a wee bit painful but then you get this lovely clean calm baby at the end. From my limited experience I've come to the conclusion that every labour experience is so personal and unique and I'm beginning to wonder if the same can be said of breastfeeding. Sure there will be some basics that are the same for everyone, but with babies being so unique, and our bodies being all different it makes sense that it will be a different experience for different mums.
I hope we have a better experience of breastfeeding this time round, but again we've talked about not feeling guilty if it doesn't work out. Where does the pressure to succeed at breastfeeding come from? The NHS? Society? Ourselves? Perhaps all of them, and others.
The whole issue of breasts having the dual role for feeding babies and being sexualised is perhaps confusing to us simple blokes also. That sounds like a whole other blog, and sounds like a very complex issue, but I do wonder if it's all tied up in our discomfort with breastfeeding in public.
We really need to get over it though. For the sake of our children we need to move and see breastfeeding in public as part of everyday life, let's stop staring at breastfeeding mums, let's keep speaking about it, and challenging intolerance to it.