The Other Side of World Breastfeeding Week

When you google ‘HSE bottle feeding’ you are led to a page which tells you first and foremost, in no uncertain terms, that ‘Breast is best’ and I am not here to argue that.

The World Health Organisation guidelines are, and I quote, “to exclusively breastfeed infants for the child’s first six months to achieve optimal growth, development and health. Thereafter, they should be given nutritious complementary foods and continue breastfeeding up to the age of two years or beyond.”

I’ve always been an advocate of breastfeeding, long before I was ever pregnant or faced the possibility of breastfeeding myself. I believe that parents should be educated and supported and given all the resources they need to breastfeed for as long as they choose. I don’t think that we do enough here to support new parents with breastfeeding, or other postnatal issues, like anxiety, depression, loneliness, etc but that’s for another day.

At 40, I think I’ve met every possible combination of parents and babies – mother and father, single parents, two mothers, two fathers, adoptive parents, breastfed, extended breastfed, bottle fed by choice, bottle fed for other reasons, tube fed.

I don’t want to come across all “but when’s International Men’s day?” here, and it’s taken me a year to write this because of the potential fall out, but here it is.

I find World Breastfeeding Week tough.

I honestly think that breastfeeding is the most beautiful and natural thing in the world, and I also recognise that for some people it’s very difficult, but I tell you – when your ‘breastfeeding journey’ has not gone they way you wanted, it’s tough.

So, what’s my point? I’m not sure. Is it that there should be a bottle feeding week? Maybe just a day, not even a week, to show that people really mean it when they say ‘fed is best’ and ‘happy mum, happy baby’? Maybe.

Because no one celebrates bottle feeding. Even though parents of bottle fed (or indeed tube fed) babies are just doing their best for their child, just like the parents of breastfed babies.

Maybe they chose to bottle feed or couldn’t breastfeed, for whatever reason, maybe they tried really hard, maybe they got help from the midwives in the hospital, maybe they got a lactation consultant, maybe they cried for days when it didn’t work out, maybe every time they took out a bottle to feed their baby, in a group of new friends all breastfeeding theirs, they wanted the ground to open up and swallow them whole.

Maybe they breastfed as much and for as long as they could.

Maybe their baby turned out just fine.

Because nobody celebrates bottle feeding. Even though parents of bottle fed babies are doing their best for them, just like breastfed babies’ parents. Maybe they chose to bottle feed or maybe they couldn’t breastfeed, for whatever reason, maybe they tried really hard, maybe they got help from the midwives in the hospital, and a lactation consultant, but it just didn’t work out. Maybe every time they took out a bottle, to feed their baby, in their mother and baby groups they wanted the ground to open up and swallow them whole.

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