On Breastfeeding — My Body, My Choice
Mirah Curzer
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Let me ask you to imagine.

Imagine a baby is born and is placed in his mother’s arms. Imagine that this new mother has endless options available to her. She can — regardless of marital or financial or employment status, race, religion or residence — choose to bring her newborn to her chest and allow him to latch on, or hold a bottle to his lips, or hand him off to another adult. She can choose to stay at home with her baby or return to full-time work the moment she feels able to, or somewhere in between. She can access any help she needs, regardless if that’s lactation support or help choosing formula bottles or rental of a hospital-grade double pump. She can choose what and how to feed her baby, whether that’s her own milk or another mother’s milk or formula. She can leave her baby in the care she feels most comfortable with while she works or takes time for herself. And she can do all of this with the full support of all those around her and her baby, from partner to healthcare providers to employers to parents and friends and random strangers in the street.

Imagine if a woman’s choices were not dictated by luck, or accidents of birth, or bad or good advice. Imagine if every woman could make exactly the right choice for her. Imagine if no-one but the woman’s support network had an opinion on her choices.

Can you imagine that? That is the ideal world, that is the world we — the most inclusive we, the we from all sides of the table — should be aiming for. And that is not the world you describe. The imagined world requires real, full support for all mothers to breastfeed for as long as they and their baby want to. That means struggling mothers not being given bad advice, as often happens in this world. That means mothers not being shamed or humiliated or vilified for breastfeeding in public, as often happens in this world. The imagined world also requires providing mothers with support if or when they choose to stop, or not even start. It also requires supporting mothers (and fathers) staying at home if they choose or working if they choose — childcare being a big part of that.

It will take a lot to achieve that. It will be hard work and in most countries that work has hardly begun. But posts like this one do not help anyone. How about instead of playing the victim you advocate for improved maternity and parental leave, access to quality childcare, support for mothers to achieve their breastfeeding goals — whatever those may be? How about instead of fueling the divisive breastfeeding vs formula argument you join the fight to normalise breastfeeding? If breastfeeding is seen as normal women can truly make their own rational, informed choice without being pressured by guidelines or social norms or those adhering to them.

Honestly, truly, we are all in this together and only with real freedom to choose one do we have freedom to choose the other.

Oh, and that $100 billion dollar industry? Over my 4.5 years of breastfeeding, they’ve got exactly $0 from me.

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