A really interesting article has appeared in the Telegraph, in response to the latest news that breastfeeding rates are on the decline for the first time in a decade. The article (link at the end of this post) gets straight to the point in addressing how difficult breastfeeding can be during those first few days. It has struck a particular chord with me because it echoes the research I did recently for my own feature article which showed that government messaging may need to evolve from encouraging women to choose breast over bottle to reassuring women that it’s not all meant to be easy. By furthering their messaging in this way, they might address the low rates of longer-term feeding.
But the latest flurry of news reports around support, or lack of it, and the subsequent drop off in breastfeeding rates has got me thinking about the lives we live and what place breastfeeding has in this modern society.
A society where everything is instant, fast, smart. We simply don’t do pain/inconvenience/ waiting. Because we don’t need to. There’s always a solution to get you out of a problem these days, whether it involves upgrading your technology, throwing a little money at the problem to make it go away, or simply ‘exercising our right to choose’ – something we do oh-so-readily when it suits us in this ultra-convenient 21st century.
To draw the simplest comparison, let’s say you’ve had a really busy and stressful day at work. You’re on the way home, thinking about what’s in the fridge for dinner, calculating your journey time and how long your menu will take to cook. Seriously? Nine o clock in the evening for dinner? No chance, I’ll order food in. Job done.
Why, when life is geared towards ease and simplicity, would something as primitive as breastfeeding – and, let’s be honest here, all its complexities – be tolerated? I’ve talked a lot about the precious moments during feeding and one of the reasons these are so valuable is that we are forced to stop and take time to stare at our precious bundles as they take their fill. Such a rare thing, in this hectic, bustling society, for any of us to just stop. Sit down, rest a moment.
But, no, it hurts and it’s not going as smoothly as it could and, anyway, there’s another option. Why not take it? The article in the Telegraph talks about the need for a public figure or an icon to breastfeed, in order to raise its profile and make it ‘fashionable’ again. Kate Middleton is the obvious candidate singled out to fight the good fight.
But I’m not sure this is enough. There’s no doubt a prominent figure such as our future Queen might increase breastfeeding rates amongst her fan base or might embarrass the media into putting a more positive slant on breastfeeding but I truly believe that, if society continues to pick up pace at the rate it has done over the last fifteen to twenty years, breastfeeding will become ever more a quaint activity undertaken by traditionalists, a bit like crochet or knitting or hand-writing letters.
Seems a harsh assessment? Take the Telegraph piece that has inspired this blog post. The author insists she didn’t “push through the pain barrier for any spiritual reason”. She simply felt she was too busy to manage with bottles and formula. A win for breastfeeding, you might think. But this hardly represents buy in to the messaging about healthy starts, better bonding and so on. And there’s no judgement meant by this post. I know that the issues women face when trying to breastfeed are many and varied, as are the reasons some of them move from breast to bottle at an earlier stage than perhaps they had originally intended.
But society surely has a role to play and should stand up and be counted – how sad would it be if breastfeeding became a dying art? If we walk away from one of the most primal activities still undertaken by human-kind?
Our Telegraph writer thinks the declining rates are down to a lack of support from midwives and the NHS in general. I have a horrible feeling it is far more deep-seated than that.
To read the Telegraph article, visit http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/mother-tongue/10138627/Why-we-need-the-Duchess-of-Cambridge-to-breastfeed.html
My feature article will be appearing in my local NCT magazine. For those of you without access to this, I will publish the article here on mummyem as soon as it has gone to print.