It's a matter of necessity and that's as far as the debate should ever go.
Why do people judge mums for how they look after their baby?
Before I became pregnant, I had never taken any interest, or even noticed the debate which surrounds breastfeeding vs bottle feeding.
I guess you can say that until you experience the decisions and struggles that go along with feeding your baby first hand, you really can't relate.
Subsequently, this is where the problem begins. Ignorance from outsiders and a general lack of knowledge and awareness of how difficult this most basic need can be for new parents, turns into women being judged for how they feed their child.
When I became pregnant, I knew I wanted to breastfeed straight away. I'd done a bit of research and as well as breast milk being tailored to my baby's needs, I also pictured having to get up during the night to fix bottles or lugging a steriliser around while out and about and thought, "why not go for the easier option?" You can never forget your boobs! Little did I know, that neither option is "easy".
During NCT or first step classes, you are very much stuffed full with the benefits of breastfeeding and undeniably, breastfeeding is better in terms of creating antibodies that help build up a babies immune system. This helps to prevent obesity in young children and also helps to solidify that bond between a new baby and their nervous new mother.
However, all this being said, this doesn't mean that breastfeeding is the only good option as there are many instances in which woman simply can not do it, and where good quality formula acts as a close alternative.
When Joseph was born, I remember almost instantly, a midwife coming over and asking "has he latched on yet?" At this point I didn't even really know what she was talking about and given that I had just gone through a 36 hour labour, I just wanted everyone to bugger off and leave me alone!
After finding out she meant, had he fed and attached correctly to my nipple, I began to panic. Why wouldn't he? Surely it was just something that naturally happens? Unfortunately, however primitive breastfeeding is, it is something which both mum and baby have to learn together and it starts immediately, no matter how tiring or traumatic a birth you've just been through.
This learning curve is a steep one too - the pain and suffering that comes with incorrect latches can lead to cracked and bleeding nipples; the engorgement of milk supply correcting itself; the hot burning pain of mastitis; the cabbage leaves I kept finding under my pillow from sleeping with them over my breasts on numerous occasions; and the tubes and tubes of Lanolin creams... you can see why women can be deterred.
But then it just stops. The pain and suffering stops and you can barely remember a time that it wasn't second nature. It does get better very quickly, but I feel this is not made clear to enough women who assume the pain will go on forever.
And then there's stopping all together. No one told me how hard it would be to stop. You go through all of the above mentioned, just to find yourself struggling and feeling very alone again, when you now have a child who relies on breast milk for most things from cradle cap to comfort. But again, it gets easier and happens with time.
So am I saying with all this, that breastfeeding is a bad thing? No not at all – neither breastfeeding nor bottle feeding is good or bad. It's a matter of necessity and that's as far as the debate should ever go.
All mothers wants to do what's best for their child. For some women, the stress of breastfeeding makes them an anxious parent. So why carry on? For some women, the paranoia of sterilising makes then an anxious parent. So why carry on? Why push yourself to do something just because you think you should, even though is is ultimately making both you and your child unhappy?
This is down to the fear of judgement that is so strong amongst new mothers. And the people who judge these women for their choices, are often the people who have no idea about the levels of stress that can go into simply feeding your child and fulfilling its more basic of needs. I remember the looks I would get for breastfeeding in some public places that made me want to run home and not come out again until he was weaned. I'd wished in those moments he was bottle fed. Yet then I'd hear a similar story from my friend who bottle fed saying she wish she could have breastfed. You feel as though you can never win.
Despite my own struggles, I am still so happy that I made the choices I did and breastfed my baby until he was one years old. But as a mum, I know that there are so many more reasons behind choosing not to breastfeed them just not wanting to.
So next time you see a mum with a bottle, don't judge her. She may have tried and struggled and still struggles every day. If you see a woman breastfeeding her 3 year old child, don't judge her. She may be trying to stop, but she finds it impossible and lonely.
We as mothers have the most wonderful gift of foresight and empathy – you can be sure that no matter what it may be, another mum has been there and done that twice over. So we should use our experience and intuition to help others in the same situation as we may have been or are in ourselves. We need a communal, sticking-two-fingers-up, at those from the outside looking in and help others to perhaps build their walls of self esteem higher so no one elses view matters.
It's a shorter fall when you step down from your high horse and I think we could all learn something from being that bit more kind and understanding.
Have you ever been judged for breastfeeding or bottle-feeding?
I want hours upon hours of delicious sleep followed by hot cups of tea, reading my book and nothingness. But I'll have to get up now to comfort, feed, clean, dress, entertain, love, laugh, play, and repeat.