Tag Archives: education

I read the comments…

I did it again. I read the comments. Dear God, why did I read the comments? Nothing good can come from reading the comments, am I right?

It all started with this image:

Then 600 odd comments (at the time of writing this) ensued.

Apparently, according to the posters on the BellyBelly facebook page, breastfeeding beyond 12 months is:

Disgusting, gross, wrong, dangerous (teeth, ya know), weird, and sexually abusive.

Feeding beyond 12 months will:

Stop your child from being independent, leave them without coping skills, make them backward, make them socially inept, hold them back, and not allow them to grow up.

The decision to breastfeed beyond infancy is:

Selfish and only benefits the mother, pointless, devoid of nutritional value and something you need psychological help for doing.

While I really wanted to engage in a caps-lock punctuated rant about the terrible ignorance and offensive sentiments I saw expressed- I didn’t. I tried very hard to be polite. I posted links, information, excerpts from studies. I explained. I gave examples. I talked about how breastfeeding past infancy is normal and healthy and beneficial and safe. Because for all I know, the women talking in this thread have never researched breastfeeding. Many of them did not know of the World Health Organisation recommendation to breastfeed for two years and beyond. Many were unable to see that breasts are not a primary sexual organ. 

In this conversation, women who breastfeed longer than a year were ridiculed, judged, criticised and abused. At one point it even became racially motivated. I’m not even joking. And this is one discussion among many.

I’ve banged on a million times about the right to breastfeed and the benefits of breastfeeding. I’m not wanting to do that again (just now- I’m not ruling it out for future posts!). What got to me was the willingness of women to tear down other women over something that has no impact on anyone else’s choices or life. The bloody, freaking Mummy Wars. If it’s not working vs stay at home it’s breast vs bottle or routine vs on demand or slings vs prams.

Why do we do this to each other? Why do we feel that we constantly have the right to voice an opinion despite the lack of relevance to our own lives? If a parenting practice is not harmful, not illegal and not impacting anyone else why do we continue to lambaste each other for our choices? No one in this thread demanded that all women breastfeed their children to the age of 5. That is a very personal choice. Yet so many felt the need to voice their disgust and horror at the thought of doing so. So many felt the need to mock, shame and ridicule those that have or are feeding past infancy. Which brings me to my next point: why does bodily autonomy fly out the window in these discussions? You have the right to make your choices based on your opinions, beliefs, research- whatever floats your boat. What you do not have the right to do is to tell another person how they should or should not use their body. We should not be shaming each other over how we feed our babies and children- breast or bottle. I’ll be the first to tell anyone that how you feed a baby is an important decision and that it’s important to learn as much as you can about your options in this regard. However, feeding is just one small factor of parenting. It is a much wider landscape than these ridiculous Mummy Wars paint for us. We would do so much better if we could support each other, accept our differences and share our knowledge without judgement and without ridiculing those who make a choice we would not when it comes to things that don’t affect us. Women face enough challenges in our society without attacking each other; a little understanding would go a long way.

I’m linking up with Musings of the Misguided

for The Lounge

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Formulating the Right Support

Recently, it was reported that a 6 month old baby was admitted to hospital following life threatening seizures. Her mother had reportedly replaced some of her formula feeds with cordial as she was unable to afford to buy sufficient formula.

image

It’s important to note that the cause of the seizures was the water in the cordial- as opposed to the cordial itself- generally speaking, babies get all their water from formula or breastmilk. From all I have read, it’s very easy to overdose a baby under 12 months on water. Doing so can lead to a condition called water intoxication, where excessive water consumption leads to sodium being flushed out of the body which disturbs brain activity and results in seizures. This condition is potentially fatal.

I don’t know why this mum thought that cordial was a suitable substitute. I have no idea of her situation. I can think of many scenarios to explain it and many that do not but I don’t have the all the facts.

One thing that is blindingly obvious though is that she did not have the education and support she needed to safely formula feed. I always talk about the education and support needed to breastfeed, because I needed a lot of both to do it successfully.

When I bottle fed my eldest, it wasn’t terribly difficult. I didn’t find I personally needed much help- a midwife explained how to sterilise bottles, recommended a good brand of bottle and a type of formula, told me to follow the instructions on the tin and off I went. Other than mild reflux, we didn’t have a great deal of feeding issues once on the bottle- but that is just my experience and obviously it really isn’t the same for everyone.

In the ensuing discussion over this mum, I’ve seen people say how much they struggled with formula feeding- from finding the most suitable formula to the most suitable teats and bottles for their babies- reflux babies, colicky babies, windy babies, babies prone to constipation or it’s opposite, babies with CMPI– they’re all different and all need something different. One woman recalled spending upwards of $50 on teats alone when she switched to formula in her search for one that suited her baby. 

The articles I read stated that this child was initially breastfed until around five weeks of age (a noted fussy period, from memory) and the author connected this case to the poor rates of breastfeeding in Australia, saying that mothers are being pushed or recommended too early on to wean onto formula. The article quoted a statistic too- that although around 90% of mothers initiate breastfeeding, only 15% are still breastfeeding at 6 months. 

While I agree that many mums switch to formula very early on (and there are many reasons for this) what the article didn’t mention was that this statistic refers to exclusive breastfeeding– which means the baby has had nothing but breastmilk, excluding medications and vitamin supplements- so it’s misleading because many people start to introduce solid foods between 4 and 6 months of age. So while it’s true that only 15% are exclusively breastfeeding at 6 months, the percentage of those still breastfeeding while introducing complimentary foods is likely higher. 

To get an idea of our rates, at 3 months old, it’s it a rate of around 39% that are still being exclusively breastfed. (I imagine there are very few babies being given foods at this age-I hope, anyway- so by not being exclusively breastfed we can assume they are on some if not all formula). By 12 months (the minimum Australian recommendation) only 28% are still breastfed (which is still higher that the 15% quoted by the article) so we can estimate that somewhere between 28% and 39% are actually receiving some breastmilk at 6 months of age. This drops to around 9%at 18 months and 5% by 24 months (the minimum World Health Organisation recommendation and a whole other topic).

It may be true that this wouldn’t have happened if she was still breastfeeding. It may be that she was advised to stop breastfeeding at 5 weeks. She may have complained about the increased fussiness to her GP who recommended weaning. She may have had a friend tell her that formula would lead to a more settled baby, she may have read something similar online- we don’t know. Perhaps she had to stop for medical reasons, perhaps she just didn’t want to breastfeed any more, as is her right. Is this where she was let down? Breastfeeding mums have the ABA to turn to and lactation consultants- where does the bottle feeding mum turn to if things aren’t going well?  Some women I spoke to said that they struggled to get bottle feeding information as nurses and midwives were reluctant to give it out, citing hospital policies as a reason. Others said they felt judged for bottle feeding, despite the fact that most Australian babies are formula fed for most of their first year of life, and were therefore reluctant to ask anyone. 

All that aside, it’s not useful to turn this sad situation into a breast vs bottle argument. This happened not because of formula or because breastfeeding had ceased- it happened because a mother did not know what else to do when she couldn’t afford to buy enough formula.

So where to go for help? Your Childhood Health Nurse should help you. Your GP should help you. Your Paediatrician can help too. But if for some reason you don’t want to ask, there are lots of online resources. There are forums and Facebook pages where you can talk to other mums. There are some great online resources. Similar to getting breastfeeding information and support, sometimes you just have to take the bull by the horns and seek it out for yourself. Don’t have internet access? How’d you get here? (Kidding! But maybe you don’t have regular access or want to help someone that doesn’t?) The good news is that most public libraries provide free internet, which is fantastic on many levels. I didn’t know that until recently- spread it around!

And here are a bunch of useful links for the formula feeding family:

A Bottle Feeding Guide from the SA Govt

Bottle Feeding- Nutrition by Better Health VIC

Bottle Feeding- All about Infant Formula

The Fearless Formula Feeder

A quick search on facebook showed quite a few support groups you can join too, and there are forums you can join for free at

Bubhub – Raising Children Network – Essential Baby – BellyBelly – Kidspot

NB- If you are in financial difficulty and can’t afford food or formula organisations like the Salvos and FoodBank may be able to help you or point you in the right direction. You might feel there is shame in asking for help but there is not. Nor is there any pride to be had in starving. There are people and organisations that are there to help you get back on your feet.

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