I saw an article today in a newspaper about a hospital trust which has been forced to take down a picture of a little girl pretending to breastfeed her dolly. There were complaints along the lines that the poster is inappropriate, crude and disgusting.
The hospital responded by saying that the poster was part of a wider campaign to promote breastfeeding and specifically to say that its normal, and that children will ultimately copy their parents, so its part of trying to help create a 'normalized' breastfeeding culture.
A 39 year old grandmother asked for it to be removed, saying that its not normal and that little girls shouldn't be breastfeeding their dolls.
So theres the context of this blog.
Breastfeeding is a highly emotive subject. Statistics show that most women who give up breastfeeding for one reason and another, wish they had carried on for longer. Wrapped up in there is a whole raft of emotions and so it is easy to see why when it comes to encouraging women to breastfeed, people will often come down in one of two camps. Either the 'breastfeeding is best for mother and baby and SHOULD be actively promoted' camp, and the 'women should be left to decide without any kind of influence' camp.
Oddly enough, my observation is that people who fall into the second camp also would class themselves as pro-choice and base this stance on informed choice...
How can a woman make an informed choice without possessing the facts. The facts as they stand are that breastfed babies are better protected from childhood illnesses such as ear infections. They are less likely to develop allergic disorders such as asthma and excema. They are less likely to suffer painful gastroenteritis - incidences of this in part due to poorly made up formula milk.
The breastfeeding mother is statistically less likely to develop ovarian and breast cancer. These things are not my opinions, they are research based facts.
Armed with these facts, I wonder if more women would try breastfeeding. Statistics show that not every woman does try.
Another very unpopular statistic is the one that says that less than half a percent of women have medical reasons not to breastfeed. And I bring that up only to quote from the article (link to this story at end of blog) ...
"Councillor Jean Ashworth, who works as a healthcare assistant at the Infirmary, said the move was the latest in a string of unpopular measures to promote breastfeeding.
"The picture is highly offensive and everyone is up in arms about it," she said: "We all know breast is best, but they are going overboard and upsetting new mums who can't breastfeed for medical reasons."
Is it only the mothers who have medical reasons not to breastfeed who are 'up in arms'? Or is it that Jean the Councillor has an issue with breastfeeding perhaps? An issue that has nothing to do with other mothers and everything to do with her own breastfeeding story?
Going back to the grandmother... she said, and I quote "The picture is shocking and it isn't normal. Children copy their parents but I don't think any little girls should be breastfeeding their dolls."
The article doesn't elaborate on exactly what it is about the picture which isn't normal.
If breastfeeding is simply a choice of how to feed your baby, then there should be no problem with this picture. If it was a picture of a little girl 'feeding' her dolly with a bottle, I am confident in my assertion that this wouldn't have made it to the paper, unless of course an indignant breastfeeding mother said something about it, but then she would be branded a fanatic.
Why is it ok that a child pretends to bottlefeed a dolly but shocking when the child pretends to breastfeed her dolly? Children copy their parents, fact.
That's why we don't swear in front of children, we don't let them watch violence. We act kindly to one another. We do this because children learn by example. Todays children pretending to breastfeed their dollies are the next generations breastfeeders.
When I was breastfeeding my second son, my firstborn son (yes, SON) would come sit with me and 'breastfeed' his teddy bear alongside me. He considers it perfectly normal that Mummys feed their babies 'mummys milk'. I asked him the other day what do babies eat and he replied mummys milk without hesitation. I was so proud of him on that moment. Children don't wield judgements as adults do, he is simply expressing what he believes to be normal.
The photo of the little girl in my opinion is a picture of an ideal world. She had to have seen a woman (likely her mother) breastfeeding in order to pretend to do the same. So to her, its normal. When the time comes for her to make a decision about her breastfeeding journey, I hope that will have an influence. I was inspired by the picture. It made me hopeful. While there are children, there is hope and they are, without doubt, worth the aggro us 'breastfeeding fanatics' get along the way.
(opinions expressed in this blog are, as ever, my own)
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