Jamie Oliver and Breastfeeding.
Like many, I have been watching a lot of the UK’s women lose their s h * t over Jamie Oliver’s recent comments on Breastfeeding. So many women are saying “he said that formula makes babies stupid, fat and short” and many other things but in actual fact, he didn’t mention formula at all, other than to mention the shady behaviour of formula companies in the past i.e.: the aggressive selling in Africa by using saleswomen dressed as nurses to hook mothers on formula when they didn’t even have sanitary drinking water to make the bottles up with, nor the abilities to sterilise or the money to follow the instructions on the tin and so malnutrition took hold as they made a tin last 10 times as long as it should. Anyway, I digress but you can’t say that he said this and that when he didn’t. You might think he implied it,but if you listen to the interview on LBC Radio, you’ll hear that it wasn’t like that at all.
Jamie’s comments included the need to support women and change attitudes. Public Health England conducted a poll last year and the results found that more than a third of breastfeeding mothers shy away from feeding in public. One in five felt that people do not want them to breastfeed in public and one in ten admitted that feeding in public was a factor in their decision to not breastfeed at all.
This is what happened and this is what he said.
He was being interviewed about his success over the sugar tax and was asked “what’s next?”
“Probably the most upsetting thing for me at the moment and I’m desperately trying to scrabble around and get more information on it but, Breastfeeding. We have the worst breastfeeding in the world,” he said.
“The way…. formula industry advertises, has a history of doing certain things in not such agreeable ways.
We need to support the women of Britain to breastfeed more, anywhere they want to, be supported, be informed.
If you breastfeed for more than six months, women are 50 per cent less likely to get breast cancer. When do you ever hear that? Never.”
“We’ve got a problem with breastfeeding, if you think about it, breastfeeding is the beginning of the story – it’s easy, it’s more convenient, it’s more nutritious, it’s better, it’s free. Things like breastfeeding are kind of at the epicentre of the problem. This data of even breastfeeding tracks into, often, all sorts of things from stunting, to obesity, to ill-health. I’m unpacking the data at the moment and so I’m by no means an expert but what I’m seeing is phenomenally powerful. Things track with certain behaviours, thats health statistics, disease, obesity, diet related…I’m trying to learn as much as I can about it.”
Ok. So. Truthfully, I agree with almost everything he said. I don’t know if he’s factually correct saying that we in the UK have the worst rate of breastfeeding in the world, but I do know that we are pretty far down the list.
Let me tell you my experience.
I breastfed exclusively, for 6 months, and continued to feed until my son was 3 years old and hanging off my nipples in the park. I squirted milk into the face of people who dared to question me and yes, it is actually the easiest thing in the world. It is. Our body’s were made for it.
Erm, actually, no.
My son’s first sustenance was formula. I exclusively breastfed for about 2 weeks, from when he was about a week and a half old to about a month of age and then he had a formula bottle a day until he was about 8 months old when I had to quit altogether due to needing medication that I couldn’t feed on.
I’ve not written my breastfeeding journey on my blog yet, if I had, I would link to it now as I’d hope to inspire any Mum’s that want to and feel that they can’t but I can tell you now that the main reason that meant that I could feed at all, was because I wanted to. Desperately. The other reasons were the midwives that hand expressed me (one on each boob) their support, knowledge and advice, the use of the hospital expressing machine and then attending a free support group at a local Children’s centre.
Enough about my story though. The reason why I am wading into this and writing my views on such an emotive subject and opening myself to the no doubt abuse that will come, is because I can not believe the comments that women are leaving on social media under every article on the subject.
Some of my favourites are:
RC: “BITE ME! ! Lactose intolerance. .. 8 months of colic… then lactose free formula. .. THAT WAS EASIER. …. on her poor sick bleeding intestines! !
Don’t tell a woman HOW she should be feeding her babies.. be happy they are fed!!!”
LBH: If someone would have told me it was easy during those long nights of crying over my breast pump for my sick preemie in the hospital, and only getting drops, I would have straight up punched them in the throat. Nothing was easy about it and it’s kinda insulting to hear that.
MJB: “some of us physically can’t do it. I never made milk. Period. I have PCOS and the milk just never came in. I am tired of people telling me I am hurting my baby with formula when I physically couldn’t do anything else. I desperately wanted to breast feed my baby. It just didn’t work.”
LB: “My toddler has been tube fed since 4 months old. Wanna tell me what’s best? Please oh please?”
T H-C “I know plenty of moms who struggle with breastfeeding or simply can’t. I know a mom who haemorrhaged during her emergency c-section and her body didn’t produce enough milk for the baby. Her 2nd child is adopted so…also not an option.”
and my number one favourite (that I can’t find to quote 100%) was along the lines of
“I started chemo as soon as my baby was born. Should I have pumped all those toxic chemicals into my baby? Breast isn’t always best”.
So many women are fighting a fight that they weren’t even invited to. Some of that is down to the media representation of what Jamie Oliver actually said and the cherry picking of quotes to fit a writers slant on the story, and some is down to how women say that they have been ‘made to feel’ by anyone who has ever had an opinion on breast or bottle feeding.
To those that couldn’t breastfeed because of a medical reason (including mental health) – Jamie Oliver is not trying to make you breastfeed. No one wants you to feed your baby chemo, or forgo a (I imagine) life saving feeding tube, nor does anyone want to watch your baby die as you have a medical reason why you cannot produce milk or have sadly had your baby prematurely when your body isn’t even ready to begin producing milk. No one is trying to make you feel guilty for formula feeding your child especially as some babies are born unable to breastfeed.
What he is trying to do, is lend his profile and celebrity weight (not to mention his knowledge from years of studying nutrition) to a subject that we are failing as a nation to support.
T H-C said that she knew a ‘mom’ who couldn’t feed her first due to a massive haemorrhage meaning she didn’t produce enough milk and that her second was adopted and so she couldn’t again.
Well, I had a massive haemorrhage that necessitated a week in hospital and blood transfusions and I too had no milk to begin with and then never quite enough but I fought like hell to be able to meet 95% of my son’s feeding needs with breastmilk. I’m not medically qualified or arrogant enough to say that a mother who haemorrhages will always be able to breastfeed if they try hard enough but I know that in a lot of cases, if it is what you want, then you may be able to. Some is better than none.
I also know that you can breastfeed if you adopt by taking hormones to stimulate your milk supply. Again, I’m not knowledgeable about this enough to pass judgement but its not as simple as black and white.
Pro Breastfeeding people do have the factual rights to the fight. Breast milk is better for a baby, breastfeeding has health benefits for a Mother and it is free. Unfortunately, there is no way of getting away from that. However, what Jamie has done wrong is to go by possibly his wife’s experience that it is easy. For every woman that found it easy, there are many more who will tell you the horror stories of no milk, cracked and bleeding nipples, babies screaming to be fed, dehydration and mastitis.
Breastfeeding was for me, agonising at times. I have fed with tears rolling down my cheeks and blood in my son’s mouth but…….I was able to access regular, reliable and knowledgeable help to help me improve things and I knew that it wasn’t forever. I was lucky that I had done a lot of research and training about breastfeeding and had been around many women that managed against adversity but the realisation of breastfeeding was still a shock to me. I knew it could be painful but the level of pain still took me by surprise. I had Mastitis once or twice, friends who had it countless times and once stood in the shower, crying for hours in Lanzarote, trying to massage and free a blocked duct that I had inadvertently caused by wearing a strapless swimsuit. I only found out what was wrong and how to treat it by desperately telephoning the breastfeeding support worker that I met at the Children’s centre.
Breast feeding and Formula Feeding are also harder and easier on a Mother for personal reasons. It can be harder for some to wash bottles and sterilise and make up feeds when they simply whip out their boob whereas the relief of not feeding in public may make the organisation and time needed to formula feed, un noticeable.
The ease of hardly needing to leave the bed to feed at night can make the thought of getting up, going downstairs, heating a bottle and all the while, calming a hungry baby, unthinkable whereas the thought of having to be awake for every single feed when someone else could help out is lunacy to others.
The thought of being stuck to the sofa for what seems like (and can be in reality) the entire day in the early weeks, can seem horrific for some when the thought of having to pack everything up and stop everything to sort out a bottle, when out and about, unthinkable to others.
I don’t think that Jamie Oliver thought too much about bringing this subject up. If he had, he might have even thought better of it, but I’m glad that he did bring it up.
He’s wanting to help the Mum’s out there that wanted to breastfeed but couldn’t and whom may have been successful had they received support.
A successful campaign could help the Mum’s out there that are terrified to feed in public. Yes there are covers that you can buy but to be honest, they just scream ‘I’m breastfeeding, you just can’t see my breast’ and if you don’t want to be stared at full stop, they don’t help that. He’s not wanting to make you suddenly feel better about it but to change our stupid culture and attitudes to breastfeeding.
A campaign could help all the mothers or mothers to be who may have been influenced by someone with the views of my ex Mother in Law who told me that breastfeeding was disgusting or my ex Father in Law who told me to not feed too long as I don’t want to ruin my bobs for his son!!!!!!! He was joking and he was laughing but come on!!!!
Sadly, there are people of younger generations that think it is gross, disgusting and my all time favourite, not natural. A campaign could help change these attitudes or stop them from being formed in the first place.
Something like this would take years and would never ever stop some people from thinking that feeding in public is vile and that breasts are purely sexual or from feeling scared or being in pain but we have to start somewhere.
He clarified his thoughts a few hours after his radio interview that started all this.
I don’t agree that because he is a man, he can have no say until he grows some breasts and lactates. I think that he needs to choose his words better and think first, but that at the end of the day, I don’t think anyone could stand up and discuss this subject without being hounded.
A childless woman would have no doubt be slammed for having no idea, a man is slammed as he can never even try and a mother who had breastfed would most likely be slammed for having an easy breastfeeding journey or for being rich enough to pay for help.
I’m sorry if I have upset anyone with my views. At the end of the day, as long as babies are loved, cared for and fed, it doesn’t matter if its breastmilk or formula. A happy Mum is a healthy Mum and that leads to happy babies, no matter how you feed them.
If you chose formula, if you never even considered breastfeeding, if the thought repulsed you, if you gave up on the breast, don’t feel guilty. You made your choice for a reason. If it wasn’t your choice not to breastfeed, don’t feel guilty. You had no choice. If you chose to breastfeed, don’t feel guilty – you didn’t choose it to lord it over other Mum’s.
It would be nice though if attitudes could change and if Jamie starts the ball rolling, then that’s fine with me.