Is the 'Breast is Best' message impacting our attachment to breastfeeding?
Is the 'Breast is Best' message impacting our attachment to breastfeeding?
Wanting to breastfeed our babies is often a very natural desire when becoming a mother. This desire is often reinforced by the current ‘Breast is Best’ message, which in itself further encourages us to do the ‘best’ thing for our babies and again heavily conveyed during childbirth education classes where we’re advised of the multiple benefits of breastfeeding, shown how to attach baby dolls to our breasts…and, at the same time left wondering how in god’s name that’s all going to happen (!)
I for one totally got on board with the ‘Breast is Best’ message or mentality in my work and from personal experience, even taught it to other women. With the gift of hindsight, I know I was delivering the underlying message or image laden with beliefs and ideals that women 'should' breastfeed at all costs without ever considering how they truly feel about it. I completely dismissed how this approach can potentially leave a woman feeling should breastfeeding not be successful, or if the process for some reason doesn’t quite suit the mother at the time.
“We are supposed to breastfeed exclusively for six months, then continue in combination with other foods until baby is a year old.” The trouble is just 16% of Australian women make it to the six-month-exclusive breastfeeding mark. In Britain, it’s only 2%. These figures have remained stubbornly similar despite the chorus of “Breast is Best” echoing around us for decades. That means 84% of Australian mums and 98% of British mums are officially failures.” - Madeleine Morris, The Guardian
The last thing as mothers and women that we want to feel, or be in any way inclined to feel especially in light of having given birth, is a failure. And yet these stats show the tremendous force that lies in the belief or image, which for many mothers, literally can lead to forcing breast-feeding leaving the mother feeling further disillusioned, or incompetent at what is meant to be ‘natural’ and ‘best for her baby’.
Don’t get me wrong breast milk is great stuff and women need to be supported to breastfeed if they feel it is right for them. Though equally we also need to continue to be promoting breastfeeding as an acceptable choice by the mother herself to counter societal beliefs and history that not breastfeeding is somewhat abnormal or a failure on the mother’s part.
It’s interesting to note that our current approach in supporting women to breastfeed, and the impact upon the woman and or how she feels about it is not something that is often given high priority. Very often the only focus is completely on it being the 'best way' for the baby, with some tips for the woman to care for herself so she can continue to breastfeed with the process being more of a goal to reach or aspire towards - almost at any cost, and not so much about the full and very much needed consideration for how she feels in her new, fragile and delicate state.
For a woman who is struggling with breastfeeding or who feels it’s just not right for her - would it actually be supportive to both mother and baby to consider stopping breastfeeding altogether?
Within the ‘Breast is Best’ breast feeding campaign isn’t it high time and crucial to be reflecting and indeed asking – “Have we gone too far in our trying to improve breastfeeding rates, such that we have created a proportionate number of women who have become attached to breastfeeding as a measure of their mothering skill, expertise or sense of worth, and, as a result or in the process have completely forgotten the woman who physically does the feeding?”
In my personal experience of breastfeeding my seven children (yes you read correctly, 7!), for over 16 years in total, and through my professional experience of supporting women in breastfeeding, when we are faced with a struggle or a feeling that it doesn’t feel right, our attachment to the ‘Breast is Best’ thinking and ideal kicks straight in (at times with bleeding, or even semi-detached nipples) and has the potential to lead one to completely override what is felt in regards the true course of action for us.
This can even be the case when our babies are showing us signs that they are not so keen to continue breastfeeding either! In other words, it works BOTH ways, for instance considering times or episodes when latching may be difficult or the baby pushes their face away from the breast to not ingest what’s flowing from the breast. This can be confusing and also disappointing which often invokes a more determined approach to make it work such that it totally disregards the woman’s body, but equally important also the wisdom a baby can offer its mother.
Why women override and hurt themselves with ideals
This excerpt presents a great explanation as to why women often avoid being honest about their feelings and their choices.
From my experience it would seem that we ‘find a solution’ to the struggle to cleverly manipulate or circumvent the feelings of it not being right – but how does this ‘solution’ truly support both mother and baby?
Isn’t there more at play here as to why some of us are so attached to breastfeeding?
With years of hindsight, I have come to understand that I was completely attached to breastfeeding to avoid feeling I’d failed in not giving my babies the 'best start in life’, after all there was no way I was going to fail – my babies were going to get it whether they liked it or not! Ultimately I used the fact that I could breast feed, to feel better about myself because it gave me a sense of worth and value when at the time I had very little true worth outside my role as a mother, or wife.
“At the time I was completely unaware that I had simply and inadvertently used my ability to breastfeed to mask my own lack of self-worth.”
With hindsight and looking back today, in all my wanting to give my babies the best, and with how I was within myself, I was actually delivering something much more than just breast milk – my babies were being fed all my feelings of not being good enough along with all my striving to be the perfect and ideal mother. We could say quite the counter in wanting to offer them the very best start in life!
And so maybe all that’s needed in our approach to breastfeeding lays in the admission and willingness to be honest about what really motivates us as mothers to be so attached to the ‘Breast is Best’ message – an insidious ideal that imprisons many women considering breastfeeding. And maybe like me, the root of such attachment is an issue or hurt being held and used to avoid feeling good enough or worth it…
In being honest about our motivation, i.e. issue or hurts, we can begin to let go of anything that gets in the way of us feeling the innately beautiful, loving and self-nurturing mothering women we are, with a true self-honouring that is present irrespective and not dependent on whether we breastfeed or not. From this place we can make a choice from our own sense of knowing and inner-voice, to ultimately trust that if it’s truly right for us as the mother, it’s also truly right for our baby too. Because this true quality can be felt and ingested by the baby regardless of the needed sustenance coming via the breast - or the bottle, to make the following so very true: -
“It is wiser to mother from your innate knowing rather than the ideals and beliefs that flood your head.”Serge Benhayon Esoteric Teachings & Revelations, p 547