Recently on Facebook there’s been a bit fuss over the removal of photos from people’s profiles of them breastfeeding their children. To make a statement, a group was formed and they recently staged a virtual feed-in where they encouraged their 80,000+ members to change their status message to ‘Hey Facebook! Breastfeeding is NOT Obscene!’ and change their profile picture to a breastfeeding image of themselves, other women or animals feeding their young.
I saw a couple of friends had changed their status so I went searching for a breastfeeding picture (I don’t have many) and immediately uploaded this picture of me feeding Alyssa.
Yesterday morning Warren had a missed call on his mobile. A journalist from The Advocate (local newspaper for the North West of Tasmania where we grew up) had seen my status and found Warren’s number on his page and called to ask how to contact me as she wanted to interview me about the virtual protest and my views on breastfeeding. Of course I was only too happy to oblige so I called her back and we had a little chat. Some words might have been added for extra effect but I told her that I thought removing breastfeeding photos was ridiculous and it merely adds to the pressure for women to hide their breastfeeding, making it seem taboo and dirty and women need to see other women breastfeeding to feel okay about it, to be seen as normal and natural, to feel supported in their efforts.
She asked if she could put the photo in the paper but I wasn’t really happy with the one above so asked if I could take another one to send her, so I got Alyssa out of bed who was grumbling to be fed and Warren took a few photos of us together. The Advocate put a small image of this photo on their front page:
Then I turned to page 3 and was faced by this image taking up at least 1/4 of the page. I do love the photo though – Warren did a good job. The focus is definitely not on anything potentially obscene and entirely on the satisfied, happy looking face of Alyssa getting fed like she has every right to be fed. I’m really pleased they chose to use this photo for the main article.
For those who’ve been following Alyssa’s Journey through this blog, you’d be aware that I was unable to breastfeed Alyssa for a few days when she first got sick because we thought she had become sick due to my milk so I expressed 3 hourly for days. Then when I was able to try feeding her again she was too sick to attach properly and didn’t seem to remember what to do so it took two or three very stressful weeks for her to recover and successfully breastfeed again.
When Tristan was born I breastfed him for about 7 or 8 weeks before essentially giving up. Support and information was seriously lacking 13 years ago and when I ran into problems at around 7 weeks I thought I’d done something wrong and I’d lost my milk, so my Mum suggested using formula and I just stopped. Knowing what I know now, he was probably at a growth spurt or something and my supply had changed and if I’d just persevered for a couple of weeks we might have kept going, but I just didn’t know.
I felt bad about giving up for the next ten years so when I was pregnant with Liam I armed myself with as much information as I possibly could, from websites, books and people. Things weren’t easy, and again I reached a tricky patch at about 6 or so weeks but this time I knew better and was able to persevere. With Liam I went back to work when he was only ten weeks so I needed to express milk during all of my work breaks for Warren to feed him in his bottles while I was at work. There were some really tough times and plenty of times when I simply wanted to give up, but I always reminded myself how hard I’d worked to have this opportunity to give my son the best start to life, and I pushed on.
I stopped breastfeeding Liam when he decided he was ready to stop at about 14 months. When I became pregnant with Alyssa I became determined that I would feed her for at least as long and would be happy to try for longer. It’s such a beautiful, quiet, bonding time with my babies. To have almost lost the opportunity to breastfeed Alyssa upset me so I’m glad that at 10 weeks we’re still going strong.
This photo isn’t one I’m terribly pleased to show off but the moment was one to be proud of. This was the first feed I was able to attempt with Alyssa after bringing her to hospital and having her in the NICU. I look absolutely exhausted and shattered but still so very happy that I was able to try to feed my baby girl again, so I thought it was worth sharing.
In America, patients with Glycogen Storage Disease are discouraged from breastfeeding as they believe the lactates that are passed through the breastmilk are damaging to patients livers by blocking them up with the stored sugars they are unable to release. I was so sad when I read this on a website when GSD was first mentioned, so I was thrilled and ever determined when the metabolic specialists told me that not only did they support breastfeeding GSD patients, but strongly encouraged it if I was willing. SO began the tiring task of helping Alyssa to relearn breastfeeding and endless hours of expressing breastmilk. They promised me while we were at the Royal Children’s Hospital that they wouldn’t let us go home with Alyssa until she was successfully demand breastfeeding.
To be asked for my comment on breastfeeding was really exciting. Today I have shared the article with many online friends who have all been thoroughly supportive. I have had lots of phone calls and SMSs congratulating me on getting out there and making a stand and I’ve had some truly lovely comments on being brave enough to put my photo out there. I’m not a terribly overt person when it comes to breastfeeding but I have become comfortable feeding in front of others, in my own home and out in public and I truly believe that the more people see breastfeeding mums, the more normal and natural it will become.
Breastmilk has been proven to be the best thing for babies to drink for the first year of life with benefits up to two years and beyond. Having been an unsuccessful breastfeeder (my opinion) at one stage I fully support women who, for whatever reason, are unable to, or unwilling to breastfeed, but I am even more supportive of women that want to try. Breastfeeding is a skill, and it can be difficult to learn for both mother and baby, and the key ingredient to a successful breastfeeding relationship is support and information.
Here is a link to the article in The Advocate from today: http://www.theadvocate.com.au/news/local/news/general/mumbaby-bond-not-obscene/1397756.aspx
I’d love to hear your breastfeeding stories or comments on the issue!