I feel a bit sorry for the poor non-fiction editor at Harper Collins who ends up trying to pull this rambling nonsense into an important treatise on equality as I seem to be doing more digressing than, er, gressing recently, so back to the important stuff.
The progression of the World Record for solving the Rubik’s Cube since the early 1980’s.
Just kidding – breast-feeding (although I do find that other topic quite interesting too).
I asked the question a while back as to whether a man is allowed a view on breast-feeding and the unanimous response (of 1) was “Go ahead”. V thought it was ok too, so here goes.
For the avoidance of doubt, I’m as much a believer in choice as I am in equality, so I am not trying to prescribe a dogmatic approach to child-rearing (I mean who would do such a thing, surely not the NHS?) as it should come down to what works for each family unit. As part of the full disclaimer, V breast-fed F for about 11 months and it worked really well for us.
Also, I am not that angry man from Claridges. I am totally relaxed about women breast-feeding in public and think that it should be encouraged rather than looked down upon. As far as I know, V never had any issues in this regard and it didn’t surprise me that, in the social experiment on the tube that I mentioned previously, no-one seemed to bat an eyelid, as I believe that the demographic that do give a toss about this are dying out fast.
For the avoidance of doubt that is dying from old age, not from a serial killer that is rampaging the country on the look out for as much as a sneer from a passerby in a cafe, ready to down them on the spot Kick-Ass style.
But…..there are a couple of issues on the topic that annoy me and I believe that we would move closer to true equality if there were a few changes.
First, please stop forcing it down our necks.
Anyone who has been to NCT classes will know that you have to go a special breast-feeding class which in our case was taught by a bit of a hippy, whose answer to everything was either: “Breast-feeding is best” or “It depends”.
That’s no use, we’re scared shitless. V is about to expel a marrow from her tagine and we have no idea how to look after the bloody thing; what do we do if it won’t drink anything??
“Well, it depends!”
I got my own back on her though. On the feedback form, I didn’t give her the requested mark from 1-5, I just wrote “It depends” all over the sheet of paper and handed it back. Ha!
Seriously though, becoming a parent, and particularly a mother, is difficult, right. So, Mr Government, how about letting up on the “It’s got to be breast-feeding or you’re a useless mum” schtick. There is enough pressure and guilt going round in the early days without adding more to the mix.
27% of families don’t breast-feed today at all and are being told that they are bad parents from day one as they are not doing their best for the child. Great – very supportive. Bet they’re doing it on purpose too to spite the baby.
This is the NHS’s handy set of bullets to explain why Breast is Best:
- Your breast milk is perfectly designed for your baby;
- Breast milk protects your baby from infections and diseases;
- Breastfeeding provides health benefits for you;
- Breast milk is available for your baby whenever your baby needs it; and
- Breastfeeding can build a strong emotional bond between you and your baby.
Look, it’s definitely convenient (and cheap) but that list seems a bit too simplistic to me as the bullets ignore the other aspects that go toward bringing up a healthy, happy child.
For example, how is the baby impacted by any of the following:
- Listening to their mother whimpering: “Latch, please latch, I’m losing the will to live; please hurry as you have to get to sleep so we can do this all again in about an hour or so.”;
- Mum shrieking just a bit too loud during each feed, when the little one bites on a cracked and bleeding nipple for the fifth time; and
- Wondering why their dad never gives them any food.
Oh – you haven’t done that analysis.
“Perfectly designed” – maybe it is but I’m sure not all mothers are perfect and shouldn’t have to be or be expected to be. I am sure that there are occasions when breast-milk is 90% espresso martini.
“Protects your baby from infections” – it’s great that it helps the health of the baby, and F didn’t have as much as a sniffle in the first year which must prove it I guess. She’s been ill ever since mind as soon as she went to nursery, so my view based on one data point is that babies are going to get all the bugs at some point in the first two years and it doesn’t really matter when.
But, in any event, both of these points lead me to my second recommendation. If breast milk is so great, and the reality is that a significant proportion of families use formula instead, then MAKE FORMULA MILK BETTER.
How difficult can it be? We’ve managed to cure smallpox and The Bubonic Plague, surely someone like Hawking can come up with the perfect mix.
What if in the 1950’s the guys in the U.S. government showed a similar lack of ambition.
Bob, Assistant to Chuck: “Hey Chuck, have we thought about going into space”
Chuck, Head of U.S. foreign policy: “Have you been smoking something, Bob?”
B: “No seriously, I think we should send someone to the moon.”
C: “I really haven’t got time for this, Bob. We’ve got communists everywhere, the Russians want to bomb us and I haven’t even opened the file on North Korea yet.”
B: “It would be great though, we could name the rockets after Roman gods and get Richie Cunningham from Arnold’s to make a film about it.”
C: “You’re insane, the moon is a zillion miles away, it’s far too difficult and will never happen. Next you’ll be asking me to improve the formula for baby milk!!!”
But it didn’t happen that way did it – they sent someone to the moon, to the fucking moon! We must be able to create an artificial milk that is at least the match for white wine-infused breast milk.
And what is with the ban on advertising formula for newborns! We are grown-ups. We do know it exists you know. What other products have such an outright restriction on advertising, other than heroin and crack cocaine?
However, moving on, it is the last NHS bullet that sends me into a real fury -“build a strong emotional bond between you and your baby”.
How strong does that bond need to be? The mother has been carrying the little munchkin around for nine months and, at the moment, is highly likely to spend much of the first few months with it too. Does the NHS think the baby’s going to turn around at 15 months and wonder who the hell this strange person is?
AND WHAT ABOUT THE DAD?
Surely the paternal bond is equally as important as the maternal one. The dad has a bit of catching up to do too as he hasn’t been incubating the little mite. I accept that mothers can express milk so that dads can bottle-feed, but come on, it’s tiring enough in those first few months without expecting mums to strap themselves into a milking machine a few times a day.
If the father is working, then giving a bottle of formula in the morning and evening is the perfect way to help with that bonding process. In addition, as time goes on, more and more parents will be sharing parental leave following the birth of their child and will no doubt be moving to formula to facilitate this for at least some of the feeds. The government may as well accept this and be supportive of a flexible approach rather than dogmatically prescribing breast-feeding as the only solution.
They are putting a barrier in the way of true equality and something needs to be done about it.
In summary, in my view, the current policy is inflexible, out of kilter with the reality of modern parenting and, most importantly, discourages equality.
My suggestions to the powers-that-be:
1. Stop forcing the “Breast is Best” message and advocate flexibility and choice instead;
2. Stop spending money bombing Syria, Cameron, and give some to Actimel to make formula milk as good as breast milk and subsidise it too so that it is cheaper than at present; and
3. Encourage both parents to form the bond with their child in the first year, rather than just going on about THE BLOODY MATERNAL BOND!
Come on guys, sort it out, it’s hardly rocket science.
Normal service resumed next time with an analysis of the perfect romcom couple: Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore.