Hands up at the beginning of this post. Yes I am a man. However as the primary caregiver of my little girl I do have many many opinions on the subject of breastfeeding.
Firstly I’m going to dispel the usual thing that pops up when it comes to men talking about breastfeeding. I really don’t give a rats backside about breastfeeding in public, anymore than I care about someone having an apple or a cup of coffee in a public place.
Now, on to the main issue of this piece, I’m sick to death of this whole idea that you are a terrible parent if you give your child anything but breast milk. This whole idea that because its natural it must be better. In the UK this view is so prevalent that its actually illegal to advertise stage one baby formula and has been illegal since 1995 as part of the Infant Formula and Follow-On Formula Regulations 1995. There is even a watchdog dedicated to making sure that baby formula is not promoted above breast milk, the group Baby Milk Action is actually dedicated to the protection of breastfeeding over formula.
I find this to be a terrible situation. This law persecutes so many people. It persecutes against women that can’t breastfeed, because some kids won’t take to the breast, some women are unable to express milk, and sometimes circumstances conspire so that babies and their mothers are unable to be together in the early stages. When Marianna was born, it was a nightmare, I almost lost both her and her mother that morning, luckily when Marianna was safely delivered and washed (a story for another time). The various nurses, doctors and midwives, after much convincing that I had previously discussed this with her mother, finally, and with a great deal of reluctance consented to bottle feed Marianna with formula, while her mother was still undergoing surgery.
Due to the circumstances of her birth and a seizure soon after, Marianna spent three weeks in the neonatal unit at our local hospital, breastfeeding would have been an impossibility. So Marianna stayed on formula.
The second reason she stayed on formula is because her mother returned to work after three months of maternity leave. So staying home with the baby, it was a lot less challenging knowing I could knock up a bottle, as an when they were needed (I found that feeding every four hours is a mugs game, and leads to a hellish life of broken sleep and a sort of living death, zombie like existence). But I found that there is still a stigma about buying baby formula. I’ve actually had people say to me in the supermarket that “[you] shouldn’t be giving your child that stuff “. To which I replied that what I give my child is between me and my child and as long as she isn’t hungry, what’s the problem?
Lastly I feel that this sort of legislation is rather discriminatory to adoptive parents, and that they would be made to feel as though they are already starting at a disadvantage as parents, because they don’t have the natural equipment (especially gay couples) .
This is why I would like to see a change in the law, regarding the advertisement of stage one baby formula. I know that scientific studies show that breast milk may be more beneficial to a child’s development and the development of their immune system, and I’m not denying this, I’m a firm believer in the power of science, but that doesn’t change the fact that many people for whatever reason, are unable to breastfeed. These people should not be discriminated against, especially when it comes to the health and well being of their children.