It’s Breastfeeding Celebration Week and I am filled with trepidation. For me breastfeeding was a lifeline while I was in the depths of birth trauma. I know however for many women this isn’t their journey, instead breastfeeding has been a hard and difficult battle. So next week the media wars will begin and while some will be celebrating others will be feeling hurt and pain.
Sadly, sometimes we are so busy thinking about what we think we haven’t done that we miss all the wonderful things that we have achieved.
This is no different when it comes to celebrating breastfeeding this week.
So many times I hear mums say, ‘I only breastfed a few days, or I had to give up after a while because I was too sore, or I just didn’t have enough milk or I was struggling with a health issue and so I had to stop‘. Etched in their face is sadness and in their eyes hurt.
I wish they could see what I see.
What I see are Mums doing their best.
I see mums that have tried to breastfeed despite a difficult birth, a lack of support and bad advice. I see mums that wanted to breastfeed but couldn’t because their baby was too ill or wouldn’t latch. I see mums that have had the chance to breastfeed taken away due to mental health struggles or other circumstances beyond their control.
I see their pain, I see that they feel they have failed, or that they haven’t reached an ideal and it cuts them to the core.
I wish I could help them to see that they have so much to celebrate.
Whether they gave one feed, or ten or a hundred, whether they breastfeed for one hour, or six months or two years it was a massive achievement. Because breastfeeding is hard, its tiring and demanding, there is little support and often mums are left to try and figure it out alone. I wished they could see that every feed is an achievement, and something to celebrate. That even just trying should be celebrated because it is hard, scary and challenging to say the least.
Which is why although I always await breastfeeding week with an anxious heart, I believe that it is important we have a Celebrating Breastfeeding Week, because it needs to be recognised as the hard journey it is. It needs to be seen that those nights when you sat up thinking you were the only person to watch the rise of the sun, with your baby in your arms feeding at your breast, that you have every right to celebrate it. It doesn’t matter if you stopped the next day, or a week later or a year later, it does not lessen what you did. It does not lessen that you did your best, or that you fought to find support and were let down, or that you maybe had the choice taken from you. We need to to celebrate the effort, the pain and the struggle that mums go through even to sometimes just hold their babies to their breast. We need to celebrate that some have overcome many obstacles to have a breastfeeding journey.
What if you didn’t want to breastfeed? Then that’s of course ok too. You made a choice that was right for you and that is what matters. But yes you can celebrate too, because when we all make choices that are right for us it should be celebrated, because choice as women is something we have fought for a long time. We can all celebrate each others achievements, just like I can celebrate those of my friends that have proudly gone to university and achieved a degree, something I haven’t.
So as Breastfeeding week comes along, and before we write our thoughts, status’ and maybe hurtful words, I hope that every mum looks at herself, not at others, and she sees the wonderful things that SHE has achieved. I hope that she values every feed she gave or even attempted. I hope that this week will be full of mums celebrating how amazing they are, and how far they have come on their journey. I hope threads are full of mums saying ‘Im celebrating that I was able to give my baby’s first breastfeed, or that I fed for one day despite a traumatic birth or I wanted to but couldn’t because I was unwell, or that I made a choice that was right for me.
Wanting to try matters, every single feed matters, being there to support each other matters and I hope this week we can all unite and celebrate together.
If you need support you can speak to your health visitor or call the BFN on 03001000212.
Follow the week on the hashtag #celebratebreastfeeding