You Don’t Need To Breastfeed To Celebrate Breastfeeding

Another week, another post about breastfeeding. I know, I know – it’s a topic that has been done to death, time and time again, but this is a little different. I’m not going to talk about the pros and cons of either feeding method. Instead, I want to talk about celebrating breastfeeding – even if you didn’t do it yourself.

To begin, the classic “feeding disclaimer” – I formula fed SB. I wanted to breastfeed, struggled for a plethora of reasons, SB is happy, intelligent and healthy. I’m at peace with our feeding journey (but not with the chronic lack of breastfeeding support in this country; that’s sort of my “thing”). So you know the angle I’m approaching this from.

The reason I’m writing this is because of a post I saw the other day on Facebook. A friend has just reached six months of exclusive breastfeeding, and posted about it. In amongst the messages of congratulations, there was a comment asking her to spare a thought for those who can’t breastfeed. I’ll be honest, it made me angry – so, in true blogger style, I started writing.

It’s one of those things where, no matter how you look at it, it’s not about you. If she’d said “suck on that, bottle feeders” or used a nauseating hashtag, I could maybe understand it, but no. A simple status, a cute picture – that was it. And someone inexplicably found that offensive.

I didn’t breastfeed. I don’t understand how big a thing it is to exclusively breastfeed for six months, but I know that it’s big. Like, black belt in karate big. If I got my black belt in karate, I’d probably upload a picture to Facebook too, in between drinking champagne and asking everyone to call me the Karate Kid.

I’m learning Polish and brushing up on my French and Spanish at the moment. I post on Facebook or Twitter when I go up a percentage point in fluency. Do I need to stop doing this, because it might make people who aren’t good at learning languages feel bad? Again, I’m not putting “#YouUnculturedSwines” at the end of it; I’m just celebrating something I’ve worked hard at.

Breastfeeding is hard work; just like getting your black belt or improving your fluency on Duolingo (although I imagine six months of breastfeeding is a little harder than learning to say “Soy Maddy y tengo veintidos anos”). Why shouldn’t people celebrate their achievements? What makes breastfeeding such a taboo subject?

The taboo is actually damaging. It contributes to the idea that breastfeeding is something shameful and should be hidden away. That shame and stigma contributes to low breastfeeding rates here in the UK. Look at the backlash against brelfies, and the whole Tree of Life debacle. We have a national hang-up about breastfeeding, and it’s all the more apparent when someone can’t put aside their experience and feelings to say a simple “congratulations”, and can’t even abide by the “if you’ve got nothing nice to say, say nothing at all” philosophy. It’s the need to rain on someone’s parade that shows our insidious negative national attitude to what is, at the end of the day, just a way for people to feed their babies.

If you’re feeling left out, celebrate your achievements. Celebrate six months of putting together bottles in the middle of the night without spilling boiling water over your hands (I can’t celebrate this – yes, ouch – but I promise not to complain if you do). Celebrate your hands making it through six months of constant washing up; now that’s a skill to celebrate. Celebrate six months of having an awesome child; six months of being an awesome parent; six months of mutual family awesomeness. Even better, celebrate with cake. Go on, you deserve it.

So that’s why we need to celebrate breastfeeding achievements more. Not only because celebrations often involve cake, but because we should be celebrating everything more. Let’s stop being so hard on ourselves and others. Celebrate your achievements, congratulate others on theirs, eat cake and be nice. Oh, and campaign for better breastfeeding support (sorry, couldn’t resist!).

I decided to ask some fellow bloggers how they feel about celebrating breastfeeding – here’s some of their answers. 

Laura from We Forgot The Sperm said: “I love people celebrating their breastfeeding achievements. Nourishing a child is something to celebrate! The only time I don’t enjoy it is when it comes with a bazillion condescending or offensive hashtags #noformulahere #knowbetterdobetter #mummymilknotchemicals“.

Holly from Little Pickle’s Mom said: “I consciously don’t openly celebrate my breastfeeding achievements (even though I am proud of myself) for fear of upsetting those who can’t. My best friend had a double mastectomy just before falling pregnant and i always feel like if I celebrate anything to do with feeding, she’ll feel like I’m rubbing it in her face. Which, I hasten to add, I wouldn’t be even if I did share my experiences of breastfeeding. I’d never look down or question what’s right or best for any family”.

Abbie (Mama Wilkos) said: “I breastfed my first for 3 months before my milk dried up and my second for only 3 days. I decided breastfeeding the second time was just not right for me (painful) and my eldest son asked me at the time why I was crying whenever I fed his brother, so it just wasn’t worth all the upset. I do get annoyed by the term ‘breast is best’ because, no, making sure your baby is fed regardless is what’s important, and making sure you are comfortable and happy too. I don’t like these tree of life images (though happy for people to share them!) as they make me feel useless even though it was my own decision to formula feed. To avoid arguments I just ‘like’ my friends images and move on”.

Mo (Adventures of a Novice Mum) said: “Breastfeeding is a key part of mothering for me (almost 3 years now), and one that I fought so hard to make happen for us. So, I write about it and talk about it off and online. I’ve come across backlashes to people’s celebration of their breastfeeding journey, as well as lots of disclaimers to pre-empt accusations of being judgemental”.

Amy from All Things Amy says: “Personally, I’m so proud of how long I’ve managed to breastfeed but don’t feel like I can publicly say anything because it always offends someone. As soon as you say you’re breastfeeding it’s almost as if you’re stereotyped and people assume you’ve got your judgey pants on if they feed differently. I couldn’t care less how someone else feeds but I should be able to celebrate our breastfeeding achievements openly without worrying what someone else thinks”.

Lauren (Dilan and Me) said: “It’s no different to a runner celebrating their success of running a marathon. I’ve never run a marathon and couldn’t, nor do I really want to. But I don’t take their celebration as a personal insult because it’s not something I’ve done. They are allowed to be proud of their achievement just as I am, and their pride doesn’t imply that I’m inferior for not doing the same thing”.

Laura (Five Little Doves) said:  “I formula fed three of my five and I’m happy with the choices I made. I don’t mind when others celebrate their breast feeding success but it’s not something I ever did when I was breastfeeding. To me, whatever your choices, you’re still just feeding your child. It’s not really something that I patted myself on the back for, it was just part of caring for my baby?”. 

Leyla (This Day I Love) said: “All parents should be offered support for their feeding methods and be told that fed is best. If someone wants to celebrate breastfeeding than fine but please refine the judgement clicking or the oh it’s a shame comments when someone celebrates formula feeding. Fed is best. Every parent should be supported and every baby celebrated”.

Kirsty (Life With Boys) said: “I formula fed from Day 1, and that was my plan all along. I have no problem with others celebrating their own successes with Breastfeeding, provided it is not further degrading those who bottle feed. The Tree Of Life trend simply made me feel like I was doing something unnatural, something wrong for not breastfeeding – I don’t want to made to feel like I’ve taken the easy way out”.

As you can see, there are lots of different opinions! For me, I think Laura from Life With Baby Kicks summed it up best when she said:

“Ultimately we should all just lift each other up, whether you whack a boob out or a plastic container filled with formula, who cares? Celebrate the fact you kept your small human alive and mind your own boobs – whatever their use”.