July 20, 2019

Breastfeeding Isn't Always Best

“I tend to avoid pictures of my daughter as a newborn. At the time, I was trying to breastfeed, but she wasn’t gaining weight. I remember flicking her with cold water to keep her awake to try to nurse, the twice-daily check-ins with the lactation consultant, the worry inscribed in the paediatrician’s face, the agony over a dry diaper, the guilt over resorting to half an ounce of formula in a syringe. Was it wrong to give her so much? Was it wrong not to give her more?

When the diagnosis finally came, after a two-hour drive to the specialist, it was an immense relief: ‘tongue-tie’, where the strip of tissue connecting the tongue to the floor of the mouth is too short, making it hard to nurse effectively. An unanaesthetised snip and some rending screams later, the problem was solved. As a healthy 2.5-year-old, my daughter still nurses and loves it. I’ve also finally realised that the intense moral pressure in countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom to breastfeed is completely nuts.

Mums, feel free to skip this section – chances are you get exactly what I’m talking about. But for those who don’t, the first thing to know is that there is a dominant and powerful narrative about breastfeeding: that mothers have a moral responsibility to try to breastfeed because it’s better for their babies.”

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