So this idea about paying mothers with £200 shopping vouchers to breastfeed for six months. That really narked me this morning on my drive in.
To distort the words of Tony Hancock, it’s like a quid for a boobful. More like a penny for a jug. Talk about trivialising the major commitment that breastfeeding is. Talk about failing to appreciate that the reasons women choose the bottle or stop breastfeeding are many and complex. Talk about failing to acknowledge the mother’s experience.
Don’t kid yourself that ANYONE is going to spend an hour in every four continuously latched onto a sucking machine day in day out for a full six month period for the price of a weeks sodding groceries. A lot of my clients are mums from difficult backgrounds. Most, but not all, go with the bottle. A £200 voucher in the hand would no doubt be welcome to many of them, but it is a feint and distant promise for a mum confronted with the daily reality of caring for a newborn. 6 months is a far far horizon when you are kneedeep in size one nappies. It may well be true that breastfeeding saves on the faff of sterilising and washing up bottles, but it also prevents a mum from sharing the load with dad or with granny. Breastfeeding can add pressure in a very concrete way because it is by it’s nature solely mum’s responsibility (unless you have a wet nurse). There is minimal respite when you are breastfeeding.
No new Mother, whether she be middle class, working class, of whatever level of education, needs to be undermined. The pressure to be the perfect mummy is insidious, overwhelming, and often self inflicted. Breast is no doubt best for a number of reasons, but it is not the only factor to consider. A mother who is in constant agony, distressed, distracted by her own sense of failure is in no position to be the best mother she can be.
I successfully breastfed one child to ten months, having gone back to work after 3, and although I couldn’t have done it without a breastpump and a fair amount of top up by the end, it was rewarding if hard work. Second time around was a nightmare. It was agonising, demoralising, awful. I wept for six weeks (or that is at least my recollection). It was a round of continuous “you can do it” messages from doubtless midwives and breastfeeding specialists, interposed with prescriptions for more antibiotics. I should have given up long before the 3 months but I’d done it once and could not countenance failing to give my second child what I gave my first. Of course I was a fool, but happily neither child is, so far as I can tell, broken as a result. And I can tell you now that if any kindly woman had attempted to incentivise me to press on through yet another bout of mastitis by waving a poxy voucher in my face she’d have got a pretty tart reply.
If you’ll excuse a pun. This idea sucks.
Spend £80 on providing women with a decent electric breastpump and a stock of nipple cream instead – that would be better than a squirt in the eye.