"Dear midwives, back off."

I’m sticking up for new mums everywhere.

Before you go any further, I’m not a mum.

The closest thing I’ve come to breastfeeding is giving my older sister a “night off” and bottle feeding my niece at 2am.

But today, my tolerance on a particular parenting topic reached its limits. Yes, it’s true, even a non-mum can get mummy outrage.

Today, I dropped statements like, “that is an abuse of basic human rights” and “ah…that’s assault”. I also dropped a couple F, S and B bombs.

It started out innocently enough. My colleague pointed me to yet another instance of a new mum putting pressure on herself to breastfeed reported by The Courier Mail. This mum attempted to breastfeed her newborn for four months. FOUR MONTHS. It got so bad that she developed Post Natal Depression because of the amount of stress to breastfeed and it not working.

Her husband told The Courier Mail, “The pressure she put on herself to feed and the pressure everyone else put on her — the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA), staff at the hospital, other mothers — it just exacerbated her PND.”

So, I went to the people I always go to with my parenting questions. The mums of the office.

“I don’t get it,” I vented. “What’s the deal with breastfeeding? Explain this mysterious mystery to me. Yes, I know breast is best, but if you TRY to breastfeed and it doesn’t work for whatever reason, why NOT go to the back up plan of the bottle? Why put yourself under agony and distress? If you can’t breastfeed, isn’t it just out of your control? Isn’t it just your boobs or something not quite working?”

"What's the hoo-haa with breastfeeding anyways?" Image via iStock

One piped up, "It's all about breastfeeding in hospitals, there isn't a consideration you won't breastfeed, so if you wanted to you would have to be very brave and risk lots of hmmmming and judging midwives. It's not only the powerful midwives, other mums in mothers groups, your big sister and older friends...they all did it so why can't you!"

"So, who cares if they all did it? From what I read, there are lots of people who can't breastfeed. I don't get it."

Yes, I told you, I reached my limit. But in that moment, these mums who've been there before, revealed something to me that floored me. The moment I said "that's assault".

They told me that in your first few moments as a mum, right after giving birth, some midwives "man handle" you, grabbing your swollen and sore boobs and "shove your nipple" into your baby's mouth.

Surely, these mums were wrong? Surely, the midwife would come in, "Hello dear, it's feeding time, are you going to try breastfeeding? Great, do you need help? Yes? Great. Do you mind if I touch your boob gently, just to show you?"

Nope. THAT NEVER HAPPENS, they told me. "They did it once in front of my dad and uncle it was very embarrassing...they forget it's a body I think."

Smiles and midwives are far and few. Image via iStock.

But even though, none of the mums found this to be a problem. "Eh," they said, "it's part of the deal."


"I think after pregnancy checkups and childbirth you don't feel quite so possessive about your own body," another said.

I'm sorry, but for a woman who's just given birth for the first time, I can only imagine how overwhelming those moments are. Not only is child birth a HUGE experience (good and bad) but a lot is happening and you feel vulnerable. The last thing you need is more pressure to "not fail" and you definitely don't need someone being highly inconsiderate and attacking your body that you feel completely out of control over.

You already feel like you've given it all up ("everyone's had a look" I hear mums say), so couldn't you at least have the small decency to decide when and if someone grabs YOUR boob to breastfeed YOUR baby.

"They also shoved my breast into his mouth and it HURT. He wouldn't feed. We later found out that he was allergic and didn't want the bloody stuff. He would violently vomit up every drop and the midwives still actively discouraged bottle use. I saw a poor mum of TWINS shuffling to the microwave to heat bottles of formula because hospital policy at the time was to not assist bottle feeding mums."

Now, the mums did make mention of the wonderful midwives they had met. The ones who took their time, remembered the mum was a person and not a birthing and feeding machine. The ones who listened to their concerns and answered their questions free from judgement. But...these wonderful women were far and few between.

So, I'm calling on all midwives, to be like those midwives.

To remember that while you may go through birth and new babies and breastfeeding every day, it's a unique, unexpected and scary experience to every new mum. And those new mums, are relying on you to get them through those first few hours, days, months.

They, like the mums I spoke to, just want to know that it's okay. That if they try their hardest, that's the best thing they can do. If it doesn't work out, it's fine. It's different for everyone - I'm sure you know that to be more true than anyone in the world.

They want to know that they don't have to spend four months in pure agony and anguish over what a terrible mother they are for not being able to do it "right".

What was your experience as a first time mum with midwives? Share your story, good or bad, below. 

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