pregnancy

Sure breastfeeding is great but here are some of the things you don't know.

Confession: I’m not quite on board with World Breastfeeding Week.

You would think, wouldn’t you, that a Parenting Editor, a feminist, a mother, and someone generally interested in making sure every child has access to the care and opportunities they need for their future, that I’d be first in line to support World Breastfeeding Week.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m in the line to do it. Breastfeeding should be promoted, and breastfeeding mothers and their children should be celebrated and protected.

But I feel a sense of internal conflict about the whole thing.

I suspect that sense is due, in part, to my own personal story. Breastfeeding never quite worked for me; a combination of circumstance, psychology, a physiology that made it difficult and at least with my second child, a complete lack of desire to push myself into something I mentally recoiled from.

Alys, with the two children she never quite managed to breastfeed. Images supplied.

But having been upfront about my personal bias, here's what I want to say.

Are we sure breastfeeding advocates in Australia are being completely honest?

Breastfeeding advocates consistently claim that breastfeeding will help prevent SIDS, infections in the gut and respiratory system and obesity as well as promoting a higher IQ and better mother/child bonding.

They also claim that breastfeeding will save the lives of 800,000 a year, and that breastfeeding in the first hour of a baby's life will decrease the likelihood of a baby dying in the first month by 40 per cent.

There's research that backs those claims up.

But there's also research that questions those claims.

A study completed by researchers at Kings College in London found that claims about the relationship between breastfeeding and a child's IQ are entirely without basis.

Meanwhile a study conducted by researchers in the US found that when you control for socio-economic, cultural and ethnic factors, there is no difference between children who were breastfed and children who were bottle fed.

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In other words, are claims made by Australian breastfeeding advocates targeted to Australian mothers relevant? Or are at least some of those claims being extrapolated from situations outside of Australia and applied inappropriately here?

There's no doubt that there is a great need, still, to celebrate and protect breastfeeding mothers and their babies. You don't need to look very hard to find out why.

Watch Alyssa Milano promptly shut down this talk show host's anti-breastfeeding nonsense. Post continues below.

Video via Fox

The abuse, shaming, and outright discrimination that breastfeeding mothers face in our community is nothing short of outrageous.

There are far too many mothers, everyone from Mila Kunis to your best friend's next door neighbour, who feel like they have to cover up while breastfeeding, who are pushed into bathrooms to breastfeed or pump, who are asked to leave the premises if they feed their child, who endure the stares and mutterings of strangers.

In Australia, it's against the law to ask a breastfeeding mother to cover up or to leave. Women and babies have the right to be fed where and whenever they like, but not everyone has got that message yet.

So this is where I feel conflicted.

I feel deeply deeply protective of mothers, and that includes breastfeeding mothers who go about the business of feeding their hungry children. One of the purposes of World Breastfeeding Week, to protect the rights and freedom of breastfeeding women and their children is essential.

And I support the idea that we should promote breastfeeding as a good first option for mums and children.

But I struggle with the unnecessary pressure placed on vulnerable mothers who may not be able to, or may not wish to breastfeed their babies, and who are meant to feel they are doing their children a disservice if they don't breastfeed.

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