In total I’ve been a breastfeeding mum for nearly three years now, but had forgotten what it’s like when you’re solely responsible for a newborn’s nutrition, as opposed to just providing comfort and a wee supplemental boost to a hulking great toddler. It reminded me how many irksome, ignorant or downright daft comments you can get when you’re breastfeeding a tiny baby, especially when you’re a lentil-weaving hippy like myself and do it shamelessly, anywhere and intend to do so for a prolonged amount of time. Do any of these ring a bell with you? Let me know if I’ve forgotten something.
1 – Doesn’t your husband/partner mind?
Um – what now? Does he mind that I’m keeping our baby alive in the biologically normal way mothers are supposed to using my breasts which were purpose designed for this particular job? Funnily enough, no. He doesn’t. If he was the kind of twit who did I probably wouldn’t have wanted to make babies with him in the first place.
2 – But how do you know how much milk they’re getting?
Well, put very simply, I don’t. Does it matter? If they’re getting fatter, doing shits regularly, peeing often and generally showing signs of thriving then I don’t need a list of numbers memorised to reassure myself. Quite frankly I am in awe of formula feeding mums who do this – it looks like a cross between advanced mathematics and black magic trying to keep track of how many ml/oz and when, and when to increase and what if they don’t eat it all. I just stick my baby back on the boob when she gets grumpy, or wakes up, or I don’t know what else to do with her and go on reading my badly written chick lit novel. Breastfeeding is really the lazy mother’s approach.
And just to head the follow-up question off at the pass – I know when she’s finished because she either falls asleep or comes off and belches at me in a satisfied manner. It’s really not rocket science.
3 – What? She needs to feed again?
Yup. And stop sounding so annoyed about it, it’s not your boobs who are getting gummed to death. Human milk has only about 4% fat content as opposed to as much as 40% in some other mammals’ milk, it’s no wonder they need to eat often. Plus in hot weather it’s also their source of hydration too, and I know you drink more in the heat. Boob also provides pain relief, emotional comfort, skin to skin (which helps with temperature regulation), immune boosting and all kinds of other goodies too, so mind your own business and let my baby feed when they need.
4 – When are you going to stop breastfeeding?
OK, so this isn’t quite such a stupid question as some of the others, except that it’s not really anybody’s business but the mum and baby in question. Before I had babies I thought maybe six months, because that’s when you’re ‘supposed’ to feed until, then I realised that was just when you could introduce solids, not when you had to move a baby onto formula, so hey – why give up just as it was getting really easy? So then I thought maybe one year, but by the time we got to one year I figured I may as well just keep going until my baby decided they didn’t need it any more, same way I had let him decide when to eat solids and start crawling and walking.
5 – Aren’t you worried about breastfeeding ruining your breasts?
Well, hrm, maybe I would be if I was that vain, except that it’s actually pregnancy that knackers your boobs, not feeding from them. My breasts totally disintegrated during my second pregnancy and I’ve decided to just give up and merrily wait until I’ve finished feeding this baby when I can abandon bras altogether and either tie them into a neat bow or just tuck them into my waistband to stop them jiggling about.*
*Disclaimer – I think my husband might actually object to this. He’s only recently mastered the art of undoing a bra one-handed and likes to show off.
So there you have it – five of some of the sillier questions I’ve been asked on this topic, but I’m sure there are any others I’ve forgotten about in my post-baby haze. Remember, it’s better to keep your mouth closed and be thought a fool, than to open it and remove all doubt.