The Battle of The Boobs and The Bottle

Here is another ongoing battle of the bitches. Handbags ready, claws out! I have been thinking a lot recently about how us ladies are our own worst enemy. I had a discussion with a friend about Kathryn Blundell’s article in Mother & Baby magazine but I have been prompted to write this post by a blog I read last night by Blotted Copy Book.

Once again, we are trapped in battle where women challenge and question each others choices; ultimately, weakening our position, because we are fighting each other instead of supporting each other. In my experience, most women feel like they have been hit by a train when they have a baby. Nothing can prepare you for what is completely inconceivable in terms pregnancy, birth and motherhood. You can read every book on the frickin’ planet, you can have watched every one of your mates have kids, you may think you know what is coming, but the reality is ‘bam!! incoming one (or more) baby, buckle up and brace yourself.’ At some point in the journey, the little parasites will trip you up and mess with your brain. If you are switched on, you’ll realise that it’s war! An ongoing battle for supremacy, and it’s either them, or you, as you spend the next few decades trying to regain control of your life again. And I say all this with a deep, unconditional, enduring love for my little demons. I can’t tell you how many times, I scream at The Grenade, ‘do as you are told, you are not in charge!’ and he screams back, ‘why can’t I be in charge’. Sometimes we have long esoteric conversations about what he would do if he was in charge, but to cut it short, we would basically be living in the doyen of childhood dreams, that is going to Toys R Us whenever he wanted and staying there for as long as possible.

Before we all get our knickers in a twist. Bottle feeding is artificial but it is not fatal. I was solely bottle fed and I live to write this blog. There are many things about modern society, which are artificial and unnaturally prolong life. If The Grenade and I had laboured together as nature intended we would both have died. He had the chord wrapped his neck twice and under his arm. Both our vitals were fading, as they ran down the corridor to give me an emergency c-section. At the lowest point of the labour, if the doctor had said to me, “now, you may die.” I would have replied, “thank you.” The Grenade was delivered artificially with medical intervention and we are both alive because of it.

However, it is indisputable that giving babies breast milk is in their best interest. Breast milk is designed for them by the greatest architect in the world, mother nature. My biggest issue with Kathryn Blundell’s article was that none of her reasons about why she didn’t breastfeed were in her baby’s best interests, they were in her best interests. Being a parent is about sacrifice and the challenge is managing the balance between sacrifice and martyrdom. Somehow, we have to be leaders, offer guidance, teach, grow, build our kids while still coping with our own flawed existence.

We are all flawed. Nobody is perfect and we should stop fooling ourselves, if we think we are.

I love this poem by Philip Larkin.

Philip Larkin – This Be The Verse

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.

So back to the battle of the bottle and the boobs. Breast is best but bottle will do too. It’s important to educate but not judge, to mitigate the risks and to not encourage over-feeding. It’s about time we had each others back. Women should support each other. There are many ways to skin a cat and constantly attacking each other is not the answer. I breastfed The Grenade until he was 4 months old, then I weaned him because he was a hungry baby. The Menace I breastfed, with one bottle at bedtime, until she was 8 months old. I really wanted to breastfeed and initially, with both kids, it hurt like hell. But both of my kids didn’t get their first cold until after they were 6 months old. I breastfed them because it gave them my immunity, which I had built up over 3 decades, and that I thought was worth fighting for and enduring the personal pain. But I know plenty of mums, who solely bottle fed for many different reasons. All these mums love their kids, which is the most important thing of all. In this complex world that we live in, there has got to be a better way than outrage, judgement and anger over the battle of the boobs and the bottle that doesn’t result in women once again being at each others throats.

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21 Comments

  1. Vonnie July 25, 2010 Reply

    I enjoyed reading this – you’ve managed to put more bluntly what I was skirting around. For me, I breastfed because I wanted to do the best for my babies and in the end up, the health differences between my breast and bottle fed children is tangible – my breastfed babies are the ones more prone to illness! In fairness, that’s because of other issues too.

    I think what I’m struggling with is the visceral reactions I have to certain things – the baby with a bottle is a classic example. Issues that if you were to ask me about them I wouldn’t give a toss about seem to be so different when I’m actually confronted with them.

    I do try to be the best friend I can be, to be compassionate, kind & helpful but I guess I definitely must work on my prejudices!

    • Thanks for this Vonnie, because I didn’t want you to be offended. I love your passion and energy for the female cause and I think we all need to focus our energies on the bigger picture, which is how are we are where we are. Money and power is at the root of the problem. And this stems back to the witch hunts http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witch-hunt which is at the heart of the beginning of female repression and patriarchial domination. It is also linked to the 4 patriarchial religions. We need to stick together, flaws and all. I would love to see you channel your energy into uniting the sisterhood and then we can begin to redress the balance again – the balance where men and women are equal but different. The ying and yang – the male and female harmony that is needed to survive. Thank you for your understanding 😉

  2. Manzanita July 25, 2010 Reply

    An excellent post. (One that I can relate to. Often, I don’t understand the military pecking order, never having been there). Boobs and bottles I understand. What appears to be a dilemma today was the same 60 years ago. You nursed if you could and if not, you used a bottle. Four kids. I nursed them all except the one born in Morocco. He, I only nursed a few weeks because a sirocco hit and the extreme heat was making babies deathly ill. I kept him alive by bottle feeding him rice water and that ended the nursing. Now, those kids (but would be old to you) all seem like they were cut from the same cookie dough. So if the proof is in the pudding…… you’re “right on.”

    • Thanks Manzanita, you are a sage soul, who has witnessed the battles on many levels. At the end of the day it’s about survival not righteousness. We could all learn from you. I love your insight – you give me inspiration and remind me daily of the importance of dance. 😉

  3. Arabella July 25, 2010 Reply

    The key issue here is the judging. Women are spectacular at it; we ring fence our opinions and bolster our position by being critical of those who behave differently. As you rightly say, this weakens the sisterhood and keeps us in a position of subordination within society. Pregnancy, motherhood and all issues maternal provide an ideal forum for such battles – men can never join in and all the issues have a highly emotional basis resulting in any woman being judged, feeling judged and judging. All of which is unhealthy, destructive and ultimately wasted energy. We must learn to embrace other ways & choices without feeling threatened. It is our response to our insecurities that we criticise other women to justify our own behaviour. We must each learn firstly to feel less judged. That would be a start.

    • I agree wholeheartedly. Plus we need more empathy for each other. Life is tough and we are all different. We can’t all be the same – it’s all about gangs of consensus driving women apart. ‘I am right join my gang and lets keep the heathens out’ – There are many roads to Rome, with a lot of liquorice allsorts. At the moment all this in-fighting, all it does is keep the men in charge.

  4. It is a never ending source of confusion for me why people care whether other people breast or bottle feed their children, work or stay at home, home school or state educate or whatever the most recent skirmish is about. Personally I can think of a thousand other things I’d rather spend my time worrying about.

    All of this infighting only serves to heighten the perception amongst certain types of males that us women are a pathetic bunch of creatures that shouldn’t be put in positions of power or responsibility. If we spent half the energy being positive and backing each other up, we’d be running the world by now.

    • I couldn’t agree more but what was interesting this post – http://amodernmilitarymother.com/2010/07/20/feminism-is-not-a-dirty-word-its-a-form-of-solidarity/ was met with stoney silence – check out the lack of comments. Bitchin’ about other folk is part of being a woman so maybe we can’t unite and that is why we will always be surbordinates. Somehow we have to work out how to be loyal to each other and not selling each other out to the men folk. It’s going to be a long old road though – first we have to realise that we are doing it. The first step in recovery is acceptance 😉

  5. jfb57 July 25, 2010 Reply

    Several bloggers have posted on this subject recently. In my case I wanted to breast feed but after 6 weeks was told my son was not getting enough milk & therefore I should change. I was devastated because I felt I had let him down. No, let the whole of motherhood down! I remember going to see my dad when they told me (my mum was working) & he just sat there & handed me the tissues!

    • Julie, motherhood is so hard. You didn’t let your son down or motherhood down – you did what was in his best interests and suceeded. I hope you have stopped punishing yourself now. Your dad did a good job passing you tissues. You can only do what you can do. At the end of the day it’s about survival and coping. Your son is a man now and a fine man, I am sure. I breastfed my kids but I have failed in other ways. To err is human, to forgive is divine. And more importantly it’s about survival. Lots of love xxx

  6. Harriet July 25, 2010 Reply

    Here for the first time following Heather, and very much enjoying myself!.

    Anyway, on the subject of the post, and without reading the article (for which I guess you have to buy the magazine!), isn’t the point that we all try to do what is best for *our own* children? Like you, I chose to breast feed, but then that was the choice I made, despite mastitis, sagging, cracked nipples, leaks, oh, and twins… presumably Kathryn Blundell made her choice because it would make her happier, and in so doing, make her a better parent. Breast feeding made me tired and cross and occasionally sore, it also made me, in the long run, happy, because I felt it was the right choice for me and my babies. If there had been something else that seemed more important to me, I’d have chosen to prioritise that instead. As you say, I think we need to stop beating each other up for choices that we make for ourselves and our families, and not, hopefully, because of what anyone else might think.

    And on a lighter note, thought you might enjoy this (if you haven’t seen it already)

    They tuck you up, your Mum and Dad
    They read you Peter Rabbit, too.
    They give you all the treats they had
    And add some extra, just for you.

    They were tucked up they were small,
    (Pink perfume, blue tobacco-smoke),
    By those whose kiss healed any fall,
    Whose laughter doubled any joke.

    Man hands on happiness to man.
    It deepens like a coastal shelf.
    So love your parents all you can
    And have some cheerful kids yourself

    (Adrian Mitchell: it makes me smile, I’m hoping it’s what my kids will think about me (although without the smoke!)…)

    • Hi Harriet, thanks for stopping by. Alas Kathryn Blundell didn’t breastfeed because she found it creepy. Her reasons are entirely selfish and not remotely about what’s in her child’s best interests, which would be great if she acknowledged that it was for purely selfish reasons.

      “I wanted my body back. (And some wine)… I also wanted to give my boobs at least a chance to stay on my chest rather than dangling around my stomach.” She goes on to say: “They’re part of my sexuality, too – not just breasts, but fun bags. And when you have that attitude (and I admit I made no attempt to change it), seeing your teeny, tiny, innocent baby latching on where only a lover has been before feels, well, a little creepy.”

      Anyway, in the spirit of my piece – you are right, this made her happy and so made her a better parent. I love the poem – thanks for this but I still love the Larkin original too.

      • Harriet July 25, 2010 Reply

        Fair enough… I have to admit I find the fact that she thought it was “creepy” a little, well, creepy…. I remember watching a programme about teenagers who wanted breast implants and one of them saying that she didn’t mind that she would almost certainly not be able to breastfeed because that wasn’t “what breasts were for”….

        I think I spat tea all over the living room.

        I’ve been trying to find a way in which I can see her attitude as being about doing what’s right for the whole family, but then I end up saying things like “well she obviously cares so much about how she looks that that’s more important to her than the child’s nutrition and if that’s what makes her happy then that’s what’s best for both of them”, which just ends up probably being more insulting to her (not to mention stupid by me) than the stuff that’s apparently all over the rest of the internet…

        • And the fact that she writes for a parenting magazine and her words influence others. But it’s not like she gave her baby temazepan so that she could go out clubbing, which a dr friend told me that some mum’s have been known to do. I think it does need some perspective on the debate. It’s ok to understand the rationale for her decision – I have made some bad parenting decisions in the past. Life is tough.

  7. Vegemitevix July 26, 2010 Reply

    It’s so long ago for me that I don’t even think about it anymore. I fed all three of mine differently, but I did feed them and they are here alive and kicking today! There has been absolutely no difference between those who were breastfed the most and the those who weren’t – not in illness, nor allergies, nor asthma, nor temperament, nor intelligence. I gave up breastfeeding when my son was four months old for a compelling reason. Everytime I put him to the breast I wanted to kill him. When I realised that he was realising my instinctive rejection when he latched on I weaned him from the breast and put him on the bottle. I tried again with my second child and managed two months during which time we moved countries and my mother in law died. Oh and I developed PND. There is nothing that promotes mother-baby bonding better than thinking every time she latched on ‘I wish I was dead’. As for my last bonus baby? I took the pills and stopped the milk. I loved every single moment of feeding her (with the bottle). Holding her in my arms in the wee hours while she sucked away was bliss. What frustrated me most of all was the hospital’s patronising attitude to my wanting to bottle feed from the word go. They asked and asked and tried to tell me that I was doing the wrong thing. I told them that I’d had two children already, that breast feeding was part of developing PND (for me!) and that after a long career in the corporate world they could just f off! So these days I have three grown up kids – healthy, loving, and very intelligent. I didn’t fail them by not being able to breastfeed just as I didn’t fail them by having to deliver them through c-section. When did how we feed our babies become such a badge of honour?

    • I am with you, I think feeding them is important. Sheltering them too, loving them and then trying to work out some grounded semblance of the difference between right and wrong. Then Bob’s your uncle, let them free to battle out in the big bad world. It’s such a load of righteous bollocks isn’t it. Please can we stop attacking each other!! It’s mental.

  8. Maranda July 29, 2010 Reply

    I did not intend to get pregnant. In fact, I thought I couldn’t get pregnant. I’ve always told myself that I would never call my daughter a “mistake” but would call her a “surprise.” But she was NOT in the plan I had for my life. I had an extremely difficult time being pregnant. I thought the entire process was creepy and couldn’t even look at books on the growth of the fetus within my body. When I had her I was unable to breast feed. Call it selfish if you wish, but I was mentally unable to do it. I bottle fed her from day one. She has rarely been sick and is one of the smartest little things I have ever encountered. I would never for a second trade my daughter for anything. I would give my life for her and am thankful that I have her. But I cried my eyes out and didn’t want to be held down by a child.

    Each person does for their children the best that they know how and are capable of doing. I also dislike how women choose not to support one another. We always think we know best. Who cares! It’s not up to someone else what I do with my child. As long as she is healthy and happy, that should be what matters right?!?!?

    • Yes – absolutely. The journey is long one and your bubbalicious is a gift. I think all children that make it are meant. She was coming whether you knew it or not. She was destined. Life is tough – we should judge less support more, maybe guide if we can, ask for help when we need it – those sort of things. There are boundaries though – sedating your kids with tranquilisers to go clubbing – yup, I hope we are all agreed that is called ‘neglect’!

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