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London - God, I love baby Mabel. I love the way her laugh starts at her feet and wriggles its way up her chubby body, exploding in a throaty gurgle that even the neighbours can hear. I love her smell, her folds of fat, her ginger comb-over and matching eyelashes, her sumo-sized knees.... I could go on but you get my drift: “Ain’t no mountain high enough,” etc.
But no matter how much I love this amazing little person I’ve nurtured for five months, I’ve decided it’s time to stop breastfeeding. Hang on, you cry, if you love her so much, why would you do that? Haven’t you read the surveys, woman? Don’t you know the rule of martial (I mean maternal) law? If you stop now, baby Mabel is doomed. Uh oh! I can hear the sirens going off at Breastapo HQ.
Nothing dramatic has happened between me and baby Mabel; I’ve just come to the end of my time feeding her. I want to spend what’s left of my maternity leave being able to do the daily school run for my other three children. I want to go out without being frowned at when I lift my top up to feed her.
I want her to bond with her father and her new nanny. I want more special time to listen to my eldest daughter, who at nine needs extra moments. I want to squeeze every special “Mummy” minute out of the my last, work-free days.
Breastfeeding makes this difficult. Not impossible, I know, but harder. I’ve looked at the time-per-child ratio and quitting feeding gives them an equal share before the maternity leave alarm goes off and I start the juggling again.
She’s had nearly 21 weeks of the “good stuff”, with a bit of formula mixed in, and we’re done now. Selfish? Irresponsible in the light of all that guilt-laden research? Who can really say?
Who can accurately predict her future when so many other factors are at play in an individual’s life? I’m lucky that I can feed (not every woman can), that I can afford help, and that my husband is supportive (though I find the harder I work, the luckier I get, so don’t judge me).
I’ve decided to do this just as new research reveals that women who don’t breastfeed, and those who don’t do it for long enough, are responsible for most of society’s problems.
I’m generalising because I’m cross - and undoubtedly defensive - but the savage crux of the latest statistics is: it’s all your fault, formula moms. This research by the Universities of Essex and Oxford almost implies you’re responsible for the recent rioting. If your offspring were to wail in court: “It’s because Mom didn’t breastfeed me,” he would get away with any crimes committed - and you’d be in the dock for your outrageous lack of love and maternal abuse.
The two-year investigation into “social mobility” (carried out for the Government) looks set to conclude that if less privileged mums were encouraged to breastfeed, then their children would do better (the underlying message is, of course, all women should breastfeed).
They say that children breastfed for at least four months have higher IQs and are less likely to be overweight or suffer behavioural problems. This research appears to take other factors of a family’s background into account. How depressing that it is all down to women to sort out society’s issues. Does the colossal responsibility of getting it right in the first few weeks of a baby’s life really fall only to women?
Believe me, you won’t breastfeed if your midwife doesn’t show you how and your partner doesn’t support you through those agonising, exhausting first few weeks.
The emotions around this issue are raw; debating it can take a woman to the darkest corner of her soul and rip her self-belief to shreds. The pain of these constant guilt-inducing statistics is so wounding I want to shout: “Please make it stop,” every time I see a headline.
So, for the record, we’re all trying our hardest, often against terrible odds.
As we’ve all read recently, nursing is no longer the caring profession: so many pregnant women have such an awful time in hospital that it’s no surprise we have the lowest breastfeeding rates in Europe.
So stop with all the research! We get it; breast is apparently best. But if this is right, then your future is in our hands.
So where’s the support we need? When you’ve just pushed something the size of a melon out of something the size of an egg cup, you expect praise, not criticism.
If breastfeeding women are the unsung heroes of tomorrow’s society (it’s a big if), we’re going to need help. Pronto. - Daily Mail
* Lorraine Candy is editor-in-chief of Elle magazine