I used to play so nice.

I never did the birth board thing when I was pregnant with my eldest. I’m not sure why, maybe because it was the days before broadband and you could never get online for more than half an hour before someone shouted that they needed to make a phone call. I embraced the birth board thing when pregnant with the boy. I fumbled my way around it for four years. I’ve probably been overly fluffy (I signed off a lot of messages with a couple of “x”‘s), I dumbed down my opinions for fear of offending people and I endlessly bit my cyber tongue.

I don’t know if it’s an age thing, or I’m just more savvy, or this pregnancy really has made me waaaaaaaaay more confrontational than I’ve ever been before, but I really can’t do it any more. I can’t be fluffy. I can’t sit on my hands quite so easily when I spot people giving out advice that’s wrong or just plain dangerous. I can’t be blindly supportive of random people’s choices any more.

If someone complains that the pregnancy police are giving them a hard time for ordering their burger cooked rare I feel compelled to point out the difference between a rare steak (bacteria all sit on the surface and are killed by the high heat of the pain) with minced beef  where bacteria is spread throughout the patty thus requiring thorough cooking.

When did I get so bolshy? I spent a large portion of yesterday arguing about the merits of breastfeeding over formula feeding.

(I’ll preface this with saying a lady posted a thread asking if people thought she was selfish for choosing not to breastfeed for no medical reason, just that she didn’t like the idea).

The thing is I have tried to breastfeed each of my children. I had a terrible time with my eldest, she was very dopey for days because of the pethidine I’d had when in labour. I couldn’t get her to latch probably and I suffered pretty horrendous nipple injuries as a result, but I would have persevered. I did persevere, but I was undermined on day 3 by a midwife who insisted I had to give her formula right now or she’d need to be hospitalised (turns out her scales were broken so the apparent extreme weight loss my daughter had suffered was just one big mechanical error). I limped along for the next three months on a mixture of breastfeeding and formula but once you’re on the formula it’s a slippery slope, eventually my milk dried up and she was on bottles full time. With the boy, he got to around 3 months old and then he got sick. He lost a lot of weight and dropped from the 50th centile of the growth chart to the 0.02nd. I know my milk wasn’t the best. I had a terrible diet at the time, I’d survive the day on biscuits or grabbing the odd packet of crisps, often I wouldn’t eat at all until the husband got in from work. I wish someone had sat me down then and addressed how I could improve my milk quality and supply instead of once again ordering me onto the formula. I guess the reason it worked so well with the Squishy one is that firstly I surrendered myself entirely to the process. I don’t faff about with dummies or expressing or wishing for someone else to come in and feed her. I let her nurse whenever she wanted for as long as she wanted and ignored any comment about “is she nursing again????” I ignored my sister-in-law when she said if I fed the baby for too long she’d turn into a lesbian. I also looked after myself. I made sure that I ate three nutritious meals a day.

Was breastfeeding restrictive? Well at times it was, but then having a baby is restrictive. I’m not going to advocate being a slave and a martyr to your child’s every need but I think a lot of people would be far happier if they just accepted that the first year at least of your child’s life is NOT ABOUT YOU. It’s a time when you need to take your wants and needs and shove them right to the bottom of the priority list, then you suck it up and you get on with it because you’re raising another human being, not managing an inconvenience. A year might sound like a lot of time but it goes by in the blink of an eye. And to be honest, it’s not THAT bad, it really isn’t. It’s 20% frustration and 80% joy. A big part of why breastfeeding worked so well for me is that in many ways it catered to my extreme laziness. It was great to never have to wash or sterilise a single piece of equipment, and even better to do almost every single night feed while snoring my head off.

Do I judge anyone who chooses to formula feed? Well to an extent I do. I don’t judge anyone who for medical/psychological reasons can’t do it. I don’t judge the women who give it a try but don’t succeed. But I do judge the people who just don’t like the idea of it/couldn’t be bothered and so never try at all. When the benefits of breastfeeding are so well known I don’t understand how anyone could not want their child to have that. Not that I’d ever say to that someone, it’s not my place to rock up to someone with my judgey pants all hitched and give them my tuppence worth, but privately that’s the opinion I’ll hold, and if someone asks for my opinion? Well then I’m afraid I will voice it.

So I’m sorry if you happen to run into me on a forum and I question your decision to formula feed or to put your newborn into a separate room of their own from day 1 or to use a baby walker or to wean at 14 weeks. Please accept that I will never take happy mum = happy baby as a get-out-0f-jail-free card, or that I will challenge assumptions based on nothing more than personal ancedata.

I’m not an insufferable know it all, and it’s not my mission to “correct” others. The vast majority (if not all) parenting decisions made by other people are really none of my business and I don’t hunt people out to comment on the way they do things, but if someone asks for my opinion I’ve finally grown the cyber-balls to give it. Or maybe it’s just that now on baby 4 I finally feel a real parent, I’m realising that though I may be young I have a combined 15 years of parenting experience behind me (that’s adding all my kids’ ages together! I didn’t start having kids at 16!) and I’m entitled to my hard won opinions.

I really think I’m going to end this pregnancy a different person to the one that started it. Gosh, it has been EMPOWERING.


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