Ok, so bear with me if this seems a bit weird. It’s World Breastfeeding Week soon – honestly I feel like there’s about five of these per year, but anyway. The focus this year is on the impact of infant feeding on climate change and the environment. The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action take the position that breastfeeding is unequivocally better for the health of the planet and its people and therefore should be heavily promoted, in these times of climate crisis.
There was a particularly unhelpful article in the BMJ about this last year, which really irritated me, so I wrote this on my other blog, which remains the most frequently-read thing I have ever written. The issue seems to be raising its head again in the media, due in my view to the folks who are determined to promote breastfeeding at all costs grabbing onto the topicality of environmental issues with both hands, as yet another stick with which to beat the mothers of the planet.
Anyway, there’s a breastfeeding support organisation inviting people to write poems for a competition to celebrate the connection between breastfeeding and the benefits to the environment. A group of anonymous friends of mine have come up with a few poems which might help to explain to these folks that things perhaps aren’t quite as binary as they may seem.
(Because – and this is a quick run-down of a very complicated issue – not all women can breastfeed, not all babies can breastfeed, not all women want to breastfeed and they’re entitled to bodily autonomy, the environmental claims are extremely tenuous and adding a whole heap more guilt onto women in a society where mother shaming is an international sport is not very bloody helpful, actually).
So here’s a selection of lactation lyrics by some angry folks, for your delectation. One from me to follow tomorrow.
Roses are red, Breastfeeding made me blue, It wasn't worth doing To save a bit of CO2 Nipples are red, Breast milk is white, Sleep is for the weak, You must feed all night There once was a lady from Rye, Who perceived insufficient supply, She tried triple feeding til her nipples were bleeding, The midwife just told her she lie. There once was a lady from Boston, Who never formed any colostrum, The matter was pressing, So she tried hand expressing, Cos Aptimel really would cost ‘em
On breastfeeding Breastfeeding is hard I will not do it again It nearly killed me A haiku on humans and our general propensity for world fuck- uppery, breastfed or not If your kid isn't Greta, they're likely bad for the environment. Advice to new parents in World Breastfeeding Week Parent, don't listen It's not your burden to bear Just feed your baby
And the final word on it:
Breastfed or formula, the baby will rejoice. Stop judging others and respect a mother's choice.
CAVEAT: I’m not anti-breastfeeding and nor are any of my friends and allies who I discuss these matters with. If a woman wants to breastfeed and it doesn’t negatively impact her physical and mental health, and the baby is getting enough to eat, great. If healthcare professionals can offer support to enable this to happen safely, great.
But, coercive “support” is not ok. Spurious, unscientific claims about the benefits of breast milk – either at individual, societal or environmental level are not helpful. Parent shaming based on feeding decisions is not acceptable. Babies starving due to formula being demonised and withheld is criminal.