We live in an age where it seems like Mums are predisposed to guilt. Especially those millennial Mums who look to the digital realm for advice, support and succour. There’s a lot of wonderful sage advice imparted from mother to mother online… but there’s also a truly unfortunate degree of shaming and guilt tripping that no new Mum should have to endure. It can feel as through the lens of social media places parents under never-ending scrutiny. We feel obliged to present an image of perfect parenthood to the world. And if we’re unable to comply with the stereotypical image of a perfect family it can add to the existing insecurities that are all-too common among new Mums.
Nowhere is this more abundant than the issue of breastfeeding. It’s bad enough that a third of women feel ashamed to breastfeed in public, but women also have to content with the guilt and shame that come from struggling to breastfeed their kids. Earlier this year, a BBC survey revealed that around half of Mums surveyed experienced profound guilt when they struggled to breastfeed their babies or when their babies lost weight no matter what dietary changes and supplements they put in place.
If you’re reading this and it all feels achingly familiar… it’s okay to talk about breastfeeding guilt!
We’re told by our parents, we’re told by midwives, we;re told by doctors, even infant formula manufacturers recommend breastfeeding to give your child the healthiest possible start in life. We’re constantly told that children who are breast fed are healthier, hardier and do better in school. And while the evidence tends to support that thesis, could it be an over simplification to assert that breast feeding alone is what gives children the X-Factor?
This article from the Guardian by American author and economist Emily Oster makes some pertinent points about how the links between breastfeeding and high-performing children are, if not misleading, perhaps over simplified. She asserts that while babies who are breastfed tend to do better in school, there are other contributing factors at play. Women who breastfeed statistically tend to be more financially secure which is why breast feeding is emotionally and logistically easier. And, statistically speaking, kids from more financially secure backgrounds with parents who are more present and less likely to need to work long hours to keep themselves financially afloat tend to do better in school.
So while they may have a slight edge, there’s (at least statistically speaking) more to it than Mummy’s milk.
Ultimately, while the evidence may give a slight edge to babies who are breastfed, we need to acknowledge the fact that breastfeeding isn’t always beneficial or logistically possible for many women. Rather than shaming these women into misery, let’s embrace anything that makes them healthier, happier and less stressed.
Because, when all’s said and done, what’s more beneficial to a child than a happy mother?