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The Choice To Breastfeed

When I was growing up, everyone in our family breastfed.  No one asked the pregnant lady if she planned to breastfeed, because it was taken for granted that she would.  When I was pregnant with my first child, I didn’t really decide that I would breastfeed – there was no decision to be made about it.  Breastfeeding is the normal way for families to feed their kids.  If I couldn’t breastfeed then I’d cross that bridge when I came to it, but I’d seen breastfeeding work lots of times and I had to reason to believe that I wouldn’t be able to do it too.

I never seriously considered choosing to stop breastfeeding either.  I had some epic problems establishing breastfeeding, but I had faith that I would get through it, because I’d seen other people get through the same problems before.

I never felt like breastfeeding was a choice.  That probably sounds bad, like I felt forced to breastfeed, but it wasn’t like that.  I didn’t need a thought process behind a decision, there was no list of pros and cons.  Breastfeeding is the normal way to feed our babies.  I just did what needed to be done.

I look at changing nappies in the same way.  I can’t choose to change nappies or not, it’s a part of parenting.  My kids need their nappies changed, and I would neglecting to meet their most basic of needs if I chose not to do it.  If I was physically unable to change their nappies for some reason, then I’d be forced to find an alternative solution – a costly and inconvenient solution that other people would be shocked I’d have to go through.  They would probably be impressed at the great lengths I’d go through to do something that other people could do easily, and seeing me go through such a rigmarole would make them grateful for their natural ability to change nappies the normal way.

That’s how I look at families who can’t breastfeed.  I am wowed by the struggles that they’ve overcome, and concerned about how are coping mentally with being unable to do what they had hoped.  I’m shocked at how expensive bottles and formula are, and I’m blown away by all the effort they have to go through to get it done (the handwashing, careful measuring of scoops, sterilising, boiling water, washing extra dishes, etc – it’s a big workload!).  And ultimately, seeing a family who can’t breastfeed makes me very grateful for my own ability to do so.

Growing up in a family where breastfeeding was normal, I can’t imagine why anyone would ever choose not to breastfeed, because from where I’m standing it’s much easier than other feeding methods.  I know that most people don’t see it that way because they didn’t grow up the way I did.  But as we continue normalising breastfeeding, and helping the broader community see more happy breastfeeding relationships, one day things might be different.

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