Amanda Ririe, a 39 year old mother was subjected to of an online attack for bottle feeding her twin boys. Amanda says the messages posted online anonymously called her a “terrible mother,” and told her that with her “selfish act” she was “condemning her children to a life of ill-health, obesity and poor school results.”
Mothers feel like failures
The ‘breast is best’ message has long been with us but many women simply cannot breast feed and a recent survey by Nuk of 1432 mothers questioned 70 percent of those had breast feeding problems and lead to them feeling like failures. These mothers can then find themselves exposed to abuse on social media, from professionals and strangers. Amanda says though, that it is other mothers who appear the most aggressive.
Medication prevented breast feeding
Amanda says that she had no choice but to bottle feed the twins who are now aged three, following being prescribed life-saving medication for blood pressure problems after the birth. The medication was likely to be transferred through her breast milk to the babies and this could cause harm.
Amanda was expressing milk up to six times per day in preparation for when she could come off the drugs and breastfeed but it was exhausting and a sympathetic midwife attended and told her to stop. “I was a wreck,” Amanda says but even so she says a voice in her head told her that she wasn’t doing right for the boys. She says she would have liked expert and other mothers’ support, she wanted to hear that it was fine to bottle-feed but instead she says she was only met with propaganda about her children being likely to grow up fat, ill and stupid.
Amanda believes online articles and forums can be damaging and though she considers herself a strong person she was “reduced to tears” by online bullies and wonders what affects something like this can have on vulnerable people or worryingly a person suffering from post-natal depression.
Midwives won’t promote formula
Another mother Caroline Hartley has also had trouble breastfeeding. Despite this she says she was told by her midwife to carry on. Even when her daughter was showing signs of dehydration and losing weight the midwife didn’t suggest switching to bottle feeding. Caroline decided to switch and her daughter’s health improved.
When Caroline asked why the midwives hadn’t suggested switching she was told they weren’t allowed to promote formula. Caroline believes they are seemingly willing to risk a baby’s life and mother’s mental health rather than offer appropriate help.
Comments ‘depressingly misguided’
Author of What to Expect When You’re Breastfeeding.. And What If You Can’t, Clare Byam-Cook, believes that breastfeeding issues are common and bottle-feed bullying is “rife, cruel and depressingly misguided.” She says that statistics bandied about by the likes of The National Childbirth Trust claiming 90% of women breastfeed are not only untrue but puts ridiculous pressure on mothers. Byam-Cook says around 30% of women go straight to bottle-feeding and of those who do attempt breastfeeding around 50% of those cease within the first six weeks, leaving around 70% of babies being bottle-fed after 6 weeks old. Clare says that some women can be the cruellest bullies.
Business Consultant, Jemma Rodgers from Bedfordshire thinks that bullying is “peer pressure to conform.” She said that once at a baby yoga group she took out her bottle feeding kit to feed her eight week old daughter and a mother sneered at her saying, “oh look she’s brought her chemistry set with her.” She said all the other breastfeeding mothers laughed at her and she felt belittled. Whilst waiting for the milk to be heated her daughter became distressed and hungry and another mother made a hurtful comment asking whether she felt sad because she couldn’t provide food for her daughter.
No correlation for IQ levels
A study by King’s College London has found no connection between breastfeeding and IQ levels and Studies by Harvard School of Public Health found mothers can pass on toxins to their babies if they came into contact with chemicals in items including microwavable popcorn. Clare Byam-Cook says that bottle feeding mums should be re-assured that formula provides excellent nutrition. And suggests that it can’t always be said that breast is best, because if the mother has a poor diet or is sleep deprived the quality of milk produced may not be best. She believes that women need to encourage and not criticise – and to the bullies she says who are you make a woman feel like she is not doing her best? And further adds “You never know what is behind a mother’s decisions to bottle feed – and it’s none of your business.”