Not Another National Breastfeeding Week

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In the coming days, and in particular from the 1st-7th October, breastfeeding will climb a few more concessionary rungs up the media ladder.

News feeds will detail gatherings that are being arranged; our friends and colleagues will share their best breastfeeding stories and the air and soundwaves will conduct special interviews with mothers and experts.

It is a time when organisations confidently highlight the resounding evidence for breastfeeding, promote the wonderful services offered by the various breastfeeding support groups and, for those of us whose work it is to support breastfeeding families, it is a time to feel encouraged that what we’re doing in our little corner, is making a differnece.

National Breatfeeding Week is also the time in the calendar when the organisations and businesses who actively undermine breastfeeding, stealthily peddle  their services and wears under the crusadery guise of inclusive support.

As we allow ourselves to be carried along the overall wave of breastfeeding positivity, many other mothers will be transported along a different kind of swell – one of immense heartache, anxiety and loss.

For far too many mothers, the mere utterance of the word ‘breastfeeding’ unbridles feelings of resentment, anger and disappointment.

Breastfeeding grief, as described by author Author Hilary Jacobson, is a complicated and challenging grief to elucidate:

When grief is entangled with emotions such as guilt, anger, blame, shame and remorse, the grief is more challenging to move through. The medical term for this is complicated grief or complex grief. Breastfeeding grief is a clear example of complicated grief, and untangling and resolving our emotions can be a challenge.
— Hilary Jacobson CHT, Healing Breastfeeding Grief

Some mothers who were conned out of a breastfeeding identity,  one that was branded deeply into their psyche long before they ever heard the term ‘Lactation Consultant’ or ‘Breastfeeding Counsellor’, will seek shade from the glare of National Breastfeeding Week.

For others, the more intense emphasis on breastfeeding support will encourage them to articulate their feelings of outrage and disgust at a system that promised to protect and support them.

You see, when it comes to breastfeeding, we in Ireland have a conveyor belt of action plans, policies, frameworks and initiatives. Tiny amounts of government funding are available to promote breastfeeding in the antenatal period with the purse strings becoming even tighter in the postnatal period. 

Ireland has taken a very dogmatic approach to the promotion of breastfeeding. Akin to the marketing practices of formula companies, it iniquitously ensnares women during pregnancy with its bait of better health outcomes, support and normalcy. Once entrapped, it shamefully absolves itself from all breastfeeding responsibilities and stands idly by while mothers take on the mantle of incompetence and blame.

Indeed, at the very same time that our government is paying lip service to its pretence of supporting more mothers to breastfeed it is actively encouraging mothers in other countries to stop breastfeeding and to purchase its 'superior' brand of Irish infant formula.

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Green Love

Irish infant formula for the Chinese market 

As a Lactation Consultant. I would love to see a time when we no longer need to set aside a week to celebrate breastfeeding.  We tend not to celebrate the ordinary.

But until breastfeeding is truly supported and fully funded from commencement to cessation, we need to ensure that we keep the breastfeeding conversation open. 

The thousands of mothers who are left bereft because of lack of practical and timely support need us to keep talking and highlighting breastfeeding.