How to ‘sell’ breastfeeding without being a tit

IMG_20131005_143714 (1)Breast milk is really good stuff. We know this.

We have seen the campaigns, read the research and studied the NHS literature we have shoved down our throats from the moment we fall pregnant.

When I was expecting my first child, I was told that breastfeeding is ‘a convenient way to provide you and your baby with a multitude of health benefits.’

To be honest, they had me at ‘convenient’..

With the UK still holding the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world, the Government’s ‘sales pitch,’ based on the fact that a mother’s milk is healthier than formula, is clearly not working. All it achieves is to load more guilt on the shoulders of women who do not, or cannot breastfeed.

I’m not denying the health benefits of breast milk, all I am saying is that most women know these facts. You can’t escape them.

From the moment our babies are conceived we are inundated with the facts.  But a large number of new mothers still choose not to breastfeed from day one.

Not because they love their babies less than those mums who breastfeed, but because for whatever reason, they believe it is best option for their family.

As a society we ignore facts all the time. Plenty of people know about the benefits of exercise but don’t go to the gym. Smokers know about the dangers of cigarettes but they don’t give them up.

I knew that homemade organic baby food blended with extract of quinoa and unicorn milk or whatever…would be better for my child than the stuff out of a jar, but it didn’t stop me using Cow & Gate.

We undoubtedly need to encourage (not pressurise) more women to try breastfeeding. Not only because of the health benefits, but because you can’t really know what is better for you and your baby until you have tried all the options available to you. However, to do this, it is a hell of a lot easier, if you try breastfeeding first.

I am not anti-formula. I am pro Do-Whatever-The-Hell-It-Takes-To-Make-New-Motherhood-Easier.  And speaking as someone who has tried formula, exclusive breastfeeding and a combination of both – I believe it is a misconception that bottle-feeding is the ‘easier’ option.

Personally, I found stumbling down the stairs at 2am holding a screaming, hungry baby while  mixing and heating bottles with one hand, a lot harder than just pulling up my top.

I know breastfeeding doesn’t work out for everyone, but if it does it can be a great experience and a lifesaver for the sleep-deprived among us! You can literally do it with your eyes closed…

So instead of bombarding mums-to-be with facts that they already know, why not just suggest they  give nursing a little go. Even if a baby only has a few swigs of colostrum on day one it is still beneficial to their health. And rather than guilt-tripping mums who are struggling on with breastfeeding, even though it is making them physically or mentally unwell, we should reassure them that formula feeding is not the second best option bit simply a second option.

I reckon it is about time we rebranded breastfeeding. Forget Breast is Best; how about Breast is Best For The Sleep-Deprived or The Lazy or Give Boobs a Bash (OK I may have to work on my slogans).

I loved breastfeeding. For me, it was a wonderful experience but I am not going to be a dick about it. Use a bottle, breast or a bit of both.

You life, your boobs, your baby, your choice. All I am saying is, why not make your decision on a ‘try before you buy (formula)’ basis. If it all goes ‘tits up’ the formula will still be available – what have you got to lose?

So I am NOT going to bang on about the brilliance of breast milk but I would just like to provide the Government (who totally read this blog) with a 16 ways to promote breastfeeding without being a dick should they want to try an alternative campaign:

606149798a7ce535d99633ea40c86de81) One free hand means you can eat, play on your smartphone, go to the toilet and even enjoy a glass of wine while feeding your baby (seriously, it is fine).

2) Hassle free. If it works out for you and your baby, breastfeeding is a piece of cake. Pick up baby, put on nipple. Job done.

3) You can do it lying down. Let’s face it. Taking care of a newborn is exhausting, so as a new mum anything you can do horizontal is a good thing.

4) You can do it while you are asleep. This is another great selling point for the sleep-deprived. As long as you aren’t drunk, smoking or sleeping on a bed of nails it is usually ok to fall asleep next to your baby.

5) Stick a tit in it. Breastfeeding is the quickest way to shut up…I mean soothe a screaming baby. So try to keep a little milk flowing for as long as possible. My second daughter gave up her bedtime feed at just over two-years-old, so my boobs got me through all of her teething. Result.

melons6) Amazing boobs. Having spent all of my adult life as a 34A, I finally had boobs! Would it be wrong to breastfeed forever just to keep my size Ds?

7) Tea break. You have a handy to solution to the problem of running out of milk when you really need a cup of tea. (Yes, I have tried it).


8) You don’t have to WEAN I don’t mean breastfeed forever. I am not a total freak. I just mean it doesn’t have to be a big thing. Once they are on solids they want less and less milk anyway. And as for the nighttime, I found the If She Screams Loudly I Will Just Feed Her approach worked for us until my baby gradually weaned herself. Trust me, they will not be sucking at your wrinkly granny breasts when they are 30, so chill out.

9) Bedtime. Boobs are the easiest and quickest way to get a baby to go to sleep. (For those of you thinking ‘Ah, breastfed – no wonder her babies didn’t sleep,’ My combination fed daughter she woke up all night, every night whether she was on breast or formula milk).

10) Milky breasts provide instant comfort to a teething, colicky, sick or overtired baby.

11) Less stuff to carry and remember when you go out. You have everything you need to feed your baby inside you at all times.

12) Breastfeeding is a great excuse to be anti-social. “I am just going to feed her in the bedroom.” The perfect way to avoid people when you are too tired to talk to anyone.

double-cheeseburger-524990_64013) Pig out. You can eat what you want and have the calories literally sucked out of you.

14) Nursing bras are so bloody comfortable.


15) It is free nutrition. If you run out of money and food (which we once did) at least you have a healthy snack and drink available for your child!

16) You can always change your mind! The good thing about breastfeeding is that if you don’t get on with it, you can switch to formula.

So there you have it. Get your tits out! or not…whatever…


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25 thoughts on “How to ‘sell’ breastfeeding without being a tit

  1. No 17: In a similar vein to No 12… Gets you out of housework, i.e. “Sorry, do you mind emptying the dishwasher, I really need to feed X? I’ll go in the lounge so the clattering doesn’t put him off”. Goes in lounge. Puts on Eastenders.

    Great post. I found breastfeeding super convenient for all these reasons! X

  2. ‘Give Boobs a Bash’ what an amazing slogan! If I thought it had even the slightest chance of being approved I’d suggest it at work.
    I loved the short time I was able to breast feed Squidge and I also loved the fact that I could put a muslin over his head and eat my dinner at the same time. Sadly bottle feeding and eating wasn nearly as easy.

  3. I found there was more pressure to put my lo on a bottle. I got the lecture at the anti natal class but (unbelievabley) the best thing I read about breastfeeding was a book Cow and Gate had sent into work. It explained how your milk changes adapts to babies needs. But whenever I spoke to friends/family all I would get is put him on a bottle it’s fine u don’t need to feel guilty, he will sleep people can help u etc. I didn’t want this advise and I didn’t listen and am still feeding my 1yr old. I wish people were just a little more supportive of bf. They didn’t mean anything horrible by it I just wanted someone to say yes it’s hard it gets easier stick with it your doing a fantastic job. I’m so proud of where I have come with being a mum, not only bf. X

  4. I totally understand that breast is best, I breast fed my first until 6 months, but I did so along side formula and I am currently doing the same with my one month old. But I do feel there is a lot of pressure to breast feed your baby exclusively, I certainly feel it, but it doesn’t work for, or suit everyone. I think mums who say they don’t want to breast feed should be encourage to by being told of the benefits of breast feeding for themselves as well as the baby, i.e. It’s easier for those first feeds in hospital, you can just lay in bed instead of having to go to the kitchen to make up a bottle, which also follows on to it’s easier when you get him and baby needs the middle of the night feeds, no wondering round the house in the cold and dark to make up a bottle! Plus at night time i find that breast feeding soothes baby to sleep, but the reason why I combination feed is that I never wanted to breast feed in public, I know we are supposed to feel comfortable with our bodies, but it just doesn’t work for me so giving my daughter a bottle instead of the boob whilst in public works or us both, plus its more convenient than carrying around the three cushions I need to make myself comfortable for breast feeding! It also gives me q chance to recover and rest when my daughter constantly breast fees for what feels like hours on end to give her a bottle feels like a break for me, for me body to re-charge, I don’t see any harm that, a happy mummy surely means a happy baby? And I enjoy giving my baby a bottle. So I think that the nhs, nct or just friends or family of pregnant women who have done it all before, should give mums to be more information and support on the benefits of combination feeding to both baby and mum, not just exclusive bread feeding.

    • Sounds like you have found the best thing for your family! Combination feeding can be a great option. I did with my first and I know my husband loved being able to feed her too x

    • I agree that there is pressure to breast feed – we have been combination feeding for 6 months, it works well for us – It’s not commonly presented as an option, desirable or otherwise. The assumption is that I am bottle feeding because I have somehow ‘failed’ at breast feeding or just not tried hard enough, I often feel that I am expected to justify why I feed my baby the way that I do – while I understand that this post is not trying to be a dick about breastfeeding ‘but its so easy’ and its associated implications are not actually more helpful that ‘but you’re an irresponsible mother’ if you struggle. it can increase the burden of guilt that an already pressurised woman feels. Thanks.

    • I’ve just reread my reply and it seems to come across as not so friendly, not my intention! I think I at least need to amend the line ‘while I understand that this post is not trying to be a dick about breastfeeding….’ to ‘while I understand that this post is not trying to be a dick about breastfeeding (and is is succeeding)……’ Does that help some?

  5. Interesting comments from Paula. I. Still BFing at 6months despite lots of problems at the start and pumping for 2 weeks while I healed. I got a decent amount of support from nct volunteers. But the experience of my peer group is very similar to that Paula describes: everyone I know tried it. Those who gave up early on did so because their baby was not gaining weight as fast as “normal” so they thought there was a problem. Their babies are still petite now, months after being formula fed. Obvious statement of the day: Without fail, some babies are always going to be smaller than average!!!

  6. You can actually have 2 hands frees if baby is in a carrier. It was my saving grace when we were travelling as it was the best way to stop her whining. No one had any idea that I was breastfeeding my baby to sleep when we were waiting in line to climb the Empire State building!

  7. I just wanted to point out that it is not correct to state that formula is the second option… It is actually further down the list than that with expressing, milk donor banks and other breast milk options. These should be considered prior to formula, but the marketing has convinced us that the second option isn’t even breastmilk…

  8. I tried breast feeding but due to birth complications bubs first feed was via bottle. After countless teary attempts to introduce breastfeeding I admitted defeat and turned to expressing and bottle feeding. After 3 weeks of waking to feed follwed by expressing and then collapsing exhausted back into bed for an hour before starting the cycle again, I realised my baby needed a fully functioning mum more than she needed breast milk. I happily introduced formula and with the extra hours sleep I was getting between feeds I found my mental health was greatly improved and my baby was just as happy.
    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with your (makes me laugh out loud) blog. Give BF a go, but don’t beat yourself up if you struggle like I did. Using formula does not mean you have failed as a mum, it means it works best for the needs of both you and your baby.

  9. 17. boobie fixes everything! hungry, tired, scared, insecure, pain, imminent toddler meltdown, being bitten by another kid at playgroup.. everything.. I’m still breastfeeding my 18 month old and frequently wonder how people parent toddlers without breastfeeding, I seriously haven’t found any problem yet that can’t be helped by boob 🙂

  10. Feel compelled to comment on this as I’m a BF peer supporter. We actually have pretty high initiation rates for breastfeeding in the UK, unfortunately though due to lack of training of the “professionals” who are supposed to advise women, and societal expectations- for example of baby sleeping better on formula and the idea that a very young baby should be sleeping through, that dad’s can only “bond” if they feed baby, a baby cluster feeding means mum isn’t making enough milk or her milk is somehow not very good quality, an over emphasis on weighing babies and babies conforming to a line on a chart etc- means too many women give up. It’s not the women that do not bother to BF. Mothers are trying, and they are not failing, but being failed. The NHS promotes BF like crazy but doesn’t give adequate support. I guess printing up a few posters is cheaper than actually training their HCP properly or employing qualified lactation consultants.

    • Hi – this feels very familiar. We had some other issues underlying in the beginning, which meant we were unlikely to ever do exclusive bf. In the early days, people came to see us to take notes and provide support, but the hosp. notes/red book were a write only document – no one ever read the notes to get a fuller picture, or had time to see what others had said. We told our story to every new midwife, supporter, health visitor and clinician, and got different advice every time. In addition there were underlying attitudes of ‘its easy’, ‘you’re not trying hard enough’ and ‘that problem isn’t real’ – attitudes which made me feel that I was failing very early on. After 3 weeks or so, we did find some pragmatic advice, from some lovely senior NHS midwives. I think I will always be grateful to these women for providing actual genuine pragmatic support, tailored to our situation as it evolved. We ended up combination feeding for 6 months (and counting), and keeping sane in the process. And I ended up so very happy with our solution, even though it wasn’t our original plan, we have the best of both worlds, tailored to work for us.
      Still winds me up when people assume that we somehow failed though.

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