Judged mums defend bottle-feeding
A former Christchurch woman who survived breast cancer has joined calls for women who bottle-feed their babies to be treated with respect.
Mother-of-three Brenna Nation (nee Slee), who wrote a column about her cancer battle for a Christchurch newspaper, breastfed her first child, Benji, 6, for six months before she was diagnosed.
Nation, 30, who underwent a double masectomy and breast reconstruction, went on to have two more children, Blake, 3, and Jemima, 2.
She said people did "look down their noses" if they did not know the reasons why she was bottle-feeding.
"Nobody ever assumed straight off there would be a good reason for it . . . You don't want to have to explain it to everyone you see."
The Sunday Star Times reported yesterday Christchurch woman Jess Schulz felt people were prejudiced against her because she bottle-fed her baby, sparking many other bottle-feeding mothers who felt stigmatised to come forward.
The World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and continuing to age 2 with solid foods, but some women find it difficult or have health issues that prevent them from doing so.
One woman told Schulz “if you can't feed your child you shouldn't breed”. Another called formula "evil".
Nation, who now lives in Blenheim, said she found it difficult to find information on bottle-feeding while she was pregnant with Blake.
She said it was a mother's choice to breastfeed or bottle-feed.
Christchurch mother Antonia Hides said she too was sick of feeling judged.
The trainee nurse was unable to breastfeed her son Lincoln, now 2, because of a low milk supply.
After unsuccessfully trying several remedies to help and with Lincoln losing weight, she turned to formula.
Hides said as soon as she started Lincoln on formula he started putting on weight and became a healthier and happier baby.
However she recalled going to the supermarket to buy formula and receiving unwanted remarks from strangers.
"I agree that breast is best . . . but, if a mother can't do it then formula feeding is better for her and the baby," Hides said.
Breastfeeding support organisation La Leche League spokeswoman Lisa Manning said all mothers deserved to be respected and supported "irrespective of their feeding choices".
"We're all just trying to do the very best we can," she said.
"It's not helpful for women to feel they are being judged or compared."
Personal choice or health issues aside, lack of support was one of the biggest obstacles to women continuing to breastfeed, Manning said.
"With the right support from your family, your whānau, your partner . . . most women, if they choose to, can work through any issues."