Saturday 20 July 2019

Breastfeeding nothing to be ashamed of

American actress Olivia Wilde is the latest in a long list of celebrity mothers to be photographed breastfeeding their babies.

Every time such a photo appears in glossy magazines there is a certain amount of backlash that is just what breastfeeding mums do not need to hear. 'Unnatural' and 'indecent' are some of the terms that are thrown about, an attitude that would enrage any mother who has tried hard to give their child the best start in life.

Far worse than the rage this lack of understanding and ignorance can cause is the fact that it might discourage mums from breastfeeding in public, simply due to fear of comments from strangers or appalled looks from the busy body sitting next to them in a coffee shop.

I don't believe that any mother should be made to feel this way or to hide away when feeding their baby as if it is something to be ashamed of. I'm not saying that one has to go topless in public to prove a point but the natural act of breastfeeding should be fully accepted by society and in Ireland it still is not.

I was lucky enough not to have received any negativity during my days of breastfeeding but then again I was probably more distracted by a hungry baby to notice or care what others thought about it. At present just over half of Irish mums choose to breastfeed compared with 81 per cent in the UK. This is a huge difference and says a lot about us as a society.

The one issue I do take with glamorous photos such as those of Olivia Wilde is that they don't really relate to the reality of breastfeeding. They are staged and styled to perfection so much so that the ordinary mums out there who celebrate that they made it into the shower on a given day are bound to feel inadequate.

Breastfeeding is not an easy thing to do and it doesn't always work out. It's most definitely not all sunshine and roses. I suppose, though, they are hardly going to pose for Glamour or Vogue in a tatty tracksuit and messy hair but a more natural and realistic image of breastfeeding would go a long way towards reducing the sometimes unfortunate social stigma that still exists.

Regardless of their super-styled presentation, these photos have still helped to positively raise the issue of breastfeeding and how wonderful it can be for both mother and baby.

New Ross Standard