If you’ve read any of my previous breastfeeding posts, you’ll know that I’m pro breastfeeding. And, yes, we’re still going strong at almost 20 months. This doesn’t, however, mean that this is what I think is “right” or it’s what I believe everyone else should do too. Far from it.
I do lurk around on a few breastfeeding and so-called “lactivist” forums. But I really, really hate the word “lactivist”. I think it sounds unnecessarily confrontational and so often seems to immediately alienate anyone who chooses not to breastfeed, or struggles to breastfeed. My opinion of the term is not helped by some the self righteousness I’ve come across on these forums. Like the woman who was incredulous that her “friend”, who also identified herself as a lactivist, wanted to give up breastfeeding at two years, for a host of carefully considered reasons.
It has struck me that some women truly believe that lactivisim is about forcing others to start, and then to continue, breastfeeding. That it’s about increasing breast feeding rates at any cost.
But it shouldn’t be.
To me, lactivism, or breastfeeding promotion, is about ensuring that every single pregnant woman and new mother has access to balanced education about the risks and benefits of all feeding options, and help and support to ensure they can process that information and make a properly informed decision about how they want to feed their baby. Because just telling women that breastfeeding is better because… x, y and z reason, isn’t helpful if a woman doesn’t have the capacity to process that information and its relevance to her life. It’s also about ensuring that women who do choose to try breastfeeding have the necessary support to get over difficulties they may encounter.
It’s not about attacking other feeding options, drawing battle lines, defining a single “right” pathway to follow or telling people what to do.
It’s simply about helping people make choices once they are in possession of all the facts, and not only when they begin their breastfeeding relationship, but at any point during.
Choice is key. We do all, ultimately, have the right to make our own choices. But I suspect that many women do not even attempt to breast feed because of misinformation, or a lack of information, or an inability to understand the information. And many more give up because it isn’t what they expected (another rant forthcoming on the marketing of breast feeding as easy and natural) and because the support they need isn’t there when they need it.
If I felt every person who does not breastfeed was happy about that decision, or had been properly informed in making it, then I would be happy. But until that day, lactivism needs to focus not on blindly recruiting breast feeders, but on cultivating a generation of women who really understand the options for feeding infants and can hopefully in turn pass that knowledge on to their sons and daughters.
This topic has been on my mind for a while, but I was prompted to finally write this down now during National Breastfeeding Awareness Week.