Now the Breastapo are using toys to brainwash our children: As a breastfeeding doll goes on sale, new mum Kitty Dimbleby says she and her fellow bottle-feeders are sick of 'breast is best' bigotry
02:59 GMT, 13 November 2012
Ever since giving birth to my daughter, Chloe, seven weeks ago, I have felt happiness beyond measure at the baby in my arms.
But there is a fly in the ointment: everywhere I go, I feel unspoken criticism from ‘friends’, health workers and even total strangers — all because I have chosen not to breastfeed my child.
I have been astonished at the level of pressure put on new mothers to accept that ‘breast is best’, regardless of circumstance.
Bottle-feeding your infant is presented as nothing less than child neglect.
Controversial: The Breast Milk Baby doll latches on to a bib and is aimed at girls as young as two
Now, to make matters worse, a toy manufacturer has designed a new baby doll called the Breast Milk Baby, which little girls can pretend to breastfeed.
The child — and it is aimed at girls as young as two — wears a bib featuring flower ‘nipples’, which the doll then latches on to, while emitting suckling sounds. In the interests of realism, the 60 dolls burp after feeding, and if their infant ‘mummies’ fail to wind them, they start crying.
This is repulsive and disquieting on many levels. Not only is it abhorrent that little girls are being asked to emulate breastfeeding mothers when they are barely toddlers themselves, it also represents an unsettling form of indoctrination.
Toys such as the Breast Milk Baby are only enforcing the pernicious and widespread prejudice against mums like me who are bottle-feeding our offspring. And, believe me, there is quite enough of that already.
I chose not to breastfeed for a multitude of reasons — most of them, I would argue, selfless — yet I have been made to feel like a pariah.
I am not an irresponsible parent who has recklessly opted to bottle-feed because it gives me the freedom to drink, smoke and abandon my newborn to a succession of carers while I go night-clubbing.
Like a growing number of middle-class mums, I have made a considered and deliberate decision to give my baby formula milk because I believe it is the best option for her, me and my marriage.
Repulsive: It is abhorrent that little girls are being asked to emulate breast-feeding mothers
Yet new mums like me — Chloe is the first child for me and my husband Ed, an Army Major — are made to feel that we are denying our offspring the best start in life because we have not breast-fed.
The pressure from ‘the Breastapo’ began to mount before Chloe was even born. I attended National Childbirth Trust classes at which I dared to ask if there was any information for mothers about bottle-feeding (a few of my friends have had problems with breastfeeding and I wanted all the information I could get).
The lovely woman in charge of the group looked embarrassed, but explained that the organisation takes the same stance as the NHS, which has decreed that all its employees take a vow of silence on the issue. Then and since, even when it was clear for medical reasons that I would have to bottle-feed, no one would advise me.
When Chloe was born four weeks premature, by emergency Caesarean section, weighing just 4lb 9oz, the hospital staff were pragmatic. I was too poorly and she was too small to even attempt to breastfeed initially. She was given a bottle immediately.
A few days later, I tried to feed her myself, in vain. I spent a fraught and miserable 24 hours trying to get her to latch on and failing to express enough milk.
The hospital staff supported my view that it was better for her to thrive on formula milk than to weaken while I went through the misery of trying unsuccessfully to breastfeed.
Kitty Dimbleby (pictured centre with her daughter Chloe) has been made to feel she has denied her offspring the best start in life because she hasn't breast-fed
The options were stark: unless Chloe
gained weight quickly she would have to go into intensive care. On
formula milk, she flourished.
Without it, she would not only have become
sickly, but would also have cost the NHS more. Mercifully, common sense
Since that day,
Chloe has been bottle-fed and because Ed and I share the task, we have
an equal bond with her. Moreover, I do not feel drained, put-upon and
tied by the obligation of being the sole source of my baby’s nutrients.
I know new mums who are exhausted by breast-feeding. Ed and I share the burden and pleasure: it is healthy for our marriage and, I believe, for Chloe.
I challenge anyone who contends that by bottle-feeding I do not have the same bond with my child. I do — and my husband also enjoys a similar closeness to our daughter.
And I am not worried that Chloe’s health will suffer as a result of being raised on formula milk.
Certainly, medical evidence that breast-fed babies fare better than those who are bottle-fed is, to say the least, flimsy.
In a recent book, American academic Dr Joan Wolf argues that the science underpinning the whole ‘breast is best’ debate is dubious and not based on evidence.
Further, she suggests that most responsible, caring parents will see no difference in the health, well-being and intelligence of bottle and breast-fed children.
Yet, she notes: ‘Breastfeeding has come to be viewed as the holy grail of health, and formula-feeding as the equivalent of blowing cigarette smoke into a baby’s face.’
Mothers are counselled to use formula milk only when they 'move on' from breast-feeding
Friends who have taken the controversial decision to bottle-feed have faced the same wall of silence I encountered when they asked for advice from professionals.
Even the manufacturers of formula milk have been coerced into the conspiracy.
Adverts for Chloe’s formula milk bear the ‘breast is best’ disclaimer and mothers are counselled to use it only when they ‘move on’ from breast-feeding.
A correspondent writing on the NetMums website works for a Sure Start children’s centre. She says she has been instructed not to supply any information — leaflets or advice — on bottle-feeding or sterilising equipment to mothers.
Moreover, bottles must not feature in any pictures or decorations at the centre.
Even more absurd and misguided is the directive that children’s play equipment that ‘promotes’ formula-feeding — for instance, plastic dolls’ feeding bottles — are banned.
‘The world has gone mad!’ writes the employee, who insists on remaining anonymous because she is too afraid to be seen to disagree with her employers’ palpably ludicrous directive.
She adds that she was shunned by local breastfeeding groups when, after four weeks, she gave up after suffering a pulmonary embolism.
She was put on medication that could have proved injurious to her baby if she had continued to feed. Like me, she made an informed choice but was condemned for it.
Friends tell similar stories. One bought formula milk in Boots and handed over her loyalty card, only to be told by a stern pharmacist that the Government had decreed she could not collect bonus points on formula, as this would be seen as an incentive to bottle-feed. (My husband faced the same embargo on Nectar points buying baby milk at Sainsbury’s).
When my friend said she thought it highly unlikely that mothers would opt out of breast-feeding in the hope of collecting loyalty points, she was given very short shrift.
Clare, another refusenik friend, was told she had to breast-feed, even through excruciating mastitis (blockage of the milk ducts causing flu-like symptoms).
‘It was utter misery,’ she told me. ‘I was in so much pain and just didn’t know what to do for the best. I was at the end of my tether, feeling so rough and utterly exhausted, mentally and physically, with a hungry, unsettled baby.’
Breast is best Medical evidence that breast-fed babies fare better than those who are bottle-fed is flimsy
Concerned that the antibiotics she was taking for the mastitis were affecting her six-day-old baby — who had developed bad diarrhoea and was clearly distressed and unsettled — Clare consulted her health visitor, who insisted that breast milk with traces of antibiotics was ‘100 times better’ than formula.
Clare disregarded her: her baby started to thrive on formula. Yet, although Clare felt liberated, she still faced disapprobation.
In the face of such prejudice, and because we formula-feeding mums are given absolutely no advice to pilot us through the process of feeding our children safely, we friends have joined together in an ad-hoc support group.
I feel it is all we can do as increasingly beleaguered mums who are too cowed to make our needs known or voices heard.
As a particularly feisty bottle-feeding mother, I am writing this to speak out for my fellow bottle-feeders.
And you may rest assured that when Chloe is old enough to enjoy playing with dolls, I will buy her one that comes with a politically incorrect plastic bottle — not a bib with which she can pretend to suckle.