GO WITH THE FLOW

Pho­to­graphs to cel­e­brate the art of breast and bot­tle feed­ing

Little Treasures - - CONTENTS -

Feed­ing blues

Nearly 20 years ago, a friend of mine, a young mum, was ac­costed by an el­derly cou­ple in a café for breastfeeding her baby. I did not wit­ness it, but sev­eral hours later she was still quite shaken. We talked about it and con­cluded that, sadly, there was prob­a­bly noth­ing we could do. Fast for­ward to the age of so­cial me­dia. The lat­est story do­ing the rounds (De­cem­ber 2017) is of a young, West Auck­land mum who was kicked off a bus in Te Atatu be­cause an­other pas­sen­ger – and the driver, it seems – was of­fended be­cause she was breastfeeding her new­born baby. Has so lit­tle changed in the last two decades? There have reg­u­larly been sto­ries in the me­dia about moth­ers be­ing shamed, in­tim­i­dated or hu­mil­i­ated for breastfeeding their ba­bies in pub­lic. Ev­ery report I read I was re­minded of my friend Jenny. A year ago I dis­cussed it with a few mums I knew. Some had ex­pe­ri­enced sham­ing while breastfeeding in pub­lic, some had not. We won­dered if, with the aid of so­cial me­dia, there was some­thing – even a very small some­thing – we could do. We cre­ated a Face­book page to pro­mote the sim­ple idea that mums – and dads – should be able to feed their ba­bies any­where, any time, and any­how they choose, in

“Putting pol­i­tics and prej­u­dice aside, what is most im­por­tant is that ba­bies are fed, and that ul­ti­mately it is the par­ents’ choice how it’s done”

ac­cor­dance with the Hu­man Rights Act, and New Zealand law. About the same time, Face­book was wran­gling with its own “com­mu­nity stan­dards”, de­cid­ing whether or not breastfeeding pho­tos vi­o­lated said stan­dards. As a pho­tog­ra­pher, push­ing those bound­aries ap­pealed to my sense of mis­chief. The aim of the page, how­ever, was to pro­mote tol­er­ance to­wards breastfeeding in pub­lic places sim­ply by do­ing it, and post­ing pho­tos on­line. Nor­mal­is­ing it. We set­tled on ‘Fed Is Best’ as a name for the page be­fore we re­alised it was al­ready an in­ter­na­tional move­ment. The phrase, which was in com­mon use, seemed to en­com­pass our idea that, pol­i­tics and prej­u­dice aside, what is most im­por­tant is that ba­bies are fed, and that ul­ti­mately it is the par­ents’ choice how it’s done. It should be noted, there­fore, that our page is in no way af­fil­i­ated with the FIB move­ment. We’ve re­ceived a lot of pos­i­tive feed­back. Gen­er­ally, it seems New Zealan­ders are quite tol­er­ant to mums who breast­feed in pub­lic places, de­spite some pretty harsh crit­i­cisms on­line. Per­haps most peo­ple who ob­ject to it limit their ob­jec­tion and abuse to vent­ing via their key­board. Un­for­tu­nately, how­ever, there are still too many who think it is their right to in­tim­i­date and shame mums for do­ing what is per­fectly nor­mal, and per­fectly le­gal, to do any­where, any time.

What is the Fed is Best move­ment?

Out­side of New Zealand, The Fed is Best Foun­da­tion is a non-profit, vol­un­teer or­gan­i­sa­tion set up by health pro­fes­sion­als in the US to help par­ents nav­i­gate the dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion they face when breastfeeding doesn’t work out. Through ex­ten­sive re­search, they dis­cov­ered that moth­ers of­ten felt im­mense pres­sure by so­ci­ety and cur­rent breastfeeding pro­to­cols to ex­clu­sively breast­feed their in­fants, even when they didn’t have enough milk. While moth­ers and health pro­fes­sion­als are taught that it is rare to have in­suf­fi­cient milk sup­ply, in fact it af­fects up to one in five women in the early days of a baby’s life. In rare cases, when milk sup­ply is­sues are not re­solved, this can lead to in­fant health com­pli­ca­tions such as de­hy­dra­tion and star­va­tion. In­stead of stay­ing mum on al­ter­na­tive feed­ing meth­ods, the Fed is Best Foun­da­tion pro­vides par­ents with up-to-date re­search and ed­u­ca­tion in breastfeeding, sup­ple­ment­ing, com­bined feed­ing, for­mula-feed­ing, pumped-milk-feed­ing and tube-feed­ing. Free re­sources for par­ents can be found on the Foun­da­tion’s web­site fedis­best.org. If your in­fant is fail­ing to thrive, or you have se­ri­ous con­cerns about weight loss or feed­ing habits, we rec­om­mend you con­sult a health pro­fes­sional.

Below, L to R: Rochelle, Steve, and part­ner, Hazel; and Right, clock­wise from top: Anthea, Alice, Maria, Aimee, Charli, Casley and Emma, from Ash­bur­ton

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