‘Mummy wars’ – I call bullshit

Do you breastfeed or bottle feed? Are you a SAHM or working mum? Do you co-sleep or cry it out? 

This constant separation into polarising groups is total bullshit.

The idea that the hundreds and thousands of new mothers every year will easily fall into opposing sides on every single parenting decision is the most absurd claim that has made it into urban myth.

We rarely do one or the other (regardless of intention).

For example, most women in Australia give their baby some breastmilk. With about 90% exclusively breastfeeding at birth. By about 6 months over half of all mothers were mixing it up with some combination of breastmilk and another kind of milk like formula or cows milk. Some mums are exclusively breastfeeding, some are exclusively formula feeding, most mums are just figuring it out. All mums are doing the best they can with the circumstances they are in.

Most women I come into contact with are unsure of their decisions, trying out and experimenting with new ideas, doing their best to keep up with their child’s development and worrying about the next bend ahead of them, doing their best to keep their head above water. 

Women are not universally at odds with one another. So we have to ask- who does it benefit to make us believe we are?

Women are not universally at odds with one another. So we have to ask- who does it benefit to make us believe we are?

Why can governments, businesses and men in power have ‘hearty debates’ but when women are passionately discussing and exploring decisions around mothering it is trivialised into ‘mommy wars’. It is the perfect way to get women to stop talking about the real issues and focus on shit that is cyclic and unproductive. It is all very Nietzschean to give people 2 options and call that choice. 

Now, I am not saying these issues don’t matter, of course they do. But if we take a moment and scratch the surface we realise that we are being let down – on both sides. Take breastfeeding (just because we have already started there). Why the hell are most women who start to breastfeed not meeting THEIR OWN  goals?

Is it because they are lazy? -NO

Is it because their bodies don’t work – NO

Is it because they changed their mind – Maybe- but still mostly NO.

Most of the time women are not meeting their own goals with breastfeeding it is because of lack of support – medically, emotionally and financially.

It costs money to exclusively breastfeed.

(we know long term it is more cost-effective, however) A woman who is available to breastfeed her infant 24/7 can’t go back to work full time without a great deal of flexibility in her workspace. So if our goal in Australia is to have high rates of exclusive breastfeeding at 6 months  – Why does the government only provide 4 moths of paid maternity leave

Sometimes we need help to breastfeed.

Breastfeeding can be tricky in the beginning and women are pushed out of public hospitals in under a week (which can be beneficial for many reasons), but then community breastfeeding support is very hit and miss. When we know that the overall health costs are much lower for society a large, why the heck are lactation consultants not covered by Medicare? Women wanting help with their baby often attend free clinics, where the nurse looking after them may or may not be an IBCLC (lactation consultant). With their primary focus on maternal mental health and ensuring babies’ thrive’, as they sit, understaffed in a system which is known for the fractured nature of postnatal care, it is no wonder their first recommendation is to offer formula ‘top-ups’ with little to no investigation into what is happening/ or can be done to support women with their own breastfeeding goals.

And for that matter, why are midwives restricted from working in this space? Due to the current restrictions with insurance only being available to eligible midwives, and non-insured midwives unable to work, this postnatal space is overcrowded with lay professionals who may or may not be providing evidence-based care. Some advice is plain unhelpful – others dangerous. I know of one ‘sleep consultant’, without any registration who charges upwards of $500 plus per consult. Her advice is almost always the same – “You have no milk, use formula, and put your baby on their stomach to sleep’. Literally doubling their changes of SIDS. And who is out there to counter these claims?

So if our goal is 6 months exclusive breastfeeding rates in Australia – Why does the government only provide 4 moths of paid maternity leave?

The postnatal space is absolutely flooded with information, from the dangerous to the delightful. There are, thankfully, a wave of caring, ethical and evidence based workers in this postnatal space, but why can we not just open the doors for our already qualified and passionate body of midwives to follow women through from birth into motherhood – in their full scope?  There are more than enough women to go around. The supply is low and the demand – overwhelming. 

Calling conversations about the decisions we make & our efforts to do the best for our children ‘mummy wars’, is minimising them, and infantilising the women who are earnestly and passionately aware that something is amiss in this area of our lives, and this is the patriarchy in full motion.

Please don’t drink the cool aid.

I am a member of a beautiful supportive community of women who all parent differently. We don’t need to be surrounded by women who do exactly what we do in order to have respect and care for each other.

Next time someone mentions ‘mummy wars’ have a look and see what conversation is trying to get shut down. 

It is not breast vs bottle, cloth vs daiper, co-sleeping vs cry it out.

It is women. Doing their absolute best. Making difficult choices. figuring it out. Look closer and see who is perpetuating this myth and what they have to gain from keeping women divided.

We are so much stronger together.

 Jennifer Hazi is a mother, midwife, childbirth educator and doula educator & mentor in Sydney, Australia.

She is really passionate about women having voices and choices in maternity care and absolutely loves working alongside women and their loved ones during this time. 

She teaches childbirth and parenting education online and in person, works clinically as a midwife and provides physical and educational support to families with new babies up to 3 months old.

Jen also speaks and writes regularly about childbearing, motherhood and transitioning to parenthood.

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