Nasty blow for mums who bottlefeed
LISA Watson has been lashed by that nasty storm of judgment that rains down on mums no matter what they do with their babies.
She remembers taking her first-born son into a mothers' room to feed him his bottle and being criticised by other breastfeeding mums who said she didn't need to be in there because she could feed her baby anywhere.
She copped yet more criticism while standing in line at the supermarket checkout with a tin of formula on the counter.
Some women behind her suddenly started talking loudly about how women didn't put in enough effort when it came to persevering with breastfeeding.
Shopkeepers have also refused to warm her bottle, telling her point blank that she should be breastfeeding. This was compounded by the personal feelings of failure and guilt she was battling having grown up expecting to follow her mother's lactation lead and spend joyful hours with her babies at the breast.
Despite her best and very desperate intentions, breast reduction surgery meant she had no choice but to feed all three of her children with the bottle.
It was these experiences - and the fact that she saw much less public support for bottle feeders compared to breastfeeding mums - that prompted her to start up the Bottle Babies Facebook page and website.
"I was just shocked," Lisa said. "There are seven websites on how to make a yeti trap but not one site on the whole of the internet dedicated to bottlefeeding support that is not run by a formula company.
"I started Bottle Babies because I felt there must be someone else out there who was feeling the same guilt as me. I started it on Facebook two and a half years ago and we are about to reach 2000 likes with involvement from people all over the world
"We get continuous emails from people in sad situations telling us that we have no idea how much we've helped them. Everyone has different circumstances and medical needs, we should all be pulling together and supporting each other rather than judging.
"We don't pretend to be professionals or experts. This is just mum-to-mum support, and we always suggest speaking to a health professional. But this just gives them the confidence that someone else understands how they're feeling and that they are doing the best they can.
"It can be devastating for women who really wanted to breastfeed but cannot for whatever reason." (See factbox next page)
The breast-vs-bottle issue flared white hot again in recent weeks when an Australian Breastfeeding Association counsellor was found by an undercover reporter to have told expectant mums and their partners that formula was like AIDS for babies.
"How sad for all these women who have heard that," Lisa said.
"I don't blame the ABA. It was from one person who was taking these classes. Maybe they need to stay on top of their people more, but it is very sad.
"There is a statistic often quoted that there are 5% of women who can't physically breastfeed. If you think about that, that is one in 20 women. So if you are telling classes of women that giving formula is like giving your baby AIDS, how is that woman going to feel when she can't do it? It will be devastating.
"The same amount of women get diabetes, yet that issue is looked after and we don't judge them for not producing their own insulin."
Lisa said her organisation's core belief was simple: all parents should be supported, no matter how they feed their babies.
"Breastfeeding supporters have every right to be angry about how it was looked down on 50 years ago, but they need to be careful it doesn't swing right around.
"Love and good parenting doesn't come from breasts or bottles, it comes from your heart.
"No one should be judged for the way they feed their babies."
The website contains all manner of sourced information on choosing the right formula and bottles, what water to use, correct latch, expressing techniques and emotional support as well as parent stories and a messaging function to connect with volunteer team leaders in the US, UK, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
The Facebook page is a more informal open forum where people can share their stories and offer support.
Lisa said she planned to run support meetings for parents to connect face-to-face and hoped to one day see infant feeding consultants, not just lactation consultants in maternity wards.
"Even in the breastfeeding hospital initiative there is provision for parents to get support with bottlefeeding, but it is not implemented that well.
"We would love to see independent information available in hospitals, and there isn't at the moment.
"Queensland Health doesn't have a bottlefeeding brochure. Women are told to print information out from the internet.
"The South Australian Government has a great booklet, but there isn't one here and it's a pity."