There were a number of stories and things in the media last week that I was going to blog about but in the end just got depressed by all of them. So here’s a quick digest so that I don’t get bogged down.
First up, it was a breastfeeding awareness week last week. I don’t know which one, I can’t keep track of them all. The Guardian decided to celebrate this by publishing this most Daily Mail of stories with a DM-style headline: Should I breastfeed my baby to make him/her smarter? There are studies that suggest that breastmilk might make a difference to a child’s IQ, though it was only about five years ago that a study thought it made no difference whatsoever.
The thing I had trouble with in this story was the use of the word ‘artificial’. Artificially fed babies. It makes it sound like we’re shoving pills down their throats for heaven’s sake. It’s powdered formula, not a bloody science fiction novel.
The thing is, usually with an education programme, you get results over a long period of time. Yet breastfeeding is still declining, despite a MASSIVE breast is best campaign for years now. I know of women who were actually put off by the fervour of midwives going on and on about breastfeeding. And that doesn’t count the women who wanted to but had trouble and were made to feel guilty for giving their baby formula. I can’t imagine this research will really contribute anything to the debate. We need a new approach.
The next thing to depress me was the announcement of the birth of the biggest British baby – at 13lbs something. A big lad. Apparently he’s part of a trend where babies are getting bigger and bigger at birth. The reason given for the trend, according to some doctors, is that we’re all more obese than we were 30 years ago. Babies are bigger because their parents are bigger.
There’s no disputing there is more obesity these days. I imagine it’s due in part to the large amounts of processed food and a lot of low paid work that involves sitting on in an office all day. I don’ t know about it causing large babies though. Surely the fact that we have, on the whole, better nutrition is more of a factor? I say this as a 5’2″ slim woman with a 5’10” skinny husband and I gave birth to a 8lbs 10oz baby. Clearly her size wasn’t due to our obesity.
Then of course there was the cyber bullying. One online commenter asked in a supercilious voice (well that’s how I read it) why the teenager just didn’t stop using the website. Or why she didn’t just ignore the bullies. Because it’s that easy when you’re 14. Clearly this person had forgotten what it was like to be a teenager, especially a teenage girl who didn’t necessarily feel she fit in. E turning 13 terrifies me beyond belief. I feel fine while she’s little but my parenting skills may well go to pot when she gets to teenager-dom. If I encourage her to go out and have fun I’ll just sit at home and panic about drugs/ pregnancy/ vandalism/ god knows what but I also don’t want her to be socially awkward like me and be miserable and lonely (and open to bullies).
Finally, of course, there was the research that one in four women claim they were discriminated against when returning to work after having a baby. Cue the “well, you shouldn’t have had one then…” comments from some quarters instead of any constructive debate. I think a widespread examination of what this means would be beneficial. I’m lucky in that my employer is very generous and flexible when it comes to parental benefits. Nevertheless, it does feel weird when you return to work. Leaving aside the fact that I was facing redundancy as soon as I went back (not discrimination, so was everyone in my office and beyond) sometimes the problem can be people thinking they’re being kind and helpful. I can’t tell you the number of times I was told “Oh don’t worry too much, you’re just back, I won’t bother you about it” when I volunteered to do something. I felt sidelined.
One of the things you miss when on maternity leave is the chance to use your brain, so I felt like I really wanted to come back and make an impact straight away. The reduced workload while the restructure went on and the “kind” comments that gave the work to someone else really didn’t help with this. Three genuinely kind friends and colleagues sent me a special message to say they’d missed me and that my maternity cover, while nice, hadn’t been the same. It was just what I needed to hear.