Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Breastfeeding: A response to THAT Dove advert

I don't see myself as a massive breastfeeding advocate. Yes, I occasionally post pictures on Instagram and talk about clothes that you can feed in but I'm certainly not in the 'breast is best' brigade. What's best is whatever works for both of you, whatever gets you through those hazy newborn days. I didn't know which way I'd feed G but once she was here I became quite determined to breastfeed. Through the tongue tie and the colic and the silent reflux and the mastitis, because
despite all of these things, the thought of having to be organised enough to prepare formula and sterilise bottles scared me, her life was in safer hands relying on my body rather than my brain. It still is. Breastfeeding is tough. Bottle feeding is tough. Keeping babies alive generally in those early days is tough. We're all fighting our own battles and the last thing we need between scooping liquid poo from a car seat and baby sick from our bra, is judgement. For anything, but least of all how and where we choose to feed.

So I was as shocked as anyone to see Dove's latest ad campaign, but what surprised me more was that despite a backlash, headed by The Unmumsy Mum,  they haven't retracted it, they don't seem to see the problem. Here it is, incase you missed it.

There are so many things to be alarmed about here that I don't even know where to start. Let's just talk about the language first. '75% say breastfeeding in public is fine' not 'normal' not 'brilliant' just fine. And 25% say put them away, which suggests we're all hanging out in the first place. I don't know any mum who isn't pretty discreet when feeding, I've rarely seen any boob skin, let alone a nipple. It conjures an image of a bunch of women purposefully flaunting themselves. I wonder whether these people that allegedly said 'put them away' have ever seen a breastfeeding mum. But, in the real world nobody is 'saying' anything. It is a criminal offence to do so in this country, and despite the Daily Mail's obsession with reporting on women that have been asked to stop breastfeeding, I've never heard it happen. Then, if that wasn't enough, they ask 'what's your way?' purposefully trying to divide us, to normalise the view that breastfeeding mothers should be cooped up at home where we're not offending anyone with our big ol' boobs. 

When challenged, Dove said 'Our campaign simply aims to celebrate the different approaches and opinions around parenting, including whether or not mums choose to breastfeed in public, recognising that it’s ultimately what works for you and your baby that matters the most.' But that's not what it does. Is it? If it said 75% breastfeed, 25% bottle feed, what's your way? I don't think anyone would have had a problem with it but it specifically pinpoints one group of women and tells them while they are wrangling a squirming baby onto a boob with a muslin slipping off their shoulder and milk dribbling down their top, one in four of the people around them are looking on disapprovingly. Even if the stats are true, it's pretty cruel.

Lets talk about the stats, shall we. They seem pretty clean don't they? Exactly one in four said 'put them away'. I'd put a bet on the fact that that wasn't the question they were asked. 25% of who though? Well the poster sources the Baby Dove Real Mothers Heard Survey, a quick google reveals that they asked 1000 women in six countries around the world. Now, of course nobody in any country should be vilified for feeding their baby but there will be different attitudes around the world. If you had asked the Norwegians, where the breastfeeding rates are really high, I'm sure you'd have had a different response. I don't think it's helpful to lump six countries together when talking about such an emotive topic. 

But that's what it is, emotive. It's accusatory, It aims to divide women, to normalise the frankly misguided view that breastfeeding mums should hide away and it's a cheap shot. Literally. Minimum ad spend for maximum exposure and they got it. But at huge expense. There will be victims. Women who don't breastfeed their baby because of this ad campaign and Dove should be ashamed. Feeding your baby is not optional, they're not like a car that you fill right to the brim if you need to go longer. They have tiny tummies when they're newborns, they need feeding almost every hour, and it's tough. I know women who express milk for the out-of-house feeds for no other reason than they're too embarrased to try to breastfeed in public, this perceived anti breastfeeding attitude pedalled by the media is a problem within our culture and it must end. The last thing we need at a time when we're at our most vulnerable, with sore nipples and a baby that won't bloody latch is you, Dove, giving a voice to the trolls that I feel assured are too busy sitting in their bedrooms writing scathing comments on the Mail Online to challenge us in the real world when we're getting our babies fed. I said at the beginning that I didn't see myself as a breastfeeding advocate. If it means I'm passionate about making mothers feel comfortable just feeding their baby, I guess it turns out that I am. 


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