On Jamie Oliver’s definition of ‘easy’

Jamie Oliver’s pro-breastfeeding campaign was never going to go well. Pretty much anyone commenting on breastfeeding in any circumstances is asking for a backlash in its strongest terms. But when that person is a man, making bold statements about women’s choices… Cue media meltdown.

I’ve been reading the back-and-forth debates over the last few days and decided to give my tuppence-worth on the debacle.

In my opinion, his mistake comes down to one little word.

Credit: Jamie Oliver / Instagram

 ‘It’s easy, it’s more convenient, it’s more nutritious, it’s better, it’s free,’ he said.

Yes, it’s more nutritious (unless the mum is living off a diet of chocolate digestives, surely?).

Yes, it’s free.

But EASY? Not sure about that, Jamie.

What is Jamie’s basis for calling breastfeeding ‘easy’? I don’t say this because he’s a man. His ability to lactate and feed a child has nothing to do with his ability to form an opinion. I have been breastfeeding for six months now, but still I feel that I am only a tiny bit more qualified to have an opinion on breastfeeding than Mr Oliver.

But I would say this: NOTHING about parenting is ‘easy’. And that includes feeding your child, however you choose to do it. I know dozens of mums who would describe breastfeeding as the polar opposite of ‘easy’. Who tried desperately to succeed only to find it so NOT ‘easy’ that they had to find other options.

I consider myself extremely lucky that Jack has always been a good feeder. But, breastfeeding still doesn’t feel particularly ‘easy’.

I say again, is it easy when you’re being heckled on a busy train full of commuters?

Is it easy when you’re feeding every hour on the hour through the night, on no sleep?

Is it easy when you feed your child for 35 minutes only to see them throw the whole lot up and have to start again?

But the problem is not Jamie’s pro-breastfeeding comments. He has good intentions. As a nation, we should be breastfeeding more. But the emphasis should not be on telling mums how easy and convenient breastfeeding is. Nearly all the mums I know would have LIKED to breastfeed, but many felt it wasn’t an option for them. We should be investing in more support services for new mums, not telling them why they’ve failed by not breastfeeding.

I had an incredibly positive experience with Royal Berks Hospital post-birth with the midwives and breastfeeding councillors who helped establish feeding straight away, and signed me up to a text message support service, which I called on many times (thanks Nancy). It’s services like THIS we should be drawing attention to, rather than over and over telling mothers why they’re failures if they reach for the bottle.

Breastfeeding is NOT easy. Bottle feeding is NOT easy. Birthing and raising a child is NOT BLOODY EASY.

And being judged for how you decide to perform any element of the process makes it whole lot LESS ‘easy’ again.

However you’re feeding your child, you’re doing a good job. Keep it going. 

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