And Then There Were Two: Dear Jamie Oliver                                                          

Dear Jamie Oliver

I may be being presumptuous here but I am assuming you have never breastfed. Or attempted to breastfeed.

I admire what you have done for school dinners and raising awareness of sugar in our diet.

But unless you have breastfed, I think it's probably best to stick to the facts on this one.

You see it's not just as "easy" and "convenient" as you say it is. And, no matter the experiences of your lovely wife or any other women in your life who may have found it so, you, personally just don't know.

You don't know what it's like to carry a baby for nine months. To endure, at best discomfort, at worst, immense  pain just to carry that baby and keep it safe.

You have no idea what it's like to have to stop wearing the things you like wearing, stop doing activities you liked doing, stop eating the foods you like eating and stop drinking the drinks you like drinking (and before you start banging on about alcohol, I'm mostly talking about my much-loved cuppa). You don't know what it's like to make these sacrifices to keep your baby healthy.

You can't begin to comprehend the pain of bringing that baby into the world. The unbearable-but-necessary, productively painful but nonetheless excruciating pain. Pain which is worth it a million times over. But very real, physical pain.

You can't know how it feels to go through all that and end up having major surgery. To be told you shouldn't lift anything heavier than a kettle despite having a baby who weighs more than a kettle and who you are desperate to cuddle and lift into your arms.

You will never know how it feels to, after nine months of discomfort, of worry, of excitement, of sickness, go through such an intense physical and emotional roller coaster simply in order to meet your baby. You may know the worry. You may know the excitement. You may go on a similar roller coaster. But the highs and lows just cannot be as extreme for the simple fact that the baby has not grown inside, and is not coming out of, your body.

You don't understand what it's like to go through this and bleed for a month. To have stitches. For it to hurt every time you use the toilet. For it to hurt every time you sit down. Or stand up. Or walk more than 300 yards. Or climb the stairs.

You don't know what it's like to go through all of that and then look after a baby. I know you're tired too from the sleepless nights. I know you're exhausted from making sure the house is clean and the older kids are looked after. I know you want to spend time with the baby too.

But you have not given birth. Your body has not contracted almost to breaking point. You have not had surgery. You have not been sewn back together only to immediately have to care for your child. You are not bleeding. Or lactating.

You are not the person asked "how are you feeding him?" by every visitor, whether family, friends, midwife or health visitor. Or worse: are you breastfeeding? You don't know how it feels.

So let me tell you: it feels like a test. Like there is a right answer.

And as someone who has just gotten off the most exhilarating, terrifying and exhausting roller coaster ever, you are not in the mood for a test. To be told you are wrong. You want a cuddle. Praise for being washed and dressed. A much-longed-for cup of tea.

Some people take it all in their stride. Some don't. We are all different. Babies are all different. We have different strengths and we all learn things differently. Breastfeeding is natural. But we still have to learn how to do it. Babies have to learn how to do it. And sometimes it is not "easy". Sometimes it is hard.

And sometimes we don't want strangers coming round to support us at a time where we feel pained, exhausted and vulnerable. We don't want someone telling us we should be doing it different and physically manipulating our bodies when our bodies have already done so much.

We just want to rest whilst we can. We want to look after our baby. We want to cuddle him and watch him sleep. And love him. We just want to love him. But we also need to love ourselves and look after ourselves.

And sometimes that means making a decision which is best for everyone - physically, emotionally, physiologically and mentally. Not just medically.

Dear Jamie. I know you mean well and you make a cracking pasta dish. And breast is best nutritionally for our babies. We know that. And to support breastfeeding women and to want to help those who struggle is commendable. Saying it is "easy" and "convenient" is not.

You can never speak from a place of experience when it comes to breastfeeding.

So maybe stick to the pasta, and the facts, in future.

Pink Pear Bear