Follow "What Women Think" by email - subscribe securely here

Thursday, 23 September 2010


Rarely is it that I use my blog to weigh in on matters of public controversy. It is my vehement belief that, as women, we face sufficient levels of competing priorities in our daily lives. We juggle careers, kids, partners, hormones, evening meals, homework supervision, vacuuming and orgasms.

What I prefer to do with What Women Think is provide a comedic outlet, an hilarious take on the issues of our hectic lives. None of you reading this need yet another reference tool or cumbersome media transcript that adds further confusing viewpoints to pointless debates or social hyperbole. 

But something in today’s news is too close to my heart to ignore.

I hear that a Melbourne academic wants to boost breast-feeding rates by making formula available for purchase only via prescription. 

Those of you with sensitive eyes, skip the next line. Those of you with not-so-sensitive eyes, read on. 

Stick it up your arse love. 

And I can say that without fear of prosecution or being thrown into some skanky Russian prison with provincial lavatory facilities and nowhere near enough fresh fruit or Dettol. Unlike the communistic society our RMIT colleague would seemingly prefer to see us dwell. 

When my daughter was born, it was love at first sight. This is not an unusual case with mums, especially first time mums. I have chronicled my delight, fascination and admiration for her openly on these pages. I doubt there would be any reader of mine (be it long time listener or first time caller) who would think that I didn’t put her happiness, welfare and self-esteem above all else. 

But I bottle fed her.

My girl was born in those halcyon days of Paul Keating inspired 18% interest rates, business belt-tightening and soaring unemployment. Four weeks before her birth, her dad finds himself without regular employment, and two weeks later, with a belly extending from here to the moon (or so it seemed) I too was minus a weekly paycheck.

I’m heading back 20 years here, where there was no maternity leave, baby bonus, work place rights etc. This was allowed to happen. And it did. To us.

So when our gorgeous bundle arrived, I had already made the decision to bottle feed her, because I knew I would be finding myself back in the work force before too long. With the stress of potentially extended unemployment, crippling house repayments and a brand new family member, I was looking for ways to ease the load. Or at least share the love. 

Bottle feeding for us meant that we could tag-team night feeds. Her dad to this day will proudly say that he gave our daughter her very first feed, a paltry 5ml of formula when she was an hour old. It meant that when I found some temporary work, he could adequately and competently parent Jade without being controlled by the amount of expressed milk lined up in the fridge. 

And I could do my job without my boobs leaking down my keyboard. 

Moreso, it was our choice. And it doesn’t’ seem to have hurt her. She’s yet to see the inside of a hospital as a patient, excelled in her primary and secondary (and tertiary) education, is a thoughtful, positive and happy adult with one of the sunniest dispositions I’ve ever seem. Yes, even better than mine! 

Mind you, she rarely ate processed food from a jar. Even though I worked, she had fresh vegies and meat and home-made custards and porridge and soft-boiled eggs and all that really good stuff. 

I wonder why our RMIT friend doesn’t get on the processed baby food band wagon and chide mothers for not growing vegetables in the dirt of their own backyards to stick down the necks of their offspring? 

I’ll tell you a story. I was adopted at birth, in the 1960s in Brisbane. Never knew my birth mother. I was literally born and taken home by the couple I proudly and adoringly call my parents. Do you really think that they had access to formula? Or a wet nurse? Or that mum could just lactate by wishful thinking? 

I was raised on carnation milk. Thousands of tins of the stinky smelly stuff. To this day, it makes me want to throw up. But I’m fine. Well, my friends attest to that, and I choose to believe them… I was no more no less sick than any other kid in the 1960s. I went to school, did much better in English, languages and the arts than I ever did in maths and science (which is no doubt why I am a writer, with no ability to fix household appliances or balance a bank account).  

I doubt my clear talent towards the arts lay in an oversupply of carnation milk. Some gifts are intrinsic. 

Dr James, there are mothers out there coping with post-natal depression, breast cancer, disabled children, remote living, abusive or absent fathers, limited financial means. But they’re doing the best they can.

Let them be. If what they are doing doesn’t directly affect you and your life, then let them be. 


  1. Bron. Brilliant. What else is there to say?

    Except I suggest you send this to Dr James AND Sunrise for discussion.

  2. I agree completely.

    When are women going to stop criticising those who do their own thing and start SUPPORTING each other. Why make stressed new Mums face more hurdles than they need to? Why add to the guilt? Why add to the stress?

    Honestly. The world has gone mad.

  3. Gotta say I agree it's all about personal choice. I breast fed my daughter for 15 months and expressed whilst working part time. I would always prefer people to give it a try and I actually loved that special time BUT a friend who had a baby at the same time got herself into a right state as 4 of us were feeding and she felt she had to give it a go. She hated it, found it really difficult and got really depressed until we all told her to go get the formula and don't worry about what anyone else is doing. Result = happy Mum and happy baby.

  4. Fabulous Bron! This report angered me to my core - I think you should send this to Dr James too!

  5. Bron - Bravo from another Mum who three weeks after the birth of her small delightful had to return to the workforce to support him! Bravo again! Don

  6. Excellent post! For reasons too painful to go into (seriously, it would take several long blog posts), I was unable to breastfeed my 2nd. Both my kids are grown and I would defy anyone to pick from a line-up of 20 random young adults which were breastfed and which were bottle fed. And yet there are people of both genders who would equate bottle feeding with giving them crack-laced tequila.