Breast vs bottle feeding: mums under pressure to meet social media standard

Adrienne Hornby and her 13-week old son Ruben Hornby. Picture: Jamila Toderas
Adrienne Hornby and her 13-week old son Ruben Hornby. Picture: Jamila Toderas

For the past 14 weeks Adrienne Hornby has been living the exciting and wonderful, yet sometimes sleepless and uncertain life of a first-time mum.

Mrs Hornby said while she has "thank god" had the support of her husband Matt Hornby, the initial weeks at home with baby Ruben have not always been easy, particularly since she began experiencing difficulty with breastfeeding.

Seeking reassurance that their method of extracting breast milk for Mr Hornby to bottle feed Ruben through the night was not bad for her baby, Mrs Hornby spoke to a 'professional' on a mother's help line.

"She asked me why I was expressing and told me 'that is the worst possible time you could introduce a bottle'," Mrs Hornby said.

The woman on the end of the phone told the new mum she should be up through the night bonding with her baby. The fact that her IVF conceived baby was happy, healthy, drinking and sleeping was not reassurance.

"She told me 'with bottles they can drink or they can choke, which do you think they're going to choose?'" Mrs Hornsby said.

Social media influencers publicise the good aspects of having a baby but we're left to do the real parenting behind closed doors.

After sharing the experience which left her questioning her parenting, Mrs Hornby said she found the "parent shaming" she had experienced had been shared by other mother's group mums.

"They were horrified," she said. "But when you can be really honest, it's amazing what can come out."

Psychologist Sabina Read said the recent emergence of an unrelentingly-high standard of parenting was having a concerning impact, with many mums and dads suffering from mental health issues as a result.

"We see that mums are typically quicker to criticise themselves and take comments to heart, often devastating their confidence as a parent," Ms Read said.

"Sadly, this can even have a knock-on effect on children who feel their parents' anxieties."

Ms Read said with many people unaware of how their remarks are perceived, there was a need to be more conscious of how we treat parents when they're at their most vulnerable.

"Taking a stand on the issue is the first step to champion all parents," she said.

Bachelor winner Snezana Wood said as a mum in the public eye she was exposed to the realities of parent shaming and being judged online for the way she parented her three girls.

"In an amazing yet vulnerable stage of life, parent-shaming can so easily make you question your own parenting skills and create doubt within the choices you make for your kids," she said.

Mrs Hornby said she thought social media had added to the feelings of insecurity for new mums, who were exposed to pictures of perfect parenting rather than the reality.

"Social media influencers publicise the good aspects of having a baby but we're left to do the real parenting behind closed doors," she said.

"Rather than giving into the questions of whether we're doing a good enough job or whether we're worthy of being a parent it's about letting people know when you're having a hard time.

"We need to be more vulnerable rather than putting on a brave face."

This story Breast vs bottle feeding: mums under pressure to meet social media standard first appeared on Illawarra Mercury.