Mother and Baby

Mums share their formula-shaming stories after 'sexist breastfeeding advert' resurfaces online

There’s one question every mum hates being asked once they’ve had a baby, which is “are you planning to lose the baby weight?” So, when an NHS campaign claiming mums who chose to breastfeed were ‘yummier mummies’ who got their figure back quicker, people took to Twitter to slam it for its ‘sexism’.

The campaign glamourises breastfeeding with three different posters which say that women who breastfeed will have better figures and be able to afford nice outfits because they won’t be spending money on buying formula. 

Amanda Abbington, from Netflix’s Safe, shared the campaign on her Twitter with the caption ‘Hey Chelsea and Westminster hospital. Sit down. Thanks.’ It was liked by almost three thousand users and over 400 mums commented with disbelief and their own stories of being shamed for formula feeding. 

The campaign appears to be from 2010, but for an NHS campaign to presume the stereotype of all women wanting to be ‘yummier’ even then, is an outdated belief and slightly concerning.

There is some truth behind the campaign message though, as mums who breastfeed can burn up to 500 calories a day, but it fails to mention the increase in appetite you might have, and that regular exercise and a good diet are really important as well.

Lily Canter, (39) is a mum of two boys aged 3 and 6 and said that she got her figure back by doing an exercise regime of swimming and running, instead of just relying on breastfeeding with her second son.

She said: “it makes out that following childbirth all women are obsessed with is losing weight and dolling up in a slinky dress and ridiculous high heeled shoes. Nothing could be further from the truth.

“I would never buy or wear those kind of shoes – pre or post children – it’s not the 1950s.”


The ambassador for the Medela #countto10 breastfeeding campaign also said: “I had appalling support for my first son, but I was told about a breastfeeding support group when my second son was born”

“The campaign is not helpful. The real issue is about breastfeeding support, not patronising mothers”.

She said that people need to be honest about how difficult and painful that breastfeeding can be for women and it is difficult but with the right support it can be made that little bit easier and mums should have local support groups that they can access from day one.

Women want to see and feel more empowered about themselves and by implying women should be more feminine by wearing nice dresses and heels is not only very stereotypical, but it can also make women feel less confident. It’s scary enough going to a place with a group of people you don’t know, and even more so if you think you will be judged on how you look.

The message that the posters send is not a supportive one, as it implies only mums who breastfeed can be and are all ‘yummier mummies’ and leaves some mums feeling the dreaded mum guilt.

While breastfeeding is encouraged, some mums are not able to breastfeed or choose not to and that is completely fine.

Mum to five-year-old twins, Rachel Craft (37) wasn’t able to breastfeed because her milk didn’t come in until a week after her c-section.

The Marketing Manager from Manchester said: “the midwife literally milked me like a cow and nothing came out. I needed to feed my babies, so I had to use formula and it took everything to ignore the judgment I got.

“There was no help on the ward about making up bottles and no facilities to sterilise. We were told to use the premade formula cartons with a teat on top.”

‘I could not ,’ writes one Twitter user, ‘Could not. The "just keep persevering!" approach led to a dehydrated baby and a mother with PND & severe anxiety. There is a point when you are no longer 'encouraging BFing', you are just making a woman feel like a failure. There has to be a balance.’

‘Oh yes, when I was crying in paper pants & stale sweat at 5am because I couldn't get my newborn to latch on & it was very swiftly sending me actually insane, this would have REALLY helped me,’ wrote another, ‘I was at the birthing unit trying & failing. At one point in the small hours when I'd passed out exhausted a midwife came in & berated me. “Your baby is STARVING!”’

Another commented, 'Ohhhhhh, so THAT is why I’m fat and can’t afford designer shoes... because I couldn’t breastfeed. Good to know.' 

Speaking with a few mums, it was upsetting to hear how many felt a lack of support when it came to breastfeeding their baby’s and they felt that more awareness should be made about what help is available from even before birth.

The campaign has been slammed for the lack of consideration it has and that instead there should have been a message of support rather than patronising mums and demonising those who don’t breastfeed.

It’s hard enough being a mum at the best of times without the added pressure to be a ‘yummy mummy’ so rather than focus on the superficial, campaigns should be working with mums to make them feel confident in their choices and feel as though they are supported. 

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  • Author: Samantha Ball Samantha Ball
  • Job Title: Freelance writer

Samantha is a mum of one, in a house full of boys. Her hobbies are long hikes, coffee tasting, and being a bit of an *obsessive* cleaner.

She also runs a blog Student Mum Diaries about what it’s like to be a student mum. 


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