Why I’m annoyed with The Archers over breastfeeding (yes, really)

I have fond childhood memories of my mum listening to The Archers omnibus on BBC Radio 4 in our kitchen while making Sunday lunch.

The smell of roast chicken and an array of colourful veg is still synonymous with the radio soap’s galloping theme tune for me despite years of making roasts of my own to the music of Blur, Beethoven, Bollywood and whatever else I can find as I flick through the music stations on my DAB.

But apart from those early years, the UK’s longest running soap has generally passed me by.

It used to be all about farming but in recent years it’s got a lot more racy, I am reliably informed (I do hope its fans, who I know to be a passionately dedicated bunch, will forgive me such a crass summary of their favourite radio programme).

Anyway, it’s now popping up here because quite a few people have been in touch over the weekend to tell me it covered the thorny topic of breastfeeding problems on Friday. So I ignored my rumbling tummy and had a listen. You can too, here – but only for the next seven days (the episode you want is Friday 18th January).

I was silently cheering the scriptwriters as new mum Vicky Tucker confided in her friend that she didn’t “want to seem like a useless mother” because her baby daughter Bethany “just doesn’t seem to be getting the hang of (breastfeeding)” and “it must be my fault mustn’t it?”

“They all think I’m rubbish,” she said sadly, and, while my heart went out to her (yes, I know she’s a fictional character), it also soared a little as I could almost hear the sound of a very large nail being hit right on the head.

Because around FIVE MILLION people listen to this show, almost as many who read this very blog (cough) – what a great place, I thought, to say loud and clear that breastfeeding isn’t second nature to everybody, as so many will have you believe.

Unfortunately then it was Vicky’s friend Amy’s turn to have her say. She was supportive, ish – but after saying something a bit vague about the position of the baby’s tongue (she made that sound like it wasn’t a big deal but I haven’t come across that before – UPDATE, i now understand this is because the baby has Downs Syndrome) she said this:

“Lots of mums have problems establishing breastfeeding – but if the mum is keen to persevere, babies usually get the hang of it”.


Sorry, did I say that out loud? It roughly translates as “ohyouweredoingsowellwhydidyouhavetofuckitallupbysayingTHAT”

No, it is NOT enough to be “keen to persevere”. You may also be keen to grow an extra leg, or marry David Beckham…. but as we all know there are a few little issues that might get in the way of that (biology, and Victoria to name the most obvious). If I’ve learned anything in the last 18 months it’s that it’s pretty insulting to say to a new mum that it’ll all be OK as long as she is “keen to persevere”.

To pick up on the fantastic point made by Colla, who commented on my last post, would we DARE say that to a man with erectile disfunction? Ha! I can’t see it somehow.

You’ve blown it, The Archers. See you in another 20 years. Maybe.


One thought on “Why I’m annoyed with The Archers over breastfeeding (yes, really)

  1. Obviously I never listen to the Archers *cough* but I may have heard on the ..um grapevine that the storyline in this case is that Vicky is an older mother whose baby has Down’s Syndrome. ‘Amy’ is a character who lives in the village but is also a Midwife (how handy). Babies with Down’s Syndrome often have problems learning how to breastfeed to begin with as they can have problems with their tongues and jaws. This means that not only can learning how to latch take a while, feeding can also take longer as the baby’s tongue/jaw isn’t quite so efficient (I think… not an expert, just what I’ve read). So – apart from the fact that there were loads of staff around who were able to take breaks(!), the storyline seems fairly well researched to me. Mother wants to breastfeed baby but is asking for some advice as her daughter is having trouble latching. She’s told that – in this case – things are probably going to be fine but it might take a little longer to get things established, and as long as she’s OK with that, not to worry (and then she got signposted to a proper breastfeeding support worker straightaway – good to know fictional hospitals have got such good systems πŸ˜‰ )

    As ever, it’s really about getting the correction information, advice and support for *your own circumstances* – and as you’re highlighting, many women and babies aren’t getting that at present in the real-life health system.

    (Clearly, my mother will be very cross I am implying the Archers is in any way ‘not real’ – see http://www.archersanarchists.com/ πŸ˜‰ )

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