We're awaiting the birth of the First Baby, due on Sunday - boy or a girl?

What about the name? I trust The Prime Minister and her partner are wise enough not to call him or her a cardinal direction or a fruit. Jacinda Ardern has said the baby's gender would be made public only "when it arrives".

But something the PM has already divulged is her decision to breastfeed for "as long as we can", even occasionally in the House if the need arises.

Read more: Dawn Picken: Eight signs you're smitten by your dog
Dawn Picken: Quit the school caste system

Advertisement

The naysayers have been pounding out snarky posts like, "She's supposed to be running the country, not feeding a child …" What if she can do both and set an example for new mums around the world?

Seeing the Prime Minister doing anything resembling breastfeeding would be a win for families. It normalises an activity Western culture has nearly pulverised into milk powder.

The Ministry of Health recommends infants be exclusively breastfed up to six months, with continued breastfeeding until at least 1 year of age or beyond. While scientists debate illness-preventing properties of breast milk, most experts agree it provides optimum nutrition, is always the right temperature, is readily available and microbiologically safe.

The MOH website says: "Breast milk fed from the breast varies in composition to meet the child's individual and varying appetite and thirst ..."

Yet a study published late last year shows the number of Kiwi infants exclusively breastfed at six months sits around 16 per cent, even though 97 per cent of those babies start life at mama's tap.

One theory asserts breastfeeding is always really hard. For many women, it is hard - literally.

A friend once asked me to help her coax milk from breasts that resembled flesh-covered boulders.

I had already weathered my own mammarian dilemmas and she thought I might know how to transform rigid rocks into gushing grapefruits. I later referred her to a lactation consultant and retired as amateur chest masseuse.

Other common problems include cracked nipples, inflammation, leaky boobs, soreness... Thankfully, there's also medication, lotion and breast pads.

The polar opposite of the breastfeeding-is-too-hard thesis is the breastfeeding-comes- naturally premise. It assumes a newborn who lacks neck control will find his way to mum's chest and start guzzling. In reality, breastfeeding is a skill that takes time to master.

We all want what's best for our babies. No one should be bullied for her choice - not in a mums' group, not online and certainly not in a hospital or doctor's office. Only a parent knows whether she's done the best she could with the information she had.

No child should go hungry - some babies lose weight due to mum's low milk supply or failure to attach themselves properly. Others mothers are so sleep-deprived, living under a cloud of postpartum psychosis, or both, continued breastfeeding is neither practical nor sane. Those aren't the mums I imagine when I think of Jacinda inspiring women to breastfeed.

Some mums are plagued not by infections, insufficient milk supply or depression, but by doubt, embarrassment and notions of being inconvenienced. They reach for formula after two weeks because it's there. And Dad can feed baby in the middle of the night. Dad can also feed baby any time when Mum expresses milk using a breast pump.

I had my children in the United States, where I had to return to work after three months' unpaid maternity leave.

I envy Kiwi women their six months' paid leave, because American mums are entitled to zero weeks under federal law. It makes exclusive breastfeeding difficult, though not impossible. My first-born arrived five weeks early via caesarean section, and had major surgery at 2 days old. She didn't get the gist of breastfeeding until she was 3 months old.

After so much trauma, I wanted to give my premmie one thing: breast milk, even if it meant pumping myself like a cow every three hours. She eventually learned to feed skin-to-skin and did so for nearly a year, until I got pregnant with her brother.

Also, I'm thrifty. I wasn't going to spend $1500 a year or more on formula and bottles. I spent $200 on a pump and bottles. I never worried about tainted product or mixing powder with water.

I don't want to widen the gap between women portrayed as smug breastfeeders and those depicted as lazy formula feeders. Both are gross generalisations. They're unfair.

My hope is if Jacinda happens to breastfeed in public, she might influence a woman on the fence to try. Maybe Jane Bloggs struggles with self-consciousness or doubts about being enough for her baby. In most cases, with the right help, she will be enough (always consult a medical professional for advice).

The Prime Minister in a recent interview said she didn't want to create a false impression all women should be superwomen.

She said she knows she's privileged to have enormous support. "So I wouldn't want to be held up as some kind of exemplar because it's not easy ..."

No, it's not easy running the country. It's not easy losing sleep while changing, soothing and feeding a baby. Breastfeeding can be challenging, especially at first. So are most worthwhile pursuits - like parenting.