This week is World Breastfeeding Week and even though I have seen plenty of amazing articles from bloggers who have shared their stories, offered advice and support and, as always, have shown this stage of Motherhood in its true light I have still been left infuriated by the usual debates, arguments and ignorance that have cropped up all over social media. The worst for me has to be the fact that at the start of the week I kept seeing an article asking if we should be calling it world feeding week?
WORLD FEEDING WEEK? What on earth?! I think the point of this week has been completely missed by some individuals who think we need to celebrate formula feeding too. This week is not solely about feeding your baby there is so much more to it than the dull ‘breast is best’ ‘fed is best’ debate. This week is here to highlight the fact that there is still a stigma around breastfeeding, that women feel under-supported in this area, that many are still being made to feel like they cannot feed in public and about the statistics which clearly show that not enough women are achieving breastfeeding, with the UK being far behind many other countries who feed for much longer.
In 2016 it was documented by the British Science Association that 80% of women in the UK start off breastfeeding but this number drops to 25% by the time the child is 6 months. This was compared to Scandinavia where 98% of women breastfeed after birth and 80% continue to do so at 6 months. These statistics scream that there is a problem somewhere and I think we all know that the problems lie in several areas:
1. lack of support- with breastfeeding support groups having their fundings cut by the Government, women are being left in the dark more and more. Add this to the closures of Children’s Centres and there are ever fewer experts on hand to help new Mums.
2. Our sexualisation of breasts. Yep, I am afraid that we have almost forgotten what breasts are actually for and far too many people see them as a sexual object rather than their true purpose. This leads to poor attitudes towards feeding especially to extended breastfeeding.
3. New mothers are not prepared. More information needs to be given and techniques taught in ante-natal classes with the truth, the whole truth to be spoken about. Too many women are going in blind and when it doesn’t happen straight away they are left shell-shocked and confused… add this to the lack of after support and you have a recipe for unsuccessful feeding.
4. Undiagnosed tongue ties. These aren’t always picked up on quickly enough and this severely affects the ability of the baby being able to suckle.
5. Mastitis. Another condition that can often be left too long to be picked up on and one that affects milk production.
Not all of these areas are within our control but all definitely need further highlighting and awareness needs to be raised. At the end of the day, breast is the best for your baby and that is a scientific fact. It is full of essential antibodies and nutrients reducing the risk of illnesses and infections. It also helps with the bond between the Mother and baby, it reduces the size of the uterus after birth, it is always ready to use and it is free!
However, it has to be said that this week is also not about having a jibe at those who did not manage to successfully breastfeed for whatever reason. I understand fully that attempting to do this and coming up against obstacles that prevented it from going well can be extremely heartbreaking BUT you tried, you gave it a go, you had your baby’s best interests at heart and I know most of you carried on through pain, blood and tears to get it right but it just didn’t work for you. This may well relate to some of those areas I noted above… lack of support, help, knowledge, illnesses etc. I just want you to know that those who are celebrating this week, who are speaking out and who are encouraging more women to breastfeed are in no way saying that you failed. They are simply trying to make breastfeeding a more talked about topic, to encourage women to go beyond that 6 months mark and to help future Mothers be able to be successful at breastfeeding.
This week is not about singling anyone out or about making any Mother feel bad. It is about normalising breastfeeding, removing those stigmas and changing the attitudes of those who don’t believe women should feed in public- get over yourselves people and just stop looking will ya! It is a week to speak out and make Mum’s feel as though they can feed wherever they like, that they can feed beyond 1 or 2 years and that even though support groups locally may be dropping off the radar there are plenty of groups on the internet who can help and who want to help.
I am so fed up of the negativity, of the controversy and of the attitudes of some people who believe that breastfeeding women should stay indoors until their baby is weaned. Breastfeeding is about the Mum and her baby and nobody else. I am bored of the daily debates and of those who are trying to make women feel bad for feeding beyond 12 months… Just look at the statistics, 6 months is the norm here in the UK, we should be shouting it from the rooftops if someone makes it to a year or beyond not making them feel as though they are abusing their child with their ‘sexual’ boobs… don’t get me started!
I just want more people to support the choices of others and to stop the abuse, the ignorance and most importantly the trolling on the internet. If you have an issue go out and educate yourself, open your mind just a tinchy bit and if you can’t? Just mind your own damn business!
Women should be made to feel proud of breastfeeding their baby and nobody should make them feel otherwise.