Breastfeeding, love it or hate it, do it or don’t, argue online or really don’t see the point in the debate, no matter what your stance is it always gets a rise doesn’t it?
If I’m completely honest with you (and I always am!), I’m pretty bored of the breast versus formula saga and it was only last year I wrote a post on why I couldn’t understand the controversy that surrounds breastfeeding your baby so this year I want to speak out about why I think things need to take a shift in a different direction. You see, our breastfeeding rates are still appalling. No matter how much you shout, argue, debate from behind your screen, this is a fact.
“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.”
Another fact is that breast is best and the reason that we need to see an increase in breastfeeding rates is mainly due to the health of future generations. There is plenty of science behind all of this but that isn’t something I need to get into. If you want to argue these facts go ahead, but before you do please just do your research… there is plenty out there.
What I do want to address is the reason why so many women don’t try in the first place, why they give up so soon, why they struggle and continue to struggle and I have spoken to real Mums who have been open and honest with me about their own experiences and even though each varied in their story (some with PND, some with milk production struggles, some confused, others receiving odd advice) they all came back to one main pointer, there is not enough breastfeeding support.
Here are a few words from them:
“I read a lot online while I was pregnant, but I think it really wasn’t enough to prepare me for what it was going to be. I’d never really seen anyone up close breastfeed, so I think you can watch as many YouTube videos as you like, but it’s not the same as seeing in person what it should look like when you get a good latch.”
“I feel that midwives shouldn’t be so quick to tell you to top up with formula. My daughter lost just over 10% of her birth weight and was slow to gain it back in the first couple of weeks, and it was suggested to me a couple of times that I should top up with formula. In hindsight, it was the tongue tie that no one checked for that was the cause, but I really didn’t want to resort to formula and pushed on through the pain and she eventually started gaining well.”
“Proper knowledge for the people who will be seeing you in those first few weeks is very important. I got conflicting advice from every midwife and HV I saw. It really is just such a minefield.”
“In both my experiences having my babies I felt very pressurised to breastfeed. Laying in the hospital all I could see were Union Jack flags with breast is best written on it. With my first, I had very bad post natal depression and in hindsight, prenatal depression and my baby wasn’t latching on properly due to tongue tie which was later discovered. The pressure the health visitors and midwives put on me to keep trying was huge and I was so low and depressed, I feel at that stage they should have supported me more.”
“More information about where to get help and all sources need to be provided. Not just being told the breastfeeding support group is here on this day, but being told about any other groups that support mums, contact details for breastfeeding support workers, contact details for postnatal doulas that offer feeding support.”
“I was desperate for support from the health visitor to actually try to see if there was an issue with my latch, to help me find new ways of positioning comfortably as I was recovering from a section. Actually just more advice for feeding after a c-section, in general, to be honest, I didn’t feel there was much at all and I felt I could only feed in one position which wasn’t practical for doing outside the home.”
“Tips on boosting supply would have just been fantastic too. There are biscuits and brownies you can buy which apparently help to give your supply a bit of a boost and I think that’s one of the things mums really worry about – not having enough milk to satisfy their baby.”
“For me, I breastfed the colostrum but when my milk came in I was so sore and emotional, my anxiety kicked off. The midwife I saw was very much “You can’t combi feed!” So I chose to stop. Since then, I’ve found many people who combi fed in the early days and moved on to full-time breastfeeding. I wish I’d known.”
Why are breastfeeding rates so low?
It is clear that there is a common theme here. These women wanted the help but perhaps felt more pressured than supported, felt left in the dark, received conflicting advice, didn’t know what groups were available to them and didn’t have the full information they required.
During pregnancy, we are provided with an abundance of leaflets, offered antenatal classes, told about pregnancy groups, given appointments, a midwife at the end of the phone but as soon as you have the baby you are waved off from the hospital and can often feel left out in the cold. Yes, there are those few first visits but what if you run into difficulties with feeding a few weeks down the line and the funding for your area has been cut? There are no groups, you aren’t sure who to turn to for help… what happens? Women give up and turn to formula because they feel this is their only option to save their sanity.
A major issue for women is our societies views on breasts. We just cannot get past that sexualisation, can we?! In other countries, women will learn everything about breastfeeding from their Mothers and Grandmothers. It is the norm for their family to teach them about a latch, positioning and to help and support when it is needed. That just isn’t what we do here. We are British, we are reserved, we don’t talk about breasts, heaven forbid!! But just think of those women’s knowledge, their experience, their understanding and the fact that they know you. How much would that benefit both Mother and Baby? Immensely I should imagine.
Being talked at isn’t the way forward. To receive that one on one support to be physically shown and guided is. I remember being shocked after I had my first baby that a midwife grabbed my nipple and squeezed it when I asked her if I had enough milk… I mean it was hilarious afterwards, but in our society, I don’t feel it is something any of us are prepared for or expect!! But why not? Why are we not more open?
Just last week, a friend’s little girl was watching me feed William in the park and she started asking me what are you doing? Why? How does he get the milk? and so on and I let her watch and I happily answered her questions. If I could educate her now at this young age, make her see how normal breastfeeding is, how it can benefit a baby and make her see how beautiful it is then maybe in the future she will be that woman answering another little girls questions.
With support groups disappearing with the budget cuts, with attitudes not changing, with new Mums being left to worry behind closed doors, I think it is time to turn to one another for help.
So, what if we tried something different?
What if I was to ask you what you’re struggling with in regards to feeding your baby? What if your friend offered to show you a better feeding position? What if a close family member guided your baby on to latch better? What if somebody demonstrated how to use a pump correctly and gave you advice on storing milk for future use? There is so much to consider when it comes to breastfeeding but just think of the wealth of knowledge we could all be passing on rather than battling with each other over a Facebook post! Support is the key to higher success rates and happier breastfeeding Mums. So I’m opening this up right here and now and am going to ask, is there anyone out there struggling who would like to talk? And can you do the same?
It would be great to see social media flooded with help rather than judgement and fallouts. Is there somebody you could support with breastfeeding today?
For further breastfeeding support you can visit:
UK Breastfeeding and Parenting Support (Facebook Group)
You can also look for local Facebook groups in your area.
And keep an eye on the blog because I will be adding more informative breastfeeding posts in the near future.
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