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>Does the breastfeeding camp need to change it’s message


I was reading the latest survey on breastfeeding attitudes by Kidstart and was a little disappointed by the responses.

And it got me thinking that perhaps the pro breastfeeding camp might have got their approach wrong.

That instead of focusing on it being simple and natural and best for baby, they actually need to be a little more honest.

Because in my experience (and that of most breastfeeding mothers I meet) it certainly isn’t simple or natural to start with.

Would it be better for them to explain it will be uncomfortable, hard work, all consuming and even tedious (especially if you forget to pick up the remote control/phone/book before you start a feed).  To explain that the best you can hope for in the early days is 3 hours from the start of one feed to the next which in reality means 2 hours between feeds. And that’s only if you’re lucky. To suggest that you will be nothing but a milk slave for three months. But to reinforce that breastmilk is best for your baby and it will all suddenly click and become easy and simple.

Because I reckon that part of the problem is an expectation gap.

That women see celebrities in magazines weeks after the birth out, seeming to get back to normal, and assume everything will be settled after a matter of days. That they hear that formula feeding may make the baby sleep longer at a time when they are being bombarded by well meaning questions about sleeping through when it just isn’t the norm for a breastfed baby.

And if we explained that it will be tough, then we would need to provide more support to help families through those difficult early stages. To provide caring, compassionate midwives with time to get things established, breastfeeding counsellors to help resolve problems, support groups to provide a welcoming place to talk and share experiences. To ensure that there is abundant, caring, respectful help rather than the often cursory, invasive, time constrained ‘help’ that exists today.

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11 comments to >Does the breastfeeding camp need to change it’s message

  • Spilt Milk

    >I think you're right about an expectation gap. I thought I was prepared and informed but I still had no clue how hard it would be. The problem is I guess in finding a balance between scaring people off and glossing over the not-so glamorous bits. I always tell pregnant friends to be aware of the difficulties they may face: but the truth is it is easy for some women to establish breastfeeding and nigh-on impossible for some others and it's not something you can know in advance. But in terms of the broader issue of support and social acceptance I completely agree – the reason do many give up is less to do with it being hard (fiddling with bottles and paying for assorted feeding stuff etc. is hard too) but that the cultural expectation of what babies are like, how they sleep and do on is not tied to breastfeeding. We definitely need more education on what is physiologically normal and far better support structures for parents and babies. Too often the conversation about feeding ends with the question of human milk or formula: there isn't much understanding that normal breastfeeding is a practice that will affect all aspects of life in some way.

  • Karin @ Cafe Bebe

    >Hannah, interesting post. I agree that a different approach is needed but might I suggest that there be more focus in HOSPITAL first. My experience in hospital was so miserable. There was no where comfortable or comforting to try to feed, the midwives AND lactation consultants were militant and aggressive and I was EXTREMELY stressed out which of course, is not going to make for a successful experience. There has got to be a more nurturing way to teach women to breastfeed. Grabbing your boobs and shoving them into your screaming, starving child's mouth isn't that way, in my humble opinion. Perhaps in addition to midwives and health visitors who come to see you at home following the birth, maybe lactation consultants and/or breastfeeding support counselors could do the same??

  • Jen

    >Breastfeeding is hard work, no doubt about it. There is so little support and training. I relied heavily on a friend with experience and only for her I probably wouldn't have lasted. I am delighted I persevered though, it was well worth it:) Great post, it is so important to be realistic or new mums will feel inadequate when they are not at all. Jen.

  • Crystal Jigsaw

    >I didn't breastfeed, never contemplated it. I have spoken to mums who did though and they all said how difficult it was. I imagine there are some who just find it completely natural and whose babies latch on straight away, but it wasn't for me.

    CJ xx

  • Muddling Along Mummy

    >Spilt Milk – I totally agree, if society was realistic about what a breastfed baby should do, women wouldn't be made to feel bad that theirs isn't sleeping at 8 weeks but that this normal

    Karin – I totally agree, intrusive, uncaring, brusque 'help' in hospital is just not helpful and undermines women at a point when they so are vulnerable and recovering from the physical aspects of birth. We need to sort out getting the right support at the right time

    Jen – I don't understand how the Government can tell us to breastfeed for 6 months and yet not provide help to get us to achieve that – its madness

    CJ – I think there are some women for whom it is easy, just from what I have encountered for an awful lot it isn't and they are just left alone to try and sort it out. Not right

  • Working Mum

    >I think you are absolutely right. I had a terrible experience in hospital and left there after a week with daughter on bottles (at their insistance because she wouldn't feed). My lovely midwife helped me to start breastfeeding at home, but I found it very difficult and so draining. My husband said he could see the life drain out of me after 5 mins breastfeeding. I had no idea what was going on and how to proceed. I lasted 12 weeks. How different it could have been.

  • Mwa

    >Yes, you are right. But I also think there should be more said about the benefits for the mother. Whenever health professionals go on about what I "must do for baby," I wonder "but will it work for me?" (Like daily baths. Urghl!) I think not enough is made of the fact that breastfeeding is FREE and portable and prewarmed, and you don't have to spend all your time washing and sterilising bottles, and it makes it easier to bond with your baby. These are very good reasons for breastfeeding as well.

  • solveig

    >I think you are right – I have this memory of being bewildered by all the pamphlets on breastfeeding advice I was handed before going home after Freyja was born. I had no idea that it was going to be difficult and couldn't understand why there were all these leaflets available! I soon found out…

    And yes, I also think a more realistic view of just how often you may be breastfeeding and how long each feed can take in the early days, would help. I was pretty much feeding constantly to start with and it wasn't until I accepted this as normal let go of the idea of doing a 3 hour routine that I started to relax about things.

    S x

  • Sandy Calico

    >Hear hear.
    Tell us the truth and then help us to breastfeed. Don't say everyone can do it and then leave us to struggle alone. Grrr!
    Brilliant post x

  • Emily O

    >A very good post. I was amazed no one told me breastfeeding would be hard. In fact I think most women find it difficult, those who find it easy are rare I think. I'm breastfeeding number three and I find it hard because she feeds so regularly – very 2 hours. That leaves 1.5 between feeding. This morning I had to feed her in a freezing cold farmyard when we did a lambing trip with the preschool. There was no way I could make her wait any longer. She wakes regularly at night too. It's so tempting to move onto formula which will allow her to go longer between feeds. But I breastfed the other two for six months and I'm adamant I'll do the same with her otherwise I'll feel very guilty. Everyone should be told breastfeeding can be this challenging and given as much support possible to do it if they want to. Luckily everyone at the farm was very supportive this morning and watched the other two children for me!

  • cartside

    >I agree. Also the way that the only thing that can be wrong is a poor latch – there are so many things that can go wrong, every baby, every breast is different. I definitely was shellshocked when things didn't go so well (and I never contemplated anyting other than breast feeding) and in spite of lots of support (I was lucky) I never got confident all was well.

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