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Just saying breastfeeding is good isn’t enough

Hurray, another report says that breastfeeding is A Good Thing except is this report really helpful to breastfeeding?

The researchers are quoted as saying “”Mothers should be advised by health professionals that, in addition to all the other benefits, exclusive breastfeeding helps prevent infections in babies and lessens the frequency and severity of infectious episodes.”
Of itself this is A Good Thing.
Except the researchers have missed a point.
There are an awful lot of women out there who have tried very hard to breastfeed, often battling through inhuman amounts of pain and suffering.  The trouble is that what they need is not to be told that breastfeeding is A Good Thing, which in general they know or they’d have given up long before, but instead to find ways to support them and give them the help they need to succeed.
With the right support 99% of women can breastfeed.
That’s right, with support.

And let’s be honest there is a shocking lack of support available and often a whole lot of conflicting advice.

Yes local health trusts know that they should be encouraging mothers to breastfeed but they also need to be educated to help those women through the difficulties rather than just preaching at them.
The occasional volunteer run support group, the entirely volunteer run helplines, the few and are between breastfeeding counsellors are not sufficient support for women who need trained professionals available on the labour ward, in hospital, in the community and available for them when they need them.
Yes let’s keep putting the message out there that breastmilk is the right and complete nutrition for our babies but please lets also make sure we have the right infrastructure to help women achieve this.
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11 comments to Just saying breastfeeding is good isn’t enough

  • Noble Savage

    >I agree. Preaching without support is meaningless.

    I'd go one step further though and say that we also need to stop talking about breastfeeding as having 'benefits' and how it gives children all these 'extras', as if it's above and beyond the norm. It sends the message that breastmilk is great but it's really just an add-on to formula, one that only incredibly privileged or lucky women can seem to manage.

    When breastfeeding is held up as being 'perfect', we see all these mums saying 'But I'm not perfect, I can only do my best', as a way to reassure themselves (and others). I don't blame them one bit for feeling that way because who has time or inclination to strive for perfection, especially when in the midst of sleep deprivation, physical discomfort, mood swings and a massive lifestyle change? All this 'Breast is best' stuff just reinforces the idea that formula is the default and breastfeeding is something one does as a special bonus if it can be managed.

    In short, breastfeeding 'support' is being completely ballsed up. There's a lot of talk but little action. If the NHS (and society) were serious about supporting breastfeeding mothers, we would have several lactation consultants at each hospital, able to give one-to-one help for as long as needed, women would never be kicked out of cafes for feeding in public and every woman would have the time and place to pump milk at work and/or the right to take sufficient time off to exclusively breastfeed for at least 6 months. The 'support' we have now is almost a joke.

  • Hot Cross Mum

    >I think the 'support' is what is missing. So many new mums I know have just given up because it's 'not working'and have felt disappointed afterwards. With a little encouragement and the right support they could probably have continued and it would probably have got easier – although I am very aware that this is not the case for everyone.

  • Preseli Mags

    >I agree. Great post. Support is absolutely the thing. Advising cabbage leaves and Camillosan is NOT 'support'. Some people just cannot breastfeed and nobody should make them feel guilty for that – especially not health professionals.

  • Sandy Calico

    >Hear hear. Very well said.

  • InceyWinceyMummy

    >I agree with your point that it's all about the support. Having had fantastic support myself, I almost struggle with the idea that people can't get help if they need it. I think many people are too scared, or just simply don't ask for help.

    And it's difficult to offer the support without sounding like a preachy breastfeeding fundamentalist (as my husband kindly called me on twitter!).

    With two of my best friends expecting shortly after me, I want to encourage them to ASK me for help if they are struggling… AS SOON AS they are struggling. Not when they've reached the point of giving up. But I don't want to do what I probably did with my Sister-in-Law and make them feel bad if they DO give up.

    (Besides, her midwife suggested it might be her breastmilk making the baby so violently sick – how far can you get from being supportive?!?!?!?).

  • emma

    >Support is vital – I bf first two for 8 months or so each – exclusively. Yet no 3 was a little over two weeks early due to diabetes and was very relunctant. i would have battled on and continued but was actalluy pretty much told to top up ( which is a slippery slope) by mw. I stopped feeding her after only a week as I was made to feel she was starving. I was offered no support. So even 'experienced' mums need the support.

  • Muddling Along Mummy

    >Thanks for comments

    Incy – it could be her milk if the baby has a really bad milk protein allergy, my 2nd does and she was allergic to my milk BUT breastmilk was still better for her than formula and I was lucky that I had support to battle through reflux and our issues and to still be breastfeeding. Our consultant is pro-breastfeeding because despite everything it is still best for a very allergic baby (just would like a chance to give up at some point… !)

  • InceyWinceyMummy

    >I like to point out to people that it's better for them too… Who can deny that they want to lose the weight as quickly and easily as possible – and what better way?!? I like to appeal to people's selfish side!!

  • liveotherwise

    >I breastfed babe no 3 exclusively for 6 months (and am still bfing along with baby led weaning at 10 months) and it hasn't helped weight loss at all. 10 months on, and despite the fact I have an active lifestyle including running every other day I'm *still* not back to pre baby weight. Irritates the life out of me to be told that breastfeeding helps ppl lose weight – not everyone it doesn't!

  • Olden but golden. I know that my attempts at breastfeeding my daughter failed because I had no support whatsoever. I foolishly thought that I could battle through with the internet and books, but I couldn’t. I needed a human touch and despite there being fantastic pre natal care out here, the post natal care is non existent.

  • You have to love Susan for being so matter-of-fact about evrenthiyg.Obviously, I don’t have kids of my own, but I cannot imaging not breastfeeding them if I had any. I have so many friends with kids who haven’t breastfed because it “just didn’t feel right” to them. I don’t understand that. What could possibly be more normal? Human beings are the only mammals, as far as I know, that don’t feed their young this way! Props to you for being so outspoken on this subject.

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