We’ve recently hit our “Golden boobies” also known as 1 year of breastfeeding.
Our journey did not get off to the best start as many other women’s doesn’t. We used formula albeit reluctantly for two feeds due to baby being sleepy and not latching; also when our baby was ill recently, we had to resort to formula again for a tube feed because I could not express enough that the doctors had estimated he needed to be fed. These for me, are the times that formula is needed. Where formula comes in to it’s own and helps a mother’s baby and their breastfeeding journey rather than hindering it.
Formula milk can be a stop gap but in my opinion it should not be used as a replacement because quite frankly nothing can replace breastmilk, whether that be from source or expressed. Formula just does not compete.
Yet so many women are told to formula feed, to stop breastfeeding or that baby isn’t getting enough. As if we don’t already put enough pressure on ourselves, we now have people telling us to just give one bottle, it’s okay, you’ve tried your hardest. Whilst many of these comments are well meant, they are rarely what the mother needs to hear. What the mother needs is constructive ways to help and support.
I’ve seen many women sit on the verge of tears in the early days. Whilst some of this may be down to hormones, many times this is down to the pressure we place on ourselves. We hear that breastfeeding is natural and assume that it will be easy, baby will latch on and you’ll have long flowing hair and a halo with unicorns running around in the back. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that for many women. These women struggle, a lot of them overcome these struggles and continue to breastfeed for a long time. Some don’t, and that’s okay.
However, we need to find ways in which to support these women that fiercely try to breastfeed but for some reason or other do not continue. For the most part, this is due to lack of support. Whether that be at home or from health professionals. These mothers have NOT failed! The system failed them.
In the U.K., we have some of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world. Whilst this may be down to formula advertising, a loss of breastfeeding community and sexualisation of breasts. The ways in which women have to explore to find support can definitely contribute to this.
For many, local breastfeeding support can be difficult to find. Whilst asking your midwife may be the first point of call, even some of these don’t know where to get help other than suggesting NCT or LLL and whilst these organisations are amazing in what they do; they aren’t always local for a woman that needs face to face support. Some midwives take on extra training for breastfeeding which is worth their weight in gold but they tend to be rushed or snowed under with paperwork to be able to spend some quality time with a breastfeeding mother that needs a little extra help.
It is shameful that in a country that prides itself on supporting the masses and it’s people; we are letting down so many women and babies by not offering better support or making it more accessible.
So how can we help mothers and their breastfeeding relationships?
I sincerely believe that we need more trained breastfeeding peer supporters or counsellors and even lactation consultants volunteering or being paid by the NHS to attend antenatal clinics and then to visit women on postnatal wards.
Knowledge is power and we need to pass on that knowledge; woman to woman, mother to mother, baby to baby.