Friday, June 26, 2015

Breastfeeding Awareness Week

I'll start by saying that I really couldn't care less how other people feed their babies, nor would I ever judge anyone for their choices. Each to their own! We are all on the same journey and it's not always easy. As long as our babies are fed - that is essentially all that matters. I don't think anyone would deny that breast is best, it's science, but there is a definite place for formula too, and for some it's a lifesaver.

The main issues I see when it comes to breast feeding, are with the lack of support and knowledge available to new and pregnant mothers. It's there if you look for it (or know to look for it), but not always clear and more often than not, anything that is deemed supportive or educational seems pushy and can have the opposite effect and discourage. 

As it's Breastfeeding Awareness Week, I thought I would share my stance on this subject and also some of my breastfeeding journey so far. We are not all hippies or weirdos (well maybe a little) and we don't need to be some kind of activist to support breastfeeding, some of us just want to get on with it and are quite happy to be left to it without drama or debate. The numbers and funding are dropping all the time, we need to be able to support those who need it and provide help to everyone, whatever their position.

I've got lots of friends that bottle feed and I fully support that decision. For me, I was not aware that the option of bottles would even be given at birth. I always presumed mothers just breastfed then stopped at six months or if there was a problem. Naive much? I was surprised to see in hospital a few hours in, a midwife doing a lap of the ward asking if we wanted any formula. I found the support and encouragement varied hugely from midwife to midwife - perhaps down to their own experiences or lack of training? I was very lucky that one seemed to take a shine to me and my baby and help us for the few days we were in. Baby and I were both pretty out of it after a difficult birth and lots of drugs, so it was hard to get baby to latch on and stay awake in the early days.

Once I was home I found that in the hands of the health visitors, the advice and support varied greatly again. From one lady telling me I was doing a great job and to carry on, another telling me my baby wasn't putting on enough weight despite feeding almost hourly (scaring me into months of obsessive baby weighing), then another who told me I was more important and that I should bottle feed so that I could sleep. Apparently my baby was greedy... I have no words for that.

I felt too guilty to stop or try anything else and went with my instinct to carry on. I really wanted to breastfeed and hated the idea of having to actually get up and prepare a bottle (lazy mama, hands up!). 

I ventured out after a few weeks to a local Breast start group, we were actually on the news and you can see me, a tiny baby A and me waffling on air here...

I made friends at this group and could feed my baby feeling relaxed and happy and get support at the drop of a hat. I even did a La Leche course to become a peer supporter which was great and has been really useful.
I tried baby A on bottles, as many different ones as I could afford. Not neccesarily to switch, although I would have done at the harder times! But more so I could get a break for a few hours from my constant feeder. He would never take a bottle, so we went on with breastfeeding which for me is the easy approach anyway - no washing up, no getting out of bed, lots of cuddles, winner! It doesn't feel like that at the start though, when you feel constantly in demand. We carried on until I became pregnant again with baby S and he stopped, telling me the milk was for the baby now. He is amazing!

When baby S came along, I was lucky to have an easy start. The experience of knowing what I was doing, plus an easier drug free birth meant that we could get started straight away and apart from a short bout of mastitis a few months in, I have trucked along quite easily so far. It was lucky I had such an easy start, as the wards were pretty bare of help this time round and we had no light bulbs on the ward - lack of funds! I fed my baby by the light of my smart phone - whilst feeling really sorry for the first time mothers and ladies that had c-sections, coping in the dark with a new baby - nightmare!

Baby one - day one.

I have friends that I have spoken to in tears because they couldn't carry on. I did get to that point at times too, its tiring and exhausting and I know for some people who had tried everything, it was a relief to them to change over but they are left feeling guilty, which they totally shouldn't have! One friend was getting really depressed with feeding for various reasons and it seemed totally the right thing for her to do and she had already given baby such a great start, I hope she felt proud! I do wish though that everyone could find the support that I had.

My advice to first time pregnant mummies is to not feel too much pressure, try your best, ask for help and if you don't want to give up - don't! It is really hard in the beginning, but once you are over that 'hump' it is a breeze and really easy. It can take a while and it can feel tiring beyond belief being in demand 24/7, but it is such a happy time to look back on if you can fight through it and get it right.

There is support out there for anyone who does want it and I will post some details below this post.You can also talk to your local Surestart Centre or Health Visitor, who can point you in the direction of local feeding groups or lactation specialists.

We need to put an end to the 'bottles Vs breast' debate though. I've seen ludicrous comments from both sides - mothers being compared to paedophiles for breast feeding, to bottle feeders being told they are selfish or killing their children. It's got so out of hand and far far too extreme. We need to support the fact that our babies are lucky enough to be fed at all, when there are thousands in the world who aren't that fortunate. We need to support each other on our journeys and not argue or fight a corner that shouldn't exist. Women need the confidence to feed their children in any way they like, wherever they like. Never judge, never push and support every mama you know, whatever they decide. 

Feed your babies and be happy!

Happy Breastfeeding Awareness week.

Thanks for reading,


NHS Breastfeeding Help
The Breastfeeding Network
La Leche League
National Breastfeeding helpline 0300 100 0212