I think about breastfeeding every day, its my job to. I try and view it from as many angles as possible to gain a deep understanding of breastfeeding for as many different people as possible. I realise there’s this picture portrayed to those who are thinking about breastfeeding of beauty, ease, natural and best. There also seems to be a side of it being cringy, odd, sexual, harmful and even abusive. (those lists could go on and the way you might interpret the words may not be the angle I was coming from) some people might just see it as a food source. Some might see it as something that happens for a very short amount of time. However we interpret it, we all seem to have an opinion on it.
Simply; lactation is a normal human function that occurs as a result of birth (induced lactation is another way)
Breastfeeding is not always easy, its not always enjoyable – birth can have a negative effect on the outcomes, anatomy can mean things aren’t as easy, struggling to latch baby on, babies with oral abnormalities, parents who haven’t been given evidence-based information to make an informed choice upon, mothers who experience pain or aversion.
In my role, I will often see mothers at the difficult points of their feeding relationship, rather than their highs. I have seen mothers in their high points, especially the ones who come along to local support groups to connect with other local mothers and show their support but its probably a very rare mother who breastfeeds without any bumps in the road. Those bumps don’t stop at a magical age either, they develop and grow with your child. Once you feel like you are past one thing something else might come along. They are often only slight niggles but they are there.
This image of breastfeeding having blue birds flying round and a LALALA tune going on isn’t always the case and I feel may be a shock to many new mothers. The whole process of becoming a mother is sometimes quite turbulent and testing. Alongside that monumental earth shift there’s also this whole new dance to learn with a brand-new human… how to feed them.
Something that I hear time and time again is “everyone gave me different information”
Mothers become pregnant, they give birth and they begin to feed their babies. That whole process is overseen by medical professionals (thank goodness for them). The sad part, they don’t have an abundant amount of time for all of their patients, nor do they have much lactation training (don’t believe me? See here for the World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative UK information on that)
Mothers encounter breastfeeding problems, they often will first seek help from their midwife, GP or health visitor because that’s often the limit of the contact they have had thus far. And as you can see by this picture:
They often don’t have the training in the areas to help and, as I previously said they are often really really strapped for time. Appointments in GP surgeries are often limited to 10 minutes. My consultations often take at least an hour and a half. Sadly, they are still under the influence of formula advertising too, even while researching links for this blog I’ve come across medical professional targeted adverts from formula companies. And yesterday I was listening to a podcast (see end of this blog to listen)
In which Maureen Minchin described looking at an independent scientific review and not seeing any reference to formula milk recalls she knew of within it. Maureen brought this up with the author to be told:
“after the disaster in 1979 (when babies were brain damaged because one change of formula actually took out something more than they had intended to and you ended up with babies who were damaged intellectually,) American parents were absolutely terrified about infant formula, we have to reassure them that American formula is safe because American society depends on bottle feeding.”
I’ll let that sink in a bit. Even though I heard it yesterday, writing it and hearing it again now is still jaw dropping to me but at the same time I know this is still true to day in other ways.
This information means that even though we all might be working our back sides off trying to achieve our breastfeeding goals (or in my case help you to achieve yours) its likely our governments are not working with us to achieve that goal so NO WONDER BREASTFEEDING ISNT EASY.
Mothers are told over and over again “its your choice to breastfeed, your choice, no one else can say weather you should breastfeed or not, its your choice” with a side hand of “I don’t know how to help you with this problem while breastfeeding so its probably best to wean from breastfeeding” and so very common at the moment “breastfeeding is pointless after (insert something along 6 months)”
Let me tell you, mothers are very aware its their choice, they most defiantly don’t need to be told in such a way. Stats show mothers WANT to breastfeed, a high percentage, 81%, initiate breastfeeding after their babies are born. Then day by day the number still breastfeeding drops and drops until at 6 weeks only around 24% are breastfeeding and at 6 months 1%. If a mother is seeking help with something to do with lactation, she wants to continue to lactate, unless she’s asking to not lactate any more. It’s as simple as that. Yet, every time she goes to an appointment or maybe even out for coffee someone decides to imply, she should wean in some way for whatever reason they deem fit and for some mothers this is the hardest part of their feeding journey. Putting on a suit of armour to deflect these some times mighty rocks in confidence that makes breastfeeding a whole other level difficult.
I wont lie, some times the high of the oxytocin rush of breastfeeding is a welcome relief, especially in a tense situation of if your baby hurt themselves and needs the comfort of a breast. And I know many of you will have experiences the beauty of breastfeeding, I’ve seen it. But I really think its important to talk about it not always being a dreamy picture and to identify why it sometimes isn’t so we can either prepare for those situations or change them to protect the next generation.