It’s a word which for some of us sparks joy, for some sadness. I’ve never known one word to spark such emotion across so many women.
We need to stop women feeling negative, or guilty, or doubt their bodies. There are 5 different ways to feed a baby and as long as the mother is making an informed choice and is supported in her choice, that is the the imperative thing.
98% of mothers CAN breastfeed.
81% of mothers initiate breastfeeding (RCPCH).
80% of women say they stopped breastfeeding before they wanted to.
The NHS states that all babies should receive nothing but breastmilk until 6 months but only 1% of babies get this (UNICEF).
So why is the breastfeeding rate so low in the UK? And why aren’t these women reaching their goals and doing what they want when it comes to their own baby?
There is a huge lack of accurate information and support in the UK – many women reach a growth spurt in their babies development where baby wants to feed constantly – known as cluster feeding – and the mothers are told that they clearly aren’t making enough milk for their baby and they must either top up or switch to formula. This is wrong. Cluster feeding is baby’s way of upping your milk supply to meet their growing needs. Other normal behaviours include crying at the breast, hitting the breast and bobbing on and off during a feed. All these things are baby’s clever way of signalling your body to make more milk. Inability to pump can also leave mothers feeling like they aren’t producing enough. How much you can pump does not determine your milk supply. A pump acts very differently to how a baby gets milk and a lot of women simply don’t respond well to pumps but breastfeed perfectly fine.
The ONLY way to determine if you are having supply issues is if baby is not gaining weight and is not having wet and dirty nappies.
It makes sense if you think about it – wee and poo is what’s excreted that isn’t needed in the body. If baby is not getting what they need, there will be no extra to get rid of.
And with weight – if you’re not producing enough milk then baby will not gain weight. It’s the same with adults – if you don’t eat enough then you won’t gain weight or you will lose weight.
Pain is a common cause of women stopping breastfeeding. In general, breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt but it can feel a bit tender at the beginning of each feed for some women. If you’re experiencing pain when breastfeeding, the likely causes are that the latch isn’t quite correct, baby has a tongue tie (these can only be diagnosed by qualified IBCLC’s), that you have thrush or another underlying issue. Pain can easily be rectified by getting some good breastfeeding support. There are breastfeeding solutions for breastfeeding problems.
Other women are told that they need to go on medication and so breastfeeding has to stop. This is also often incorrect. Wendy Jones PhD MBE is a pharmacist who specialises in medications during breastfeeding. She has a huge accumulation of drugs factsheets on the Breastfeeding Network online which are available for all to see. With a lot of mothers suffering from post natal depression and anxiety who need medication, it’s vital that women know they can continue to breastfeed while receiving treatment. Common medications like Sertraline and Citalopram are considered safe to breastfeed on.
Breastfeeding can be easy, but it can also be extremely hard. If you’re a first time parent then it’s something you’ve never done before.
And no matter how many babies you’ve had, each new baby has never done it before either. It’s a new skill to learn each time.
I personally struggled a lot. My son had a 100% tongue tie which took 8 weeks to diagnose and divide. I was also left with retained placenta for 12 weeks which prevented my milk from coming in fully so I ended up taking a drug called Domperidone to enhance my supply. After losing 3lbs and dropping 4 centiles, my son was diagnosed with cows milk protein allergy (CMPA) at 5 months old. So I had to change my diet and remove all dairy so we could continue breastfeeding. 16 months into breastfeeding there was a personal circumstance that left me unable to feed for 2 weeks. My supply went due to stress and not being able to pump. I continued to dry nurse my son until he was 3 years old however and we’ve very much enjoyed our very complicated breastfeeding journey. It’s been one of a kind!
Yes, there were so many times I wanted to formula feed for many reasons but it wasn’t possible for us. I couldn’t afford the formula, my son wouldn’t take a bottle and the prescription dairy free formula tastes and smells pretty awful so he never wanted to drink it. We used donor breastmilk from some incredible mums I met on Human Milk for Human Babies – a donor milk sharing page – and fed it via cup or supplementary nursing system when needed.
These are places were you can get breastfeeding support;
The breastfeeding helpline 0800 996 1000
NCT groups and peer supporters
ABM supporters and counsellors
Breastfeeding Network supporters and counsellors
La Leche League meet ups
Children’s centre breastfeeding groups
Facebook breastfeeding support groups
IBCLC counsellors in hospital
Infant feeding specialists
Written by Jessie Cuming ABM Mother Supporter