Breastfeeding – The Message will Never Change

It’s National Breastfeeding Week and I thought I would re-vamp an old post I wrote a while ago on breastfeeding and how the message will never change.

 When I posted this back in 2015 a study had been published to show if you had been breastfed you may have an IQ 7 points higher on average, due to an activated gene.
Another study to of course back breastfeeding but at the same time make those who don’t feel a little uncomfortable.

I am still breastfeeding my second and did my first for around 10 months. The first 2 weeks for my first were horrible. I have never felt such pain when the milk came in. I look back at pictures of my boobs; they looked like 2 melons stuck to my chest. I had a cracked nipple. One boob grew bigger than the other giving me a lasting memento of the experience (a massive purple stretchmark) and my gremlin never really got into a proper routine, ie, she demand fed the whole time. Usually every 90-120 minutes but luckily not too much at night.  Despite that it was worth it and was the right thing for us both. I’ve done it again with my second.

However, it isn’t for everyone. My Mum didn’t breastfeed me. She felt awful at the time and I think it does still bother her, the lack of support at the time. I wouldn’t latch on. I was screaming, she was crying. She was given a bottle and the rest is history. Still if the subject is brought up, she is very defensive. And why not? It was HER decision and right for her and me. I have friends who didn’t. They medically couldn’t; the decision taken out of their hands. Or the misery they felt was just too much. A hungry baby and a completely exhausted parent is not good and therefore switching over worked for them. Fair does. Happy Mummy does usually equal happy baby.

Some of blog posts I do read are quite angry about how they felt pressured to breastfeed by medical and health professionals and wanted to put a health professionals prospective on this. I work as a dietitian and under our registration guidelines we have to practice using evidence based guidance. So what the big studies (that are half decent and reliable) say we go from. If we didn’t we could be struck off.  Basically we have to recommend what the evidence tells us.

Bottom line breast is best.

It is the gold standard.

Formula nowadays is amazing but will never do the same thing breast milk does. It’s just how it is. Therefore a health professional would not be doing their job if they did not try and push it at first. They have to do it and in no way should the Government also be encouraging anything else. I read somewhere that Boots won’t give Points for baby formula under Government guidance which I have to say I agree with and would even if I bottle fed. It would be like the Government slacking on the 5 A Day message because people don’t like fruit.

BUT, BUT BUT (before I get lynched for saying the above) the way this is gone about and a decision not to breastfeed, does need to be handled better. For example, in my job if an obese person came to me and admitted eating far too much chocolate I wouldn’t belittle and make them feel guilty. I would try and problem solve and ultimately respect the adult decision they had made. Chocolate may not be the best thing for them but my job is to support, not judge.

A decision not to breastfeed needs to be handled in exactly the same way. Health-professionals need to troubleshoot, guide and support women and ultimately if the decision is to stop or not even start breastfeeding, not judge. We are looking at adult women, not children(!), who have the right to make the best decision for them and their babies. A women should be able to make the decision and it sit well with them, not feel a barrage of guilt and misery and certainly not like they have failed. No-one ever has the right to make someone feel like that, especially in a caring profession.

Ultimately health professionals have to do their job and they do have to push that breast is best. This message is unlikely to ever change. I have to to do this with any pregnant ladies I look after but if the decision for them is bottle is best, who am I to judge?

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16 Comments

  1. April 6, 2015 / 7:28 am

    I can totally see where the breast is best message is going, of course it's always going to be the best – that's what it's designed for! However I definitely think there needs to be less pressure on those who decide against it xx

  2. Odd Socks and Lollipops
    April 6, 2015 / 9:03 am

    Great post, I think you are totally right, less judgement. We should be given support and advice and encouragement, not pressured into something and made to feel guilty.
    I am still breastfeeding Boo at 15 months, but I like you nearly didn't those early days were awful, but with support from my husband we managed to get through it. I think people need to be made aware of how difficult those early days can be so that they know that they aren't doing anything wrong and that it does get better. Honesty about how breastfeeding really is as well as support is what's needed in my opinion.

  3. Jenna Richards
    April 6, 2015 / 10:32 am

    I think you are absolutely right, that support and (gentle encouragement) and is key here. I had a very old fashioned midwife who made feel like a complete and utter selfish cow for switching to bottle-feeding. She didn't take my feelings into a count at all and was only concerned with how my baby was being fed. I think sometimes the healthcare professionals forget they are meant to be looking after the well-being of two people, not just one.

    #mummymonday

    Jenna at Tinyfootsteps xx

  4. Kate Fever
    April 6, 2015 / 10:59 am

    I agree that breast is best – for those who can manage it. I think that's the message I would like to see more. I breastfed all of my children, and it was hard, and it hurt. Well done to ALL mummies bringing up their babies in the way that's right for them 🙂

  5. emma lander
    April 6, 2015 / 11:40 am

    What a really balanced post. Mums have enough guilt anyway and while breast is best, all mums do a great job feeding their child whatever way is best for them. #MaternityMondays

  6. April 6, 2015 / 6:30 pm

    Brilliant post Saz. As you know I struggled and managed 8 weeks, put myself under tremendous pressure and felt like a failure. Determined to give it another shot this time round but won't put myself under the pressure this time. You speak alot of sense in this post 🙂 Mwah X

  7. Tracey Quinn
    April 6, 2015 / 8:03 pm

    Great post. It's funny because I actually felt the pressure to NOT breastfeed. I found that I had to really push for it. Found it very difficult at start, and now 10 months on it's the best thing I ever did 🙂

  8. April 6, 2015 / 9:25 pm

    Everyone's different, I breastfed my second very successful,y, still hell on earth for first few weeks! My first baby was s bit of a breastfeeding fail (in my eyes). I felt pressure from everywhere, my hubby was the only true support. Some people just don't want to breastfeed, it's just not something they want to do x

  9. April 6, 2015 / 10:59 pm

    I breastfed five kids. After my 1st child it just came naturally but oh lord I can understand why people don't want to do it. I felt like I was in constant feed mode; it was exhausting and expressing milk was a pain. I don't judge anyone for wanting to bottle feed but I stuck with it although I'm glad I don't have to go through it all again.

  10. Jenny Eaves
    April 7, 2015 / 7:38 am

    I breastfed my first until over 2 and second is still breastfed at 15 months. I had always chosen to bf, but when I didn't get much sleep with my first the HV kept trying to convince me to bottle feed! In this area they need to support bf mums a bit more in my opinion. If a woman chooses to bottle feed by their own decision that's fine, but a woman who is struggling to bf should be supported more to help her with her decision. I know several friends who could have bf longer if their babies tongue tie had been spotted earlier for example.

  11. April 7, 2015 / 10:48 am

    Fabulous post Sarah and a very balanced perspective from a healthcare professional. There is a fine line between ensuring someone is well-informed about their choices and pushing them towards a particular choice and it is hard to tread that line sometimes. I do feel sometimes though that there isn't enough support to help women who are struggling with breastfeeding and again there needs to be that balance between supporting and respecting choices when stopping breastfeeding feels like the right thing to do. #twinklytuesday

  12. Carolyn Voong
    April 7, 2015 / 6:11 pm

    Great post, I breastfed my daughter for 11 and a half months and it did come naturally to me (apart from the cluster feeding at night for the first few weeks!) but I understand it's not easy or even possible for some women to do it. #twinklytuesday

    Carolyn
    http://stylishmemories.com

  13. Jade Wilson
    April 8, 2015 / 7:53 pm

    Great post, it echoes a lot of what I think about breastfeeding! I EBF for 6 weeks before combination feeding, and then weaned at 4 months. Yes 4 months, don't shoot me people, it was right for my son. And that's the thing isn't it? It's about what's right for you and your baby, without feeling like you're going to get judged for it. So sad that people feel they have to have an opinion on other peoples choices! It really is each to their own and people forget it's not their business to stick their ore in! #maternitymondays xx

  14. Adventures of a Novice Mum
    April 8, 2015 / 9:48 pm

    Yes breast is medically best, but there's more than 'medical' in considering what's best for a women and her child. It was definitely best in every way for my Precious Sparkle and I, though i had to fight tooth and nail to make it really happen for us in a way that I was contented.

    Thanks for giving some insights into the health professional's view.

    As for the guilt issue, I wonder if we put some of it on ourselves as women. We do what's best for our families and our situation and despite what people say, it's helpful to find our peace with our decisions.

    Anwyays, there's enough room for all of us, breast … bottle … breastmillk …formula. I refused the breast and I turned out alright. #MaternityMondays

  15. Gemma Louise
    April 9, 2015 / 7:30 am

    An interesting read, I didn't breast feed because my son was premature and we were both poorly etc etc. I had decided I wanted to express for first couple of weeks as I personally don't like the whole boob feeding thing for me but got best of both expressing. I would try do that second time round if I ever have another. But my son was bottle fed in the end. One day though the neonatal nurse came in to Corey's room whilst I was with my mum sitting at his bed side, closed to curtains, showed me an electric pump and started undressing me. I was so shocked, that I didn't know what to do. I agree that health professionals need a better way to handle it. Most in my local hospital explain but if baby doesn't latch or it isn't mother's choice, then they just let the mum get on with it. Like you say happy mum is happy baby 🙂 That is most important.

    thank you for linking up to #mummymonday – Love Gemma – host xo
    http://www.sunshineonacloudyday.co.uk

  16. April 9, 2015 / 9:50 pm

    Great post! I did breastfeed both my children but had trouble withmy second as he had a tongue tie. It was discovered late so much supply hadn't been established how it should have and I was in so much pain. But I was made to feel a failure by some healthcare professionals. I so wanted to carry on as it was what I wanted to do but unfortunetly I had to give up and it broke my heart. I totally agree they need to change how they deal with mothers as we are human, have feelings and after having a baby our hormones are raging xx #twinklytuesdays