A family member has just had her first baby and the issues she’s facing with breastfeeding have led to my decision to add some breastfeeding posts to my Blog.
First of all to outline my personal position; I always wanted to breastfeed, I was really looking forward to it and worried that I wouldn’t be able to do it because that would have really upset me. You can read more about my experience with breastfeeding HERE as this post is more about how mums in general are supported (or not) with feeding.
Going back to the new mum, she is currently finding breastfeeding quite hard. Like many mums breastfeeding for the first time, she’s worrying about having enough milk, the baby latching on correctly, the frequency and duration of the feeds and nipple discomfort to name just a few. After giving birth, a woman’s hormones are all over the place anyway without the pressure to learn a new skill that your baby depends on!
That word there is the key issue with breastfeeding – pressure! Now even as someone who is a keen breastfeeding advocate determined to breastfeed no matter what, I have felt an extraordinary amount of pressure throughout my breastfeeding experience from a number of sources and each with a different agenda. When breastfeeding my first child I felt pressure from all of the following people:
My mum – Made many comments in the first few weeks about the noise my baby made when feeding. She was quite a noisy eater in the early days and it probably was, in hindsight, something you would comment on. But, she was feeding fine and these comments made me (at first time mum at the time) feel very self conscious about feeding her and paranoid I was doing something wrong.
My partner – Like many dads, my partner felt a bit excluded when it came to breastfeeding and at one point pushed for me to express so that the baby could be fed by other people (mainly him). This destroyed me at the time, I understood how he felt and wanted to help him but didn’t want to express for a number of reasons. As it worked out I didn’t have to but the arguments over it broke my heart.
Another person – Oh where do I start! She used to sit very close to me while I was feeding and even touched my boob once while asking if the baby could breathe! She used to comment a lot about the duration of my baby’s feeds and how she got distracted by things in the room; my baby has always been a short feeder, which is perfectly normal, every baby feeds for different duration. At one point she also started saying that my baby was not getting enough from just breast milk and I needed to start giving her formula top ups as well! Now that couldn’t have been further from the truth. There were also comments about giving her water in a bottle. Current advice states that breastfed babies don’t need water until they start solids; when we started weaning our baby she started having water from a sippy cup, she has never had a bottle because she hasn’t needed one.
The public – breastfeeding in public for the first time and during those first few weeks is daunting for even the most adamant breastfeeding supporters like me. It took me a long time to feel confident enough to feed in public. That didn’t last long however and now I will feed wherever, whenever my baby needs it! 🙂 But public opinion is a big issue for many breastfeeding mothers and it’s shocking how many stories there are of mothers being told to stop feeding their babies when in public or even being verbally abused while feeding.
Other mums – there seems to be a lot of conflict over feeding between mums themselves, probably fuelled by both sides having their own advantages and disadvantages and mums feeling the need to defend their choice, whether it’s breast or bottle. I think this is such a shame, why can’t all mums support one another and respect that the decision is a personal one with many factors to consider?
I don’t know what it is about feeding a baby that makes everyone think they need to put their opinion across, or why people get so involved when it’s not their baby, but it needs to stop.
A new mum, especially a first time mum, needs support. She is tired, anxious, trying to do her best and probably paranoid about whether she is doing things right as it is.
Breastfeeding is an incredible, natural thing, but it is a skill and it does take time to master. New mums need the space and time to work on it and someone to help them out so they can get a chance to eat, sleep and wash; these things become luxuries when you have a baby!
Furthermore, if a mum decides she wants to express and either combine breast and bottle or do bottle only then that’s fine. BUT telling a new mum to start expressing just because she’s finding it hard or for some other reason, is not helpful. Even those that want to combine are advised to wait until the baby is happy with its latch, otherwise baby can get confused and breastfeeding will be even harder to establish. Breastfeeding is also a very personal thing and mums can often feel useless, or a failure if they are finding it hard, so someone suggesting they switch to bottle can be a real knock to their confidence.
I know breastfeeding isn’t for everyone and I support any decision a mum makes, but I think it’s such a shame that I know so many mums who tried to breastfeed, but weren’t given the correct support and therefore stopped.
Now I am breastfeeding my second baby I truly couldn’t give a toss about anyone else’s opinions and I am first to put a stop to any ‘bressure’ I witness.