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Breastfeeding, a journey

Wednesday, 29 November 2017  | 

For those of you that have found my blog from reading it here at Mummy & Little Me, you will know that I promised in the twelve week update of a Life with Bump that I would write about my breastfeeding journey and tell you my thoughts on the subject. I managed to find an hour or two to draft a post when we were on our week break in France a couple of weeks back.

Breastfeeding, the most natural thing in the world. All mammals do it.

There is a lot of information about breastfeeding. The World Health Organisation {that is one serious organisation!} say that every infant should be breastfeed for the first six months of their life.

The NHS, following the World Health Organisation's lead, have decided that all new mums should be encouraged to breast feed. Indeed, 75% of mums in the UK, apparently, breastfeed their babies. Anyone who has recently been pregnant will know that the NHS is on a 'breastfeeding drive'.

The NHS led talks I attended made me feel like "breast was best". Put into context the NHS breastfeeding drive isn't surprising when you consider that only one in two hundred babies in the UK are breastfed after their first birthday {that is one of the lowest rates in the world apparently}.

With this drive to make everyone breast feed, two key points seem to have been forgotten.  Breastfeeding is not always viable for new mums and there is a huge lack of support in the UK for breastfeeding mums and those trying.

The lack of support does not help mummies at all. Especially as all you are trying to do is the right thing for your baby. Then you are told that you are wrong for not breastfeeding!

 

Breastfeeding: The End

As some of you know, I have just ended my breastfeeding journey with Bump. I breastfeed for as long as I could. With hindsight though, I struggled from day one. I didn’t struggle due to latch issues or because of sore nipples. I had a lack of supply. Something that no one ever mentioned in antenatal classes or at hospital.

My lack of supply was obvious. I am a quite determined person so, stupidly, I kept trying to breastfeed for ten long physical and emotional weeks.

The signs were all there that, this time round, breastfeeding wasn’t right. I never had engorged boobs, I never had to wear breast pads, I never had a leaky boob and to top it all off Bump lost over 12% of his body weight in the first week. We topped him up with formula and he put the weight back on but I felt like a bad mum because we were giving him formula. I felt that I was being judged by my peers, healthcare professionals, friends and family.

Clearly the NHS drive on promoting breastfeeding, isn’t in place to make mums who cant breastfeed feel bad. It is in place because the scientific evidence {see here for an example} shows it helps children in their early development. It stops disease, is better for them and is cheaper.

Week ten was a watershed moment. I realised I couldn’t carry on breastfeeding. I wasn’t producing anywhere near enough milk. Bump was constantly grumpy, waking 4-5 times in the night and was frustrated with each feed.

Let Down

 

I felt let down by my body. I wasn’t able to done of the most natural things in the world {though some people now question if it is natural}. The thing I was born with tits to do. The thing the NHS told me was the right thing to do. Surely by formula feeding I would be judged by my GP, the midwife, my mummy friends, my own mother?

The pressure I felt to keep plugging away was huge.

It is not right that mums who struggle with breastfeeding should feel they must breastfeed. Breast is not best. Fed is best. We need to ensure there is better support networks for new mums. Us new mummies, however, shouldn't rely solely on the health professionals to establish those support networks. We should get out there and support each other.

It really upsets me when I read of mums who have attributed their postnatal depression to the fact that they couldn’t breastfeed. That isn’t what health visitors, doctors or the NHS want to achieve. And it certainly isn't what us fellow mummies should want for other mums.

Everyone's main concern should be the health of baby and mum. We need to support mum's and not make them feel like failures. We are all trying our best to bring up our babies to be healthy and happy and really fed is best.

If I get pregnant again, I will try to breastfeed once more. I won’t, however, put so much pressure on myself. So all mummies to be, yes breast is great but be realistic with yourself. Don’t feel pressured to breastfeed if deep down, like me, you know it isn’t working. Remember the health of your new baby is paramount, no one, in years to come, will judge you for not breastfeeding your child.

If any of you are struggling with breastfeeding, do speak up. Please don't be fobbed off by GPs or breastfeeding advisers and told to keep plugging away. If you feel something isn't right then follow your instinct. How did you all find breastfeeding? Did you love it? Or did you, like me, struggle? How do we go about providing better peer support for new mums who are trying to breastfeed?

Penny x

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