It’s a subject that shouldn’t be stigmatised but experts say is – breastfeeding.
This week is World Breastfeeding Week and experts have mooted ideas to resolve our low rates of breastfeeding.
Figures show only 40% of UK babies are breast fed by eight weeks old, but in Norway at six months old 70% are. And by 12 months only 0.5% of UK mothers are still breastfeeding.
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) believe education on breastfeeding in schools is key to altering perception and making breastfeeding normal because some children described it as “yucky.”
While a Mumsnet survey revealed 56% of women who started breastfeeding stopped by six weeks because their baby wasn’t latching on properly.
So it seems many mothers who stop do so because they need help with latching issues, not something education in school as a teenager would resolve.
My son was breast fed until he was 13-months-old. It doesn’t make me a better mother than one who uses formula, and I really don’t understand why we judge mothers for not breastfeeding.
The job of a parent is to nurture our children and if a parent feels the best way for them to do that is with a bottle of formula then so be it.
During pregnancy the benefits of breastfeeding cannot be ignored – at every check-up I was asked how I intended to feed, the benefits were repeated each time and the midwife ticked a box to say she’d been through it with me.
After having my son I wasn’t allowed to leave hospital until staff had seen me feed him twice.
And I’m not critical of the NHS staff, they were brilliant. I hadn’t a clue what I was doing and I got the support I needed.
I hope other mums locally have had the same experience, and if they did and still decide not to breastfeed then why be critical of them and why not accept their decision?
Exclusive breastfeeding is hard. My son was four weeks old when his dad began giving him a bottle (breast milk or formula, whatever we had) a day. It helped father and son bond too, is that a bad thing?
And a friend of mine paid privately to have her breastfeeding issues – tongue tie – resolved as she felt NHS waiting times would mean she would have to give up before her appointment came through.
Investment and quicker support for mothers experiencing physical difficulties will only resolve such issues.
We need more breastfeeding experts, clinics and drop-ins at GP practices or mum and baby groups if we want to encourage mothers do breastfeed for longer.
And I believe perception has improved – the public condemnation when mothers are kicked out of public places for breastfeeding shows that.
I nearly gave up breastfeeding in the first week of my son being born, the pain was unimaginable and no-one forewarned me about that.
I kept going by setting myself little goals – get to the end of the week, and then the next, then Christmas, then six months and so on.
I eventually found breastfeeding easy. Add to that it’s free and the health benefits are obvious.
But it’s not for everyone and we should stop judging mums who, for whatever reason, do not breastfeed their children.
If 99.5% of mothers do not breastfeed at 12 months then maybe it’s because they’ve returned to work and don’t see the need to express, their child has a healthy diet, or simply because it’s just not practical or they don’t want to.