Stop guilt-tripping new mums and tell them the truth about breastfeeding

The number of mums who breastfeed their child is declining despite most mamas giving it a go immediately after birth.

The HuffPost reports:

“Just 42.7 per cent of mothers breastfeed their babies when they are six weeks old, according to the most recent data for 2017-2018 – a rate that has dropped from 43.1 per cent in 2015-2016 and 43.8 per cent in 2014-2015.”

I hate these stories, they wind me up no end, and I’ll  tell you why. It’s because ALL of the responsibility is being placed on the mother, with no thought to the underlying cause of declining breastfeeding rates. 

Mothers aren’t continuing to breastfeed to six to eight weeks. Mothers aren’t taking the World Health Organisation’s advice and breastfeeding exclusively to six months. 

When is the NHS and Government going to wake up and see that if they want figures to improve they can’t keep bashing new mums with the guilt stick?

The underlying root cause of women not breastfeeding their babies beyond the early days is bloody obvious but still it isn’t being sufficiently addressed. 

Women are not being armed with enough information, and the brutal truth about how tough breastfeeding can be. As a result, most are totally overwhelmed by the early weeks of breast-feeding – which are by far the hardest.

As new mums we are told breastfeeding is natural and we are bombarded with marketing propaganda informing us how magical, amazing, powerful and undeniably awesome breast milk is. 

Of course breast milk is fantastic stuff, BUT you don’t need to SELL breastfeeding to mums. We get it, breastfeeding is good. What you need to do is TELL mums what to expect and how to do get past the very tough early weeks. 

I read up on breastfeeding before having my first child.

I noted that I needed to get the latch right and that if I did this it wouldn’t hurt and my baby would get plenty of food. That was it. That was the sum total of the instruction given to me before giving birth. 

On the maternity ward one midwife told me to never use Lansinoh nipple cream, as it made it impossible for the baby to latch (I now know this to be bollocks). Others had varying methods of wrestling my screaming baby to my nipples, so by the end of it all I was just confused, frustrated and upset, on top of being exhausted from giving birth. I was not adequately prepared for this bit of parenting and that’s why it didn’t work out for me. 

I now know that breastfeeding is so much more than just sticking your kid on the boob every three hours and waiting for them to be done so you can delicately burp them. 

Nope. Breastfeeding is full of uncertainties and it hurts. I had the latch right with my second child, and it still hurt in the early weeks – mainly before my letdown was quite strong and felt uncomfortable but also because my nipples were sore. 

Once I adapted to all of this I was fine – but the critical point here is that it was my second time. I had gone through the trial and error the first time, I had learned the truth from my own experiences and so I was far better prepared to do it the second time around. 

It’s time we stopped blaming mums for not breastfeeding for the recommended length of time and start listening to what they need. 

Mums need to be told: 

What a good latch looks and feels like and how to achieve it, before giving birth. 

That breastfeeding may hurt – a lot – but there are ways to ease the pain (cabbage leaves in the bra and lots of nipple cream). They need to be reminded that it won’t always be this hard. 

That babies can feed around the clock. It feels never ending and leaves you paranoid they aren’t getting enough milk. Mums need to know this is normal for a newborn, that you can’t slot them into a feeding routine this early. 

Checking the nappies for poop and wee is the key to knowing if they are getting enough in the first few weeks. Keep an eye on that, and you can get your reassurance that they are eating enough. 

Your boobs will leak like crazy when your milk comes in.

What plugged ducts are and how to make them feel better – I cringe now when I think about what it feels like to be engorged. It’s not pleasant. 

Every baby and every mum is different – so do not compare your breastfeeding journey to another mum’s. 

We do not need to be told: 

Breast is best. 

Breastfeeding is natural.

Let’s cut the guilt tripping and get real about breastfeeding. We are grown-ups, who are preparing to be parents. We can take the ugly truth, and if we are prepared for that truth then we are far more likely to avoid being overwhelmed in the early weeks.

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