Breastfeeding can be such a taboo topic; I think it possibly carries more stigma than childbirth when it comes to the pressure women feel.
I understand the pressure…. ‘Breast is Best’…..and you won’t ever find me disputing that fact its absolutely best for baby, but not always best for mum.
I thought long and hard about writing this blog as some people would say it’s so hard to talk about breastfeeding without offending people, as so many women have a desire to breastfeed and somewhere along their journey hit roadblocks.
But for me not talking about breastfeeding is possibly a big factor to why people struggle so much. Struggle to say they plan to breastfeed, struggle to do it, struggle to say they don’t want to and then struggle with stopping. That’s a lot of women struggling, right? And I was one of them.
My breastfeeding journey had so many wonderful elements to it and I breastfed my daughter almost exclusively till she was 8 months old. Would I choose to breastfeed my second child… absolutely!
For all the birth preparation I did prior to my daughter’s birth, I didn’t prepare myself in the same why to breastfeed. Sure, I’d read some books, attended the NCT breastfeeding class and I’d bought a variety of breast pumps. But I don’t feel like anyone had really prepared me for the million ways that breastfeeding shapes the journey that you take with your child and your partner for that matter.
I knew the basics:
- I knew many women find the initial stages of breastfeeding tough as its very much dependant on getting a good latch established very early with baby.
- I knew that if this didn’t happen then I would feel potential discomfort and pain when feeding.
- I knew it took practice and that me and her were new to this but our instincts would kick in and it would eventually feel very natural.
- I knew that a whole host on things could prevent me and her from breastfeeding and that many women do stop earlier than they would like.
In the UK on average over 80% of women leave hospital with their newborn baby having established breastfeeding. A mere 6 weeks on only 24% of those women are still exclusively breastfeeding.
Looking back now I don’t feel like I knew enough about what to expect. I was very determined to breastfeed and was very aware of the benefits, and they are beyond reproach. This is what spurred me on in moments where I felt tired, overwhelmed and very unsure if I was really just making life unnecessarily harder for myself.
I wouldn’t change anything about my breastfeeding journey, and I look back with such fond memories of holding my daughter in my arms in those quiet dark hours of the morning taking solace in the knowledge that I was able to comfort, nourish and emotionally support her in a way nobody else on this earth could and I know it established a greater bond between us.
I would however have asked for help sooner and made sure I used the support systems in place (although I don’t feel they are completely sufficient).
UNICEF BFI is a great resource for general information and Global Health Media have really informative videos on their website.
Make sure you take as much time as you need with the midwife whilst in hospital to really feel comfortable with breastfeeding. Ask to speak with a Lactation Specialist if they have one on staff.
Use the local midwifery care for support in those early days, like breastfeeding drop-in clinics. They are free and are another great reason to get out and about with baby.
I make no secret of the fact that part of my birth plan was to establish skin to skin with my daughter and establish breastfeeding in what we like to call the ‘magic hour’ after birth. I didn’t manage to achieve this as although I held my daughter for an hour undisturbed after her birth I just couldn’t establish a latch and became so overwhelmed and distressed by this it set me on a tough path for those initial few weeks.
I had achieved the birth I’d planned for and felt like a superstar but failing in this area was not something I had anticipated, and I truly believe that more support before and after birth is absolutely critical, to help those figures remain high in regard to women breastfeeding beyond those first few weeks but most of all so that we can feel informed and excited for all aspects of becoming a parent.
By Ellie Dearden