Breastfeeding: advice from an Ordinary Mother.
Updated: Jul 29, 2018
One of parenting’s biggest challenges is when things don’t go to plan. After completing my ante-natal classes, every single one of the mums on the course with me planned to breastfeed. Yet by 3 weeks, I was the only one still going. It reflects the wider situation in the UK; whilst around 80% of women begin breastfeeding, only 44% of babies were breastfed 6-8 weeks later (see the statistics here)
I’ve now had 6 months to consider why this might be, and I feel passionately about passing on some of what I’ve learned in that time. This blog is not anti-formula (that would be hypocritical as I’ll be using that very soon when I go back to work), but will hopefully help combat some of the issues the mums in my class raised as their reasons for stopping earlier than they planned.
Now for some of my ante-natal friends, they struggled with the latch and their supply. These things require specialist support, whether in those early days, or if you are later experiencing any pain or have worries about your baby's weight etc. There is so much support out there if you know where to look. Start with your Midwife/ health visitor or reach out to La Leche League or a local lactation consultant. If your first few days are rockier than you were expecting, don’t panic; so much can change in those first weeks and one day it may all click into place with the right support. Until then, use what’s available to keep your baby fed and healthy and then weigh up your options.
For others in my class, breastfeeding was much harder than they thought it would be. It can be hard when something that is promoted as being the ‘best’ option for yours and baby’s health is fraught with difficulties and worries. They weren’t expecting to be feeding so often and that was draining; they worried about the baby not getting enough during cluster feeds; they thought their baby would sleep for 4 hours overnight straight away as a MINIMUM! Some struggled with feeding in front of others, be it family or in public. So to help tackle some of these common worries, I’ve contributed to the Top Tips for prolonging breastfeeding (link opens in a new window). These tips may not solve every issue, but hopefully at least you will have some ideas to support your breastfeeding journey if that’s what you want.
My other big tip is to remember why you wanted to breastfeed in the first place. Here are some of the benefits of breastfeeding:
If you reach your limit with breastfeeding and feel you would be happier bottle feeding, then a happy mum is better than you struggling. And if you at all concerned that your baby is not thriving on your breastmilk alone, absolutely explore other options (see our link on supplementing here). But do seek advice from your health visitor/ midwife or a support group like La Leche League before you give up breastfeeding, as sometimes a fresh perspective and the right advice can make all the difference - if that’s what you want - as it can be a hard decision to reverse.
And although our team might not be complete experts on all things breastfeeding, we may be able to use our experiences to help you, or direct you to the right resources, so do reach out if you need support or solidarity - sometimes you just need someone to agree that it can be difficult so you don't feel alone!
Breastfeeding is a gift that lasts a lifetime, but that’s not to say it isn’t without its challenges. But hopefully we can help you tackle some of them!
Let us know your top tips for breastfeeding, or why you enjoyed breastfeeding in the comments.