I know a lot of people think #worldbreastfeeding week is about encouraging breastfeeding, and yes, breastfeeding is awesome as it’s amazing our bodies can do such a wonderful thing. There are so many benefits of breastfeeding but at a time when our breastfeeding rates are so low we should be looking at why they are low, not just continuing to buy into breastfeeding vs formula feeding debates. Breastfeeding is not something that just happens. Breastfeeding is not all easy. Breastfeeding is painful, it’s time consuming, it can make us feel self conscious, embarrassed, and uncertain. What I really think we need to talk about is how much more support is needed and how knowledge needs to be better. New mums need to know the truth and get the support they actually need. I’ve asked some fellow mummies why they stopped breastfeeding before they were ready, what made them stop (or struggle) and what would have helped them continue. I had lots of replies and also replies from ladies like me who struggled against the odds but managed to persevere and breastfeed longer. Why is there such a fuss about encouraging breastfeeding when so many ladies want to, but it’s the knowledge and support, and, from my own experience and others, the fact so many are waiting too long on a simple minute long tongue-tie procedure which forces them to stop?
We had a nightmare having H’s tongue-tie fixed. A simple one minute snip by a qualified midwife was all it took. However in the weeks we waited H lost too much weight, barely fed but at the same time fed for over an hour at a time falling asleep, and we decided to top up feed formula only when we were told we should be being admitted back to hospital. I persevered breastfeeding through the toe curling, nearly hit the ceiling, cry every time pain, through the bloodied, crusted black nipples. I am so glad I did as as soon as weeks later once that tongue tie was fixed, she fed like she’s never fed before. As a first time mum I didn’t know how it should feel. Tongue tie is such an easy thing to diagnose and fix so why on earth are so many babies having to wait so long for the snip? Why are so so many new mums being denied their wish to breastfeed because they have to wait for a simple snip by a midwife? Why can’t more midwives be trained when it would improve the breastfeeding rates so much?
Knowledge and information sharing is also majorly lacking. In my own case it’s the pain at the start of normal breastfeeding that just wasn’t mentioned. Not even at NCT classes where we even had a specialist breastfeeding class, and nowhere else. I’m not alone in this.
If people are wondering why breastfeeding rates in the UK are so low, it’s because the support and knowledge is not being provided. Mothers are being denied necessary support to establish and continue breastfeeding and are not being prepared for reasons they may struggle to breastfeed. This is backed up by several bloggers shared their thoughts with me on why their breastfeeding experiences were cut short and how their stories could have been different, where breastfeeding support could be provided and why.
Without a doubt we have to shout about the need for extra support and tongue-ties to be fixed quickly. The reasons for our low breastfeeding rates are known, just not being listened to.
Cost cutting has a lot to answer for:
Our area of the country had one of THE worst breastfeeding rates, so the trust responsible for our area employed a specific breastfeeding team that worked alongside midwives and health visitors and every mum who left hospital breastfeeding was offered support, our rates rocketed and nearly all tongue ties were dealt with within days of being diagnosed by the team, it was a brilliant service, then the contract for the service came up for renewal, a new trust took over and everyone was made redundant! They felt the money was better spent on healthy eating and childhood obesity… needless to say the rates have plummeted again www.bigfamilyorganisedchaos.com
The thoughts of several other bloggers are below and might help provide more answers and I hope show new mummies the reality of breastfeeding and that they are not alone. I wrote my post on or tongue-tie experience 3 years ago and it has struck chords with readers ever since, but even I am shocked by the number of bloggers below who listed tongue-tie as a factor in them stopping breastfeeding or as an area where more needs to be done quicker.
I was told “if it’s painful you are doing it wrong.” That is the biggest lie! I think it is so important to inform new mums that it does hurt initially but it’s only a few days and it gets better. I was panicking at first that I was doing it wrong because it did hurt! sophobsessed.com
I stopped breastfeeding with my eldest after a few weeks because he was loosing weight and I just couldn’t access any appropriate support. The health visitor’s advice at the time was just top up with formula but as soon as I started doing that, it became even harder to get him to breastfeed. I was young at the time (22), didn’t have any friends with children and didn’t really have regular internet access. Three years later with my second, I found amazing support online and from local parents and despite having mastitis over Christmas when she was just 5 weeks old I was able to overcome this and many other issues and fed her until she self weaned at 22 months. If I had been able to access that same support three years earlier I think I would have had a much better chance at feeding my son for longer.
I had to stop as my prem wasn’t drinking enough and I had serious issues with overproducing before I even started pumping! He had jaundice which was why he wasn’t feeding as he should have been. I tried persevering for 2 months but I had developed mastitis 7 times in the same breast so after 5 hospital admissions I decided I would be happier bottlefeeding. The midwives weren’t sympathetic towards the situation and kind of encouraged bottle. My GP was amazing though! 13 weeks now and will be BF the next one now I have done a lot more research myself. I met some amazing friends at our BF support group too. www.care-johnson.com
I wanted to breastfeed but all the staff on postnatal ward kept saying they were too busy to help me. They gave me a leaflet and syringe but I just couldn’t get it to work. In the end I was so deflated and emotional, plus J was hungry so I had to ask for a bottle. www.mummyest2014.wordpress.com
The painful part is definitely something to highlight! For me, with both my children, it was painful for up to six weeks! It was only then I felt comfortable and like we had a proper latch, etc. With my second I thought it would be instant and so natural, but it was just like starting all over again. It took a long time for my milk to reduce and my breasts and nipples were so sore that every feed was agonising for weeks! I certainly don’t think I was doing anything wrong, but this is just how it can be for some people. I can see how people think they are doing it wrong or not feeding properly, but for me persistence was key and it did get better and feel natural. it just didn’t for a few weeks, which was quite a shock. www.healthyvix.com
I tried so hard to breastfeed my first son, but ended up having to stop for various reasons. He was feeding for so long each time that I felt as if I couldn’t leave the house because if he got hungry I’d be stuck for hours! My milk was either slow, or he was incredibly hungry, but because he was putting on weight nobody was concerned that I was tied to the settee for most of the day. Secondly, I lost a lot of weight while pregnant and felt really weak after he was born. I eventually decided that the only way I could feel normal again was to formula feed so I could get myself back up to strength. If someone had been able to offer me advice on looking after myself while feeding I might have been able to carry on. Instead, I had “don’t you want what’s best for your baby?”. www.baby-holiday.co.uk
My first was thriving at the start (didn’t even lose the usual weight in the first week) but then suddenly started dropping. Everyone tried to fix me and my milk quality rather than actually checking that feeding was going OK. I was feeding him constantly to try and get his weight up or just constant which led to bad feeding habits – including feeding him more from the one side he look to be getting more from. Turns out he had tongue tie and the lactation consultant was impressed that he actually got any milk out. I fed from one side only for the next 10 months! thegrowingmum.com
I couldn’t breastfeed (or express) enough quantities of milk due to low supply caused by PCOS. Although this happens to 1/3rd of women with PCOS, I wasn’t told about it, prepared for it, or supported through it. I would have liked to be more prepared for this outcome both mentally and physically and still don’t understand why it was ignored. www.welshmum.co.uk
my son was supposedly latching well but wouldn’t suck. 3 days later after a tiny bit of hand expressed colostrom we had to bottle feed. Trying breastfeeding once home still didn’t work so we stuck to bottles because he was doing so well. 2.5 years down the line, nursery staff said they thought he had a tongue tie. Turned out he did. Luckily there was no speech issues but it’s frustrating that it isn’t a standard check when you’re in hospital or at least when you’re struggling with breastfeeding. It’s such an easy check and solution but seems to depend on either being in a hospital or having a health visitor who knows about it. Or that you’ve heard about it not once in my NCT classes or books, or with the midwives, did tongue the get mentioned as something to ask about. https://bubbablueandme.com
I paid to go on a breastfeeding course as I was feeling anxious and uneducated about it. It was a complete waste of money I came away knowing no more than when I started, rather than focus on techniques or practical tips and things to try if things don’t go perfectly, the classes centred on teaching us how important and necessary breastfeeding is in general. That’s great but what use is that if I can’t actually do it? Ironic that the lack of practical help is probably what cut my breastfeeding journey short. www.everafterwithkids.com
My Son (second baby) had a diagnosed tongue tie – quite a bad one at that – and I went and saw the head lactation consultant and the hospital who gave me different latch techniques to try and told me to come back in 2 weeks if it still hurt. Needless to say, the techniques didn’t help at all and I ended up paying privately to get his tongue tie sorted before a week had even passed. Unfortunately it was too late by then as he was refusing the breast so we moved on to bottle feeding. Was heartbreaking as I wanted to feed him for the same amount of time as my daughter. Things don’t always turn out the way you plan. I had a few weeks of full blown guilt but thankfully it passed and he was much happier on the bottle so I know it was the right decision. www.momoftwo.co.uk
If you found this post useful, please share. If it sounded like your own experience, please also share so maybe we can help raise awareness that more breastfeeding support needs to be provided and knowledge just far more accurate.