I’ve caught up with the Dispatches program about breastfeeding which was on Channel 4 recently. I couldn’t help but write a blog sharing my opinion on the program and how my breastfeeding experience has been 3 months in.
I cannot believe how weirdly emotional the program made me feel (I’m emotional about everything anyway so nothing new there). I think, for me, I found it emotional just to hear other women feeling the exact same as I feel/felt about breastfeeding. It’s not something that comes naturally like some may believe. It takes practice, commitment, will power and support! The program highlights how unsupported we are in the UK to breastfeed our babies. Luckily for me it went really well and I made sure I was well-informed before I started my breastfeeding journey because I was determined to succeed. However, there are many mum’s out there that would like to breastfeed but they can’t, they struggle to get a good latch, they experience pain (who hasn’t) and any other problems they experience, but they did not get the correct support and they basically gave up trying.
In my opinion, everyone should be able to breastfeed if they wish to, and any problems can be solved with the right support. I was having problems getting Fletcher to latch for a short while and my health visitor was a great help, she taught me how to hold him correctly and almost immediately he’d latched better and problem was solved. So if all women have the best support possible there will be a higher percentage of women that continue to breastfeed. (81% tried breastfeeding, only 34% still breastfeeding at 6 months)
Also, the program highlighted that 64% of women in the UK believe that breastmilk and formula milk is the same. This is just insane and shows how uninformed the UK is! They explained what breastmilk has that formula hasn’t such as: natural painkiller (literally amazing, right?!), it boosts a baby’s immune system big time—helping baby fight viral, bacterial, and parasitic infections, reduce baby’s risk diseases later in life, such as: obesity, low bloody pressure, diabetes etc. Reduces mum’s chances of getting ovarian, breast cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis. If breastfeeding a girl you also reduce her lifetime risk of having breast cancer by 25%! Lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome and breastfeeding mum’s on average sleep 45 minutes more a night than formula feeding mum’s. (This I definitely get, as I will literally put him on the boob in the night, feed him, which luckily for us he takes like 5 minutes, and back to sleep without even getting out of bed) I can’t even begin to list all the complicated things in breastmilk which all helps towards baby’s development – I’m just not intelligent enough for that! But overall, breastmilk is frickin’ magic shit. A mother’s milk can change dependant on their baby’s needs – for example, in hot weather or baby sickness it’s a lot more watery to help hydrate them. Which is why breastfed babies don’t need water in hot weather they just need regular feeding. It’s constantly changing to make the perfect milk as they grow it changes its nutritional profile. It’s just incredible!
In the program a lady was explaining the ingredients in formula. If a mother chooses to use infant formula, this can be used from birth to 1 year. However, it is illegal to advertise/ promote any breastmilk substitutes (bottles, teats, formula). So, because of this law, companies make a “follow on milk” which is from 6 months. This apparently contains no difference to the infant formula it’s just all marketing so they are allowed to advertise it! I just think that’s so misleading for mother’s and just not right. Apparently the same goes for formulas specifically made to help colic etc… She said there is no scientific proof behind these formulas. Again.. it’s all just marketing – like most things, we’re lead to believe things that aren’t proven.
Breastfeeding is a difficult option to begin with, don’t get me wrong. You will find yourself sofa bound, unable to go to the loo, feeding every hour, especially in that first month (the hardest part of the whole journey for me). Awake in the middle of the night (just like any other mum) but with cracked bleeding nipples. Getting in the shower can feel like razors on your nipples, even just putting nipple cream on feels like you’re scratching them with claws. It’s a difficult thing to get through. But just hang in there, use nipple cream, nipple shields, express, whatever you need to do to get that boobie milk doing what it does best! The tough part doesn’t last forever! You just have to continue feeding to get past it, perseverance is the best way!
I can completely understand why mother’s feel deflated and hopeless and end up choosing to move onto formula milk instead. For me, it’s just not an option, especially now that we have Fletcher’s cystic fibrosis diagnosis, I want to supply him with the absolute best to help him fight those viruses and infections in the best way I can! Don’t get me wrong, the thought has crossed my mind, when Fletcher is due his weigh in and he hasn’t put on enough weight, it makes you feel shit! You think, shall I just use formula, he will put on weight then, but then I stop and remind myself why I’m breastfeeding, all of those incredible benefits that comes from it. I spend time trying to feed him just a little longer than normal, making sure his latch is right, responding to each and every feeding cue no matter where or what I’m doing and then come his next weigh in… All is fine and I begin to believe in myself again.
Okay, so apart from the first 6 weeks, the other challenging thing I find is public feeding. Some mum’s don’t think anything of this, and I think they are amazing! Because I have felt nothing but embarrassment, shame and fear towards public feeding. In the program she was feeding in public and one lady’s opinion was “It’s personal between mother and child, it’s not a spectators sport” …. Like really. What a twat! Yes it’s a beautiful, personal bond between mother and child, but she’s hardly flaunting it around the place wanting some form of medal for feeding her baby! If a lady was sat feeding from a bottle people wouldn’t say, that’s personal between mother and child and shouldn’t be public? Just because the teat is a nipple and not a bottle means people feel they are able to judge a breastfeeding mother and make her feel uncomfortable. I for one am glad that it is a law that a mother can breastfeed her child anywhere she likes and therefore it’s illegal to kick her out of a restaurant, cafe, etc. When your thirsty/hungry.. what do you do? You go and get a drink/food, and you select where you’d like to sit and you drink/eat it, without any judgement. Why is it, that when a baby is thirsty/hungry, they aren’t allowed to eat or drink where they want. In fact, it’s not even like they choose a place, babies will not wait around for a suitable location once they are hungry! I get cranky when I’m hungry too mate!
I was in a town center and Fletcher was due a feed, I knew that if I didn’t sit myself somewhere soon I’d have a very unhappy baby within minutes. I usually would find a discreet bench, park, or somewhere out of the way where I wasn’t facing the world. But on this day it was raining and so I went into a cafe. Again, I will usually choose a discreet seat, face the wall or empty table, I will do my best to find the best spot. But on this occasion, the cafe was full all bar one table right in the middle of the busy cafe, by this time, Fletcher is already kicking off. People saying, “aww someone’s tired” (no love, he wants the boob) looking at me already judging me for bringing a crying baby into a cafe where people are enjoying their drinks… how dare I interrupt their natural instinct to hydrate themselves! So I had no choice but to suck it up and sit in the most awkward spot because I knew if I hunted any longer for a suitable location Fletcher would be beside himself. When I sat, I already felt watched and so I had to then make a conscious effort to discreetly get my boob out. Now any breastfeeder will know how much easier it is to get most of your boob out so baby can latch well, but in public, it’s a different story. You get your nipple out of the small space you’ve made out of your many layers of clothing, whilst doing this your baby is wriggling and fidgeting, so your also trying not to let them smash their head against the table in your wonderful small space you have. In this moment, you just feel nothing but flustered. Fletcher was so wriggly he wasn’t latching due to being unable to essentially see my nipple, I may as well have been trying to feed him through my clothing. Poor boy is so hungry desperate just to have milk to satisfy him, and I’m more paranoid about showing the man or woman across the table my boob accidentally. I just wanted to curl up in a ball and die. But I got there eventually, and even then I daren’t look up at anyone around me because I didn’t even want to see if they were cussing me or judging.
Some people will say to cover them with a muslin, but I’m sorry…no. This just doesn’t help anything. My baby’s getting hot under there, I can’t see if he’s latched properly, he’s pushing it out of the way anyway. I’ll just throw a muslin over your face whilst you try to enjoy your drink? Didn’t think so!
This does get easier with practice though, the more you feed in public the easier it is. Getting the right clothing is key to a successful public feed though I must admit. Breastfeeding bras and tops are a god send. Finding a suitable location is still a priority for me, as it does help with a successful latch and happy feed, but sometimes timing just doesn’t work like that. So if you see a mother in distress trying to feed her baby, don’t look at her and scowl, she’s having a tough time as it is. If you happen to look, cast a gaze, then smile at the thought of her feeding her baby liquid gold! Help to make her feel more comfortable by perhaps offering her your seat if you feel you have a better location, or offer her a drink. Or just simply say, well done – it’s not easy but you’re doing a great job!
Nothing beats my visit to John Lewis/The Mall and discovering the parent rooms that have sofas in a private room dedicated to breastfeeding mums. Best thing ever, more of these please?!
How to conquer!
This is my view and opinion on how best to conquer those challenges and become a breastfeeding goddess!
- Will Power
Keep going no matter what! When you think you’re at your wit’s end then seek help! Find your local breastfeeding support group, speak to your health visitor, just know that you are not alone! There are contact numbers and various groups that will help you conquer those issues you’re facing. Tell yourself that you can do it, have faith in yourself. Your mind can play such a big part in your milk production. They say if you are expressing, to look at pictures of your baby or have something that smells like them to help encourage your let down and help your milk flow. There’s definitely truth in this for me, when I’m looking at my baby whilst expressing I can feel my milk flow faster.
You have to be committed to sitting, sofa bound, feeding your child as and when they need it. Drop those plans and spend time responding to each and every one of those feeding cues – especially in that first week or two as this is vital to building up your milk supply to ensure you can provide enough milk. You must be committed to feeding them as and when they want it. They basically have to be on the boob at every cry for the first few weeks.
- Cherish It
Don’t see it as a negative. You are giving your baby the absolute best start in life! Your having the most incredible bonding time and it’s just beautiful. The absolute BEST feeling in the world, without a doubt, is that moment when they are feeding and they look up into your eyes and smile with nipple still in their mouth. I cannot explain how much my heart melts in those moments.
- Be Informed
As I’ve said in a previous blog, I believe my success with breastfeeding came from being informed. I did so much research before he was born, watched videos about latching and I just force-fed myself with all I needed to know. I prepared myself for anything, any challenges that I may face and what to do in those situations, so that I wasn’t surprised by what I had to come. From cracked, bleeding nipples to mastitis and poor latch, tongue tie and all the things that could go wrong. Lucky for me I only had the nipple issues, some poor latching and engorgement (like I had implants I was so full of milk – I think this was due to literally responding to so many feeding cues that my body probably thought I had twins to start with) but I got help and we solved this. Sometimes it just takes getting help.
- Nipple cream
For me, getting through my challenge of painful nipples just needed regular nipple cream before/after feeds. It hurt to apply, showers we’re horrific, but it didn’t last long with regular application and ensuring I was getting a wide open mouth for a deep latch.
- Confidence and Support
Having willpower, commitment and the confidence to breastfeed is ultimately the key ingredient to success. But alongside that you need immense support. A husband that brings a drink, food, whatever you need whilst your sofa bound is just a god send. Someone to tell you that you’re doing a fantastic job, because let’s face it you are! You’re trying and that’s the main thing. If you haven’t got that support, seek it! Whether it’s from family or friends or a contact number or group of like-minded mum’s. Get help if you need it and you’ll get through it.
For anyone who wants to try breastfeeding – believe in yourself, be positive and bloody well done! You can do it! I honestly didn’t think I was going to get through it in the first 6 weeks but I remember a friend saying if I can get past that then I’ll be fine, and she was so right. You have to grit your teeth when your nipples are like razors, you have to hold your pee when you’re busting but sofa bound, you have to seek support when you feel like you’re loosing it, but ultimately it’s what nature intended us to do, so use that will power to get through.
I want to add that I am in no way mum-bashing anyone who chooses to use formula from the start… Some mum’s choose not to breastfeed and that’s fine if that’s what you decide. But for someone who really wants to breastfeed, but just doesn’t feel like they can, yes you can! Keep going because it’s the best decision I made during my pregnancy. I can honestly say that now, breastfeeding is enjoyable. There is zero pain (this was after the first 6 weeks) and I feel so bonded with my boy and it’s just lush!
And think of the money you save!! FREE MILK – WAHOO!