As part of World Breastfeeding Week, our editor Suzie spoke to The Baby Clinic about the trials and tribulations of breast versus bottle.
Running from August 1 -7, World Breastfeeding Week aims to raise awareness of the positives of feeding your baby the breast. With a focus on nutrition, poverty reduction and an aspiration of increase the number of women breastfeeding worldwide.
Strangely, I feel a lot less sensitive about the subject now that it no longer has a direct impact. I breastfed both of my children, which at times was excruciating painful, hilarious and wonderfully emotional. If I ever have another baby, which I’ll admit is highly unlikely, I feel that I could shrug off my earlier inhibitions.
I left restaurants because I couldn’t get the blanket over my son’s head, therefore revealing my breast, leaving me mortified and wanting to go home. I sat in friend’s houses and had them point out that my breasts were spraying my son in the face, there was blood mixed with milk as I tried to painfully express when it just wasn’t working. And then there were the moments when it actually worked and I looked down at my daughter and felt an emotional mess, bursting with love.
My son was born by caesarean and I was given a general anaesthetic. This meant by the time I woke up the poor lad was starving, and even though I successfully breast fed immediately, he was still ravenous. So, without hesitation I topped him up with some formula, and then carried on the breast feeding as normal. The boy was hungry. He needed to be fed. And no, I didn’t feel like a failure.
I’ve heard many, many stories from friends, relatives and those I don’t even know, about the struggle to breastfeed. It seems it’s rarely easy and is a definite skill that needs mastering!
Which is why we spoke to Kathie Kendal of The Baby Clinic, who helps mums breastfeed successfully.
“Outside of contacting us for a tailor-made plan or home visit, there are many helpful organisations both locally and nationally. Women have access to free helplines and locally there are breastfeeding support groups run by peer supporters,” says Kathie.
“Breastfeeding is a skill which has to be learnt, and as we know, it is much easier to learn a skill from someone with knowledge and experience, so I really encourage mums to find someone who can help them through the sticky patches.”
Aside from the fact that breastfeeding means no sterilising, purchasing refills or washing up, once you’ve got it cracked breastfeeding can be easier than bottle feeding. That said many women find breastfeeding in public a daunting prospect. Forward planning is the key, according to Kathie:
“You’ll feel more comfortable when wearing the right clothing. There are tops and dresses, which are designed to have easy and discreet access to the breasts, which may boost a woman’s confidence by limiting her exposure. Check the internet for the town or place that you’re visiting, as you may be able to find shops or areas with a dedicated, private room to feed.”
Feeling self-conscious in public isn’t the only thing that can put women off breastfeeding. Kathie explains that some feel that their breasts are sexual and the thought of feeding from them may jar with that association. Others feel pressure from people close to them not to breastfeed.
“Lots of women believe that breastfeeding will change the shape of their breasts unfavourably, but unfortunately that is part of the hormonal journey of pregnancy,” says Kathie.
In my instance, I even considered a boob job as my breasts changed so dramatically after pregnancy and breastfeeding. However, I’m glad I didn’t take that option, as four years later, they’re (almost) back to the way they were. If surgery is something you’re considering post baby, I’d say it’s worth giving it some time to let your body recover before making any quick decisions.
So, if our bodies are going to change, and it’s a tricky task to master, why do we bother? As Kathie explains: “The benefits of breastfeeding and breastmilk are vast and not yet completely discovered. From reducing the risk of cancers, asthma, obesity and cardio vascular disease, to providing protection from infections and diseases, breastmilk is completely tailored to the individual baby or babies it is nourishing.
“It adjusts to the environment and needs of the baby on a feed to feed basis ensuring that baby is provided with the optimum nutrition and protection needed at that time.”
How long you choose to breastfeed for is a very personal choice, says Kathie. “Children don’t actually lose the ability to breastfeed until around the age of eight, and there is undoubtedly nutritional and emotional value. I hope very much that whether a mother feeds for six days, six weeks, six months or six years, she is supported in her choice and feels free to do what she feels is right for her child.”
Worldwide breastfeeding rates are low, Kathie has some thoughts as to why. “I feel that rates are low due to improper and inadequate early support. Few women spend more than a couple of hours in hospital after birth, and those who do may see several members of staff, all of whom could offer totally different advice from one another.
“Whilst there is much support in the community, it can be hard to leave the house in those important first days and weeks, and even house calls from professionals may not be enough. Small problems can quickly escalate and then the feeling of failing just adds to the demise of breastfeeding.”
With all this said the decision not to breastfeed should not be considered a ‘wrong’ decision. If you choose to breastfeed, well done you. If you choose not to breastfeed, well done you. The decisions you make are ultimately right for you and your baby.
The Baby Clinic is based in the South West and specialises in spending time with clients, sitting with them for several feeds, helping them make adjustments and learning what works for them and their baby or babies. Often, they will work with women out of hours and through the night so they’re confident in putting their new skills to use.
For more information visit www.thebabyclinic.co.uk or call Kathie on 07976889050.