.....it is 'Breastfeeding awareness week' and with that I have joined the 'Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt' again.
And the week starts with a piece in the Guardian 'Breastfeeding figures fall as NHS budget is cut' (http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2013/jun/22/breastfeeding-figures-fall-nhs-cuts) and I am getting worried that we will end up with a new wave of breastfeeding promotion that is doing more harm than good.
Surely I am wrong there: "All breastfeeding promotion is good - isn't it?"
Let me give you an example:
A normal Maternity ward - Breastfeeding posters everywhere, the Midwifes promoting breastfeeding, all the leafleats telling parents how important and superior (no it isn't by the way - it is normal) breastfeeding is and more and more women decide there are going to give it a try, as we all want what is best for our children.
And then birth happens - often with a lot of interventions, which put road blocks in the way of breastfeeding (were the parents made aware of the consequences of their choices?). Afterwards there is often little or contradictory support on the wards, so mums go home already feeling discouraged or like a failure.
In the community there is very little support as the Midwifery services are often over stretched and the GPs often don't have enough breastfeeding training to pick up more complicated matters (like tongue ties) - a lot of slack is picked up by the voluntary breastfeeding supporters, but there is only so much you can do as a volunteer who also has a family to support.
And not everyone knows about the support that is out there or has the energy to contact them, so - often with a heavy heart - formula comes into the picture. The mother's self-esteem is shattered, the partner is worried about the physical and mental health of mum and baby and a lot of guilt for both parents is croping up, not helping the situation.
What a bleak picture and sadly one I all to often encounter.
As great as it is that breastfeeding is promoted and science keeps pointing out ever so more the things breastmilk does for our health and the environment - promotion without a support system and good training (and staffing levels) of the health professionals who are to support the parents is not good enough - all it does is make parents feel like failures and induce guilt for not succeeding.
I think parents and babies deserve better
Breastfeeding - once you have ironed out the kinks - is a lovely way of parenting and I wish that all the parents who want to raise their children this way, get the support they need to achieve it - without emotional blackmail or bullying.
The good news is: You don't need to know anything about breastfeeding to offer support!!
Support is: Offering to do the shopping, so parent's can catch up on sleep.
Cooking a meal.
Knowing where to send people to find good breastfeeding information and support.
Respecting parents feeding choices.
Getting used to the normal sight of a child breastfed in public and creating nice spaces (they don't need to be hidden away)
to do so.
......I am sure you can think of more ways to support
Let's work together to get parents/families the support they need.
You might also be interested in visiting these websites:
Jodie May Smith: http://lifewithpinkprincesses.co.uk/
The secret life of Kate: http://www.thesecretlifeofkate.blogspot.co.uk/
Smiling like sunshine: http://www.smilinglikesunshine.com/
Barefoot Books: http://www.barefootbooks.com/marketplace/38341