Originally posted on http://www.rcm.org.uk/midwives/blog/saying-no-to-breastfeeding/ Royal College of Midwives online
15.27, 19 August 2010
A poll of young women finds a third would shun breastfeeding because they want to avoid saggy boobs. For some, vanity is the overriding factor when weighing up the pros and cons of breastfeeding. It seems a sad indictment of young women’s priorities when a baby’s health comes second to their looks. Or is it?
The survey of 1228 women between 18 and 25 follows the recent furore caused by model Gisele Bundchen who proclaimed there should be a law to force mothers to breastfeed their babies for at least six months.
Half of the women polled by BabyChild.org.uk would fall foul of Gisele’s law because they had no plans to breastfeed. And 32% of them said the main reason was because they did not want to ‘ruin the look of their breasts’. Half of them were afraid of their partner finding them less attractive should this happen.
Another 19% felt ‘uncomfortable’ about the thought of breastfeeding, a quarter of whom said they viewed their breasts as sexual and therefore deemed it inappropriate.
All these arguments seem feeble and bizarre when stacked against the benefits of breastfeeding. What about protecting the baby against obesity, asthma and childhood diabetes? What about helping the baby avoid ear, urine and gastro-intestinal infections?
I suspect that another benefit of breastfeeding would hold greater sway for those polled, which is that it can speed up weight loss during pregnancy.
My reason? Because the young women surveyed were childless and, at their stage of life, sexual attractiveness and looks are of great importance. They have no particular reason to know about the benefits of breastfeeding – more than three quarters of those who were against the idea believed their decision would not harm the baby’s health.
The findings of the poll would be much more worrying if they were the views of pregnant 18 to 25 year olds. But for childless young women to voice an uninformed opinion on breastfeeding is, perhaps, unsurprising.
You can see the full post here: http://community.babycentre.co.uk/journal/jonnyswife/1068635/an_idea
“The thing is – breastfeeding DOESN’T ruin your breasts or make them sag. The research backs this up. It helps your uterus return to it’s former size more quickly, aids the loss of baby weight & protects you from ovarian and breast cancer, all whilst protecting your vulnerable newborn baby from illness & infection – heck it even has properties which kill cancer cells.
A mother’s breasts DO undergo changes, but these are the result of her pregnancy/ies, habits, genetics and more. In other words, if you don’t want droopy breasts, don’t get pregnant - it’s got nothing to do with feeding.
So – it occurred to me. I have breastfed my daughter for 19 months now. My breasts are lovely and I’m proud of how they look as well as what they’ve done! I know lots of women who have breastfed for varying lengths of time & who are also proud of their cleavage. I want to try to dispell the myth that breastfeeding makes your boobs droopy… We’ve heard about the benefits, but we are still resistant. More needs to be done.
If you have breastfed at all – for a week or a year or even longer. Please consider joining my group. It’s not up and running properly yet (no photos), as I’m awaiting an OK from the powers-that-be at BabyCentre. I am hoping it will provide some reassurrance to mothers-to-be concerned about the myth which seems to follow breastfeeding around like a cloud….
This is NOT about debating breast vs formula. I have no wish to make anyone feel guilty. I believe in supporting mothers, not criticising them when things have gone wrong (I am a trained peer supporter). I just want more people to give breastfeeding a try.”
Wow! It’s hard to believe that we are already at week 10. It’s almost the last week, as week 12 is a review session – and I am unable to make it to that one. After that, we have a graduation!
This week’s session was a bit odd. There was a lot of material that the instructor was expected to cover, but much of it we have already covered. One aspect for discussion today was, ‘making breastfeeding work in everyday life’, which was actually the title of week 8.
However, we did have another lively and informative discussion and I am finding myself more confident about asking our instructors for more detailed information. It’s as though I have a small foundation of knowledge and experience, now that it has been organised and digested, and I am ready to build upon that.
This week’s session was titled ‘Breastfeeding in Different Situations’, so we were looking at some of the circumstances that can arise unexpectedly and others that it may be possible to prepare for.
Firstly, our instructor emphasised the importance of new mums finding out as much as they can about breastfeeding antenally and seeing a mother breastfeed if possible. It is also important that new mums are aware of the choices and support available to them in those first few days of their baby’s life. This requires good antenatal care, perhaps with classes in breastfeeding. Our Sure Start centre now offers specific breastfeeding information sessions for antenatal parents, because the 4 antenatal classes just don’t give enough time to devote to breastfeeding.
Armed with this knowledge, mums are better able to understand how breastfeeding their newborn might work, but of course not everything can be planned for.
A few of the unexpected scenarios we discussed were:
Separation of mother & baby and the importance of breast pumps, rest and fluids for mum;
Jaundice in the newborn and the knowledge that breastmilk is superior to formula for treating jaundice, despite the perception of hospital staff;
Illness in the mother and the necessity to keep mum & baby together as much as possible;
Cleft lip and/or palate and Down’s syndrome and learning to breastfeed. These conditions present quite a challenge to breastfeeding, though, as always, breastmilk is superior to formula for feeding babies. Down’s syndrome babies are often able to breastfeed successfully and mums can look for the usual indicators to assess the progression of breastfeeding (changes in stools over the first week, weight gain, wet nappies, content baby).
Cleft lip and/or palate can cause serious difficulties for any method of feeding and cleft palate may make breastfeeding directly impossible. However, expressing is the very best a mum can do for her baby in these circumstances and mums should be given the facilities and encouragement necessary to express in hospital.
It is common now for mums to be aware of cleft lip and/or palate from their ultrasound scan and by the time baby is born, mum will already have received the date for the baby’s first operation. This gives the mum the opportunity to plan a little.
If expression and feeding by bottle, syringe or cup is initiated at birth, it may still be possible to begin breastfeeding directly later on – after surgery. Our instructor mentioned how it is still important for these babies’ mums to know that skin-to-skin contact benefits their baby and that they can offer their breast for comfort, even if they are not actually breastfeeding. I thought that was a great idea, though something I would never have thought of!
Here is another great cultural obstacle in breastfeeding – parenting even – I think. It would seem strange, maybe unacceptable, to offer our breast to our non-breastfeeding baby to comfort them, but why should it? Why is that any different to offering our little finger to suckle on, or to cuddling?
It was interesting to discuss some of the situations that are new to me, but I think what I really got from this week’s session was the need to empower us all.
Many of us will have experienced being told by a doctor, or other health professional, that we must do a particular thing, without being told the most important thing of all – that we have a choice.
My partner and I certainly went through this when our eldest was born. We felt pushed into allowing procedures to be carried out that we weren’t comfortable with and we didn’t think were necessary.
However, four years ago, our second son was seriously ill with meningitis. We were fortunate to have a patient paediatric consultant who wanted to inform us at every step – nevertheless, he had procedures which he felt were necessary. My partner & I found confidence and support in each other and we asked questions frequently and held up procedures when we were not convinced, or when we saw that our son was distressed. Our consultant was very surprised by our attitude, but also very supportive.
The end result was that our son probably went through as many procedures as he would have anyway, but we understood why each one was being performed and when we took our son home, we knew that we had done the best for him.
I would like everyone to be aware of their choices – and to be aware that most decisions don’t need to be made instantly. Feeling part of the decision making process has helped us to overcome the trauma of what happened to our son, leaving us without feelings of guilt.
This week’s session was about ‘Understanding Baby Needs from Infancy to Toddlerhood’ and it was reassuring to realise that we were all aware of almost all the information that we discussed – particularly regarding new babies.
However, there were a couple of points raised that I found especially interesting and I would like to learn more about.
Firstly, the subject of weaning onto solids. Having had five children over a nine year period, I can vouch for the fact that recommendations on weaning have changed dramatically! With my eldest, I wanted to exclusively breastfeed for as long as possible, but I found an overwhelming amount of advice to begin solids, to help my baby sleep better. The earliest recommended time for weaning then was 14 weeks and so that is what I did. Well, my boy loved food, but he didn’t sleep any better! You’d think that I would have learned from that experience, but I ended up following the same advice not once, but twice, more – with no.s 2 and 3! With my third, I had already heard that WHO were advising six months exclusive breastfeeding and I was crushed when the GP advised weaning at 4 months to help his reflux (as well as his sleeping, which it didn’t).
With no.4 I dug in my heels. Despite poor weight gain and reflux which put no.3 in the shade, I breastfed exclusively for six months – and I did the same with no.5.
So I was really pleased to find that the current Health Authority advice is a definite trend towards ‘baby-led weaning’. That sounds more natural to me, although I hardly know what it means. Wait til six months, offer finger foods (if baby will take them)…. This is all so different from the advice in baby books 11 yrs ago! Can anyone out there tell me anymore?
I had a bit of a Eureka! moment when I was thinking about this the other day. When I began this course, I didn’t think that I had had any particular difficulties breastfeeding. However, I have come to a realisation. It’s been a long time since I felt the need to ask advice about parenting – mainly because I have found I can quietly discover things within a book, without having to consider refusing the advice of the person I have asked, if I didn’t like the sound of it. Thinking back to that time when my eldest was not sleeping well and I was looking for a solution, I was met with the advice to begin solids from both health professionals and relatives and, although I wasn’t happy about it, I followed that advice (and actually felt more disappointed when it failed). It only just occurred to me this week that that advice is the same as saying that my breastmilk was not enough for my 3 month old baby and that if I had stopped to think about how capable my body would be at providing milk for twins, I would have seen how ridiculous that was. I never really saw that as a breastfeeding difficulty, but of course it was. In fact, the difficulties with sleep and my eldest became such a problem for me that I embarked on sleep-training when he was 5 months old. He slept through the night within 3 days and I was incredibly relieved, but that, combined with his early weaning and love of food, led us down the path of reducing my supply. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but when I fell pregnant when no.1 was eight months, he no longer showed any interest in breastfeeding – although I would have happily continued through my pregnancy.
The other discussion I found fascinating was about ‘nursing-strikes’. I have read a little about this. On occasions a baby may refuse to breastfeed – and this may continue for up to four days! This is obviously very distressing for the baby’s parents and we were given some advice on how to support a mother through a nursing strike:
We must reassure mum that it will pass;
Bottles and dummies should not be offered (in fact, nipple confusion can be the cause of a nursing strike);
Mum should express, to keep up her supply;
It is important that mum rebuilds her baby’s trust with calm, peace & quiet, skin-to-skin contact and avoiding separation from her baby, if at all possible.
There may be other ways to get the baby interested in feeding again, for example: attempting a feed when baby is very sleepy, trying different positions and walking with or rocking the baby.
There are many things that can cause a nursing strike. For example: fright, illness, teething, distractions/interruptions, long separation from mum, a change in routines and arguments or disruptions in the house.
Have you experienced a nursing strike? Did you manage to overcome it? Please write a comment if you can.
Finally, we talked about instances where we had met a new mum experiencing difficulties and had not found a way to help (or, had been that new mum and had not been able to get help from other experienced mums).
I fall into the first category, as I found it extremely difficult to pinpoint the problem when my relative was having difficulties breastfeeding – and my frustration was compounded by the huge changes that would occur in just 24hrs. 24hrs is such a long time in the life of a newborn and his mum, but a mere blink of an eye to the rest of us!
Our instructor reassured us by saying that for breastfeeding difficulties involving newborns, it is vital to spend lots of time with the mother. Only by doing this will we develop a full awareness of the difficulties the mother and the baby are experiencing.
I am sure I must be more prepared for my role of supporting breastfeeding than when I began this course, but I still worry that I might be met with that situation again – where I don’t know what I can offer to help. At least I am aware now of the team of people who can be called upon to help alongside myself.
We’re two thirds of the way through the course now and I am a little clearer on what will be expected of me in my role as Breastfeeding Peer Counsellor.
Last week I attended a one day training workshop in ‘Foundation Skills for Helpline Workers’, with the Telephone Helpline Association (THA), for a role that I have taken up with another organisation. It was a fascinating day, but I was surprised at the great difference between my helpline role and my Breastfeeding Peer Counsellor role, which became apparent throughout the day.
The biggest difference is that it is not considered good practice to talk about yourself in the helpline world – and this is something I can very much understand. In a role-play exercise where I did exactly that, it became obvious to me that my focus had shifted from the caller’s story to my own. My mind was thinking of responses before the caller had finished speaking. I was no longer listening.
The expectations of Breastfeeding Counsellors are quite different. Research consistently says that the best people to support mums in breastfeeding are other mums – women who have experience of breastfeeding, who have developed confidence and have ‘mother wisdom’ (in the words of La Leche League) to share and reassurance to give.
We are actively encouraged to share tips and stories, in support of keeping mums breastfeeding – and there the line is drawn in a slightly different place to the helpline worker. In my role as peer counsellor, I need to develop the skills to offer my experience as information where necessary, but to hold back from being pushy, emotional or overloading the mum with too much information. This support is reassurance, sharing, kindness – without persuasion.
This difference of skills is reflected in the title on my ID card:- Breastfeeding Supporter. Not Counsellor, not Peer Counsellor even, because the role isn’t exactly counselling.
And this week’s session was a discussion of the information we have to share (our ‘mother wisdom’!) on ‘Getting Ready for Baby and Ideas to Make Breastfeeding Work in Day-to-Day Living’. It was fun to discuss our stories and I would also love to read yours – so please add a comment if you can think of any really useful tips.
Our instructor encouraged us to become familiar with the latest practices in birth-care and in the latest items available for babies and mums in the shops.
She also passed around some fabulous teaching aids, some of which you may have come across:
Now I have a couple of these, bought from Lisa at Lactivist.co.uk, but we were also advised to obtain a puppet (or a pattern for knitting one perhaps?) of a baby, whose mouth will open wide – like a sock puppet. I have searched around, but I can’t find one. If anyone knows of any that are suitable, please let me know.
-Marbles, illustrating babies’ tummy sizes;
These are fantastic! Very simple, but they illustrate perfectly the size of a baby’s tummy at four ages between birth and 10 days. They were free from the Medela website, but that was some time ago and they may not be available anymore. I want some!
-Breastfeeding dolls and breasts;
I wasn’t so keen on these. The breast was quite good – and it was possible to feel a lump and show how to massage it – but the doll was quite rigid. I didn’t think it would be that useful to show different positions.
We then went off into groups to discuss our practical tips for making those first few days of breastfeeding as easy as possible – and there were many! It made me realise how much easier it is when you’ve done it before and so how useful it could be to a new mum to know some of what might help.
I think my favourite (which I’d never heard before) is to stay in your pyjamas, because it sends a message to older children and visitors that you’re not available for household chores, making cups of tea, etc. – that your focus is on your baby. I suppose it might prompt a visitor to offer to hold the baby whilst you have a shower, but then I guess you could accept and then put on a fresh pair of PJs!