Breast is best?

I can’t stand it when mums who choose to bottle-feed are criticized by other women as being bad mothers. Breastfeeding may not be the right fit for everyone, but it saddens me when I come across women whose choice about how to feed their babies is not an informed and responsible one.

This may sound a little extreme but I think that before making a final decision about feeding, every woman should at the very least try breastfeeding for the first six weeks of their baby’s life. Before you accuse me of being one of those chicks that I myself love to hate, let me explain how I arrived at this opinion.

Of the mothers I know, around half breastfed while the other half put their babies straight onto formula. Of those that bottle-fed from the outset, only a very small minority did so because they were physically unable to breastfeed. The rest chose formula feeding because of misconceptions or misinformation about breastfeeding or for selfish lifestyle reasons. Amongst their reasons for not breastfeeding were:
• “I deserve to be able to drink and party again now that I’m not pregnant.”
• “Bottle-feeding is the only way to make sure that my husband doesn’t get out of helping with the baby.”
• “Bottle-feeding is the only way to make sure that my baby is getting enough.”
• “Formula is just a good as breast milk.”
• “Breastfeeding is weird.”

In contrast, I’ve met many mums who have endured some major hurdles but sought assistance and went on to successfully breastfeed. Among these were women who suffered bouts of severe mastitis or cracked nipples, gave birth prematurely, experienced issues lactatingbas well as those who returned to work shortly after giving birth but persisted nonetheless. It was after hearing these mothers’ stories that I realized that when presented with the facts about breastfeeding and its benefits, most women will commit themselves to it and make it work regardless of their circumstances. Coupling knowledge with the right support from health workers, family and friends, most mums will continue to breastfeed for as long as they can.

I think that a large part of the reason that many women these days are choosing formula over breast milk is that we are led to believe that breastfeeding is something that is supposed natural and easy. It is in fact a new skill that both mother and baby must learn, which can be especially difficult in to begin with. I remember the early weeks of breastfeeding my first child Alisha being so painful it made my toes-curl, but the longer I persisted, the easier it got.

Most lactation consultants advise that “establishing” or learning how to breastfeed takes around six weeks. It is for this reason that I think unless there is some medical reason not to, all mums should give breastfeeding a go for at least the first six weeks. It isn’t easy, but by educating yourself beforehand on the benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and baby, you’ll have all the motivation you need to persevere.

To learn about breastfeeding and its benefits, visit the following sites:

http://www.nhs.uk/Planners/breastfeeding/Pages/breastfeeding.aspx

http://www.breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk/

http://live.unicef.org.uk/babyfriendly/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/health/physical_health/child_development/newborn_feeding.shtml