The results from the 2012 Infant Feeding Survey have been released this week. It polled 10,000 women and the findings include:
81 in 100 women start breastfeeding (up from 76 in 2005)
46 in 100 are exclusively breastfeeding at one week
23 in 100 are exclusively breastfeeding at 6 weeks
1 in 100 are exclusively breastfeeding at 6 months – but 1/3 of the women were still breastfeeding and combining it with formula feeds
Common reasons cited for stopping breastfeeding were:
problems with baby rejecting the breast or not latching on properly~
having painful breasts or nipples
women feeling that they had ‘insufficient milk’.
Being formula fed themselves and if none of their friends were or have breastfed can also have an impact on whether women start or keep breastfeeding.
For me this highlights the need for more support in those early days when new mums are adjusting and climbing the steepest learning curve. I feel sad and angry that women who want to breastfeed are not supported or do not know where to go for additional support and advice.
Feeding is such an emotive subject. As mothers, we want to get it right, we want our babies to thrive so, when we need it, the information has to be clear and the support actually supportive – not rushed or conflicting, which is the reality for lots of new mums. And this is not a criticism of individual health workers, it is a criticism of the busy, over burdened system which can fail new mums when they are vulnerable.
It’s no wonder women stop breastfeeding – either because they feel like they have no choice or they have reached a point where they are so sore, knackered and emotional that the only way forward is to switch to formula. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with formula feeding but, when women want to continue to breastfeed, having to make the decision to switch can be heartbreaking.
If you want to breastfeed your baby but you’re not sure what you are doing, if it doesn’t feel right, ask for help from your midwife or your health visitor who may be able to put you in touch with local breastfeeding supporters and groups. There is also a supportive La Leche League group for parents on Tyneside.
And please do think about a postnatal doula too – it’s not expensive and having someone who can spend time with you to provide ongoing support and to answer any questions or concerns could make a huge difference, by easing any feelings of isolation and helping to boost your confidence about feeding and adjusting to life with your baby.