Friday, 30 October 2009

Breastfeeding

I am passionate about breastfeeding. Neither of my children have ever had formula milk and they never had breastmilk from any container except my breast either. My 4.5 year old is still breastfeeding at least once a day. I say these things not to be smug or implicitly criticise anyone who did things differently but because I am really proud of them as my own achievements. And I also want to link to this article telling the truth about breastfeeding versus bottle-feeding.

Many women I've known have talked about the pressure to breastfeed and feeling angry about that, but I actually think that most women are lied to about the reality of bottle-feeding and many would be shocked and upset to learn the risks they are running for their babies' lives.

I don't think more pressure is what's needed. I think there needs to be more support and sharing of experience if problems are encountered, more support allowing women to take the time they need to feed their babies, more normalising of breastfeeding which is after all the normal way of feeding an infant rather than the highly artificial and unnatural bottle feeding.

Having watched a programme in the evening on a channel with adverts recently, which I haven't done for a while, I've been shocked at the kind of baby milk advertising that's allowed. After all, so many people boycott Nestle for just such promotion in developing countries, maybe we need a boycott of the people who make and show these adverts here.

The answers aren't simple. The reasons women don't breastfeed are social and economic and cultural. many women think they 'can't' breastfeed when they encounter a problem which can actually be solved with the correct advice, but they don't get the correct advice.

I'm not going to go into all the reasons here that are covered in the article, and before anyone flames me. Yes, I know breastfeeding isn't always easy, particularly in our culture where we don't grow up subconsciously learning how to do it from our mothers, sisters, aunts and friends. I know it can be hard to get support and I know their are special circumstances in which bottle feeding is necessary, in which case it is a lifesaver.

However, it is still the case that bottlefed babies are twice as likely to die in the first 6 weeks of life than breastfed babies. Twice as many! How many people learned that fact in their antenatal classes? The World Health Organisation considers formula milk to be 4th best for babies - so not even 2nd or 3rd best, in fact 4th best, their absolutely least preferred option. Baby junk food in fact. And the NHS spends £35 million a year on treating gastroenteritis in bottlefed babies. Maybe some of this should be covered in birth preparation classes so women can make a truly informed choice.

See La Leche League for help with breastfeeding.

3 comments:

Devonmama said...

Liz, you mirror my thoughts on this subject, but put it much more eloquently than I could. It breaks my heart when I even hear of breast being compared to bottle feeding - there is no comparison! It was developed for orphans and foundlings for heaven's sake, doesn't that say something? Here's hoping that the tide will soon turn and all children will be given the very best start xx

arwen_tiw said...

Bravo, Liz, you talk a lot of sense - as usual. ;)

Laura said...

Great post again. You really do explain your position well, and its also mine. Very truthful. :)
xx