The Many Solutions to the Challenges of Breastfeeding
Just in case you had your head in a paper bag these last few days (with holes in of course) this week is National Breastfeeding Week in the UK. Designed to raise awareness of breastfeeding and the positive effects for mum and baby. We don’t often talk about the challenges but we’d be lying if we said there weren’t hurdles along the way. In this guest post, Greatvine expert and independent breastfeeding counsellor Nicola Dunford talks about expectations of breastfeeding and how to manage them.
From the moment we discover we are pregnant anything to do with our developing child is an emotive issue. When should I tell everyone? Should I have tests for this and that? Am I a bad parent if I don’t splash out on the ‘super safe’ buggy travel system? Feeding your infant is one such issue that causes so much conversation, and sadly controversy and worry.
As a mum of two young boys and an independent breastfeeding counsellor I have heard the same issues and concerns raised time and time again. One of the most common problems for families seems to be expectations of breastfeeding are very different to reality. As with many child rearing aspects we have input from so many sources, the old wives tales and myths, horror stories from our ‘friends’ and a barrage of media input. It’s difficult to resist trawling the internet to find information but it’s a hotbed of negativity. Stories from bloggers moaning that their meal is spoiled by mums feeding their offspring in restaurants, newspapers reporting stories of mums being thrown off buses because they ‘got their boobs out’ to feed their baby and rows about magazine covers depicting sensationalised breastfeeding stories to increase their sales. It’s rare to see positive media coverage of breastfeeding.
One massive area that concerns me both as a parent and as a breastfeeding supporter is the lack of consistency of messages and information. On the one hand we are delivered messages of support for breastfeeding highlighting the undisputed health benefits to mother and baby. On the other hand we have infant formula cartons claiming to be ‘closer than ever to breastmilk’, and product manufacturers lulling us into a sense of warm fuzziness with their free gifts and ‘baby clubs’……proceed with caution all you parents and bare in mind that when all is said and done these companies are aiming to raise their brand profile and sell you some products!
In my view there is no one solution that suits every situation. When parents are making decisions about how to feed their child, what they need is accurate, unbiased information delivered in an empathetic way without trying to sell you products that you don’t really need. They need to know what is normal and what is not, and when it’s time to ask for help and support. My rule of thumb would be if you feel pain you need support. Whatever you have heard or read ‘normal’ breastfeeding does not have to be painful and if it is for you then I would urge you to seek professional breastfeeding support and advice. If you are distressed or confused emotionally about feeding issues you also need support and the correct person can make a huge difference and allow you to make considered decisions rather than knee jerk reactions that you may regret later. There are so many variables with breastfeeding and the parameters of ‘normal’ are so wide that when all is said and done you need both factual information and advice coupled with empathetic support to unravel your own thoughts and feelings and empower yourself to achieve what feels right for you.
I recently supported a single mum with 9 day old twins. She was struggling greatly with inconsistent information and advice alongside the usual hormonal and emotional roller-coaster immediately after giving birth. I spent time helping her to sift through the information she had been given and decide what she wanted to do, whilst enabling her to vocalise her feelings and thus understand better what she wanted to achieve. The simple act of taking the time to thoroughly think about her feelings enabled her to prioritise her goals. She was kind enough to email me her thoughts afterwards and here is a quote.
“The single question of ‘What are my breastfeeding goals?’ is something I have asked myself in more depth since the consultation, this question made me realise that breastfeeding for me is so much more than just providing my young with the best nutritional & protective properties, it is about how I feel when I breastfeed each baby, about the bond and the love that it brings out in all of us as a little family. Nicola made me realise this and this has helped to clarify the importance of breastfeeding both babies to me.”
You can contact Nicola via her Greatvine profile to discuss your breastfeeding issues and get professional, supportive advice from the comfort of your own home! She’s one of the many experts on health, well-being, and lifestyle you can access via Greatvine.
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