The second question/assumption after my due date enquiry by my gp was ‘I assume you are breastfeeding again this time’ This made me a little mad the first time and a litter madder this time. Don’t get me wrong, I like my gp I had a good breastfeeding experience but that may not have been the case and I can tell you one thing whilst it might be the best route of possible it most certainly ain’t the easiest but more on that later. I find this question funny because the assumption is that you will, but the support and facilities are not there to support women who actually do choose this path.
Earlier in the year stats were released that stated only 55% of women choose to breastfeed and that is the lowest uptake in 27 high income countries, reported The Irish Times. I would also say this statistic is one that is written on a form when baby is born and when mum and baby leave the hospital and the reality of breastfeeding kicks in with the massive changes that have just occurred in your life this percentage easily drops.
You regularly see articles about women being shamed when breastfeeding publicly and this is most certainly a hurdle you have to overcome on your first. Again it must be back to our culture but you certainly feel a little uncomfortable ‘whipping them out’ in a cafe, albeit subtly on those first few occasions. When you think of it, it’s a little ridiculous and such a shame as when it works breastfeeding is such a miraculous thing really and should be applauded not hidden behind big shawls and uncomfortable facades.
I write this piece due to the recent talk of ‘Breastfeeding Welcome’ signs being introduced as reported by The Journal and with the initiative coming from The First 1000 days, if you haven’t heard about them until now you should definitely check them out.
I think this would be welcome but what does it say about the establishments that choose not to display this sign or take this approach. Hmmm is all I have to say to that.
I have always thought that there should be no divide between breast feeding mamas and bottle feeding mamas. I met some wonderful women at my breastfeeding group who still remain great friends but in the early days all mamas need support and there wasn’t one bottle feeder at our group. Having said that establishing feeding yourself definitely merits more support that may not always be there. The hospitals are overrun and don’t have the time to dedicate the time needed for those crucial first few days. Support groups are hit and miss depending on your location and you may also find that family may not be as supportive as you hope having come from a different generation and perhaps taken a different method themselves.
I was very lucky, I was with the Domino scheme so whilst I left hospital very quickly I had midwives call to me every day for 6-7 days after Josh was born. They had the time to answer questions, listen to your concerns and give tips on how to get it established. I got engorgement, cracked nipples and felt for those first few days and weeks extremely overwhelmed by being one little precious persons primary food source. My own mum struggled seeing me suffer in pain and suggested bottles early on but one thing I really believe is if you want to give it the best shot you need to push through those first few tricky weeks. Your supply and your baby needs to settle and then once this happens it does become a lot easier. We chose to give Josh a bottle for his last feed at about 4 weeks for a number of reasons and this again worked well for us. It gave mama a little freedom and some extra rest too. It gave Ian a chance to feel like he was helping as dads can feel a bit unnecessarily useless those first few weeks and finally it got Josh used to a bottle early which was helpful later on. I avoided the dreaded mastitis and went on to feed Josh for almost 10 months.
Just for the record I do plan to feed number 2 myself but I will be returning to work earlier so weaning will have to happen earlier too. Josh just naturally stopped which also made this transition seamless for all. Yes the statistics also show that if you can, especially in those early days if you can feed your baby breast milk that is is hugely beneficial to both you and them but as the saying goes.. Happy mama means happy baba and if things don’t work out for you, you don’t have the support network you need then a feeding method that works for the whole family is the best one to choose.