Why breastfeeding has gone tits up

October 25, 2018

 

 

The World Health Organisation recommends that mothers exclusively breastfeed their babies for the first six months until the children start eating solids. Supplementary breastfeeding is then encouraged up to two years or beyond.

 

However, stats for 2017/18 reveal that only around 4 in 10 new mums are actually breastfeeding their babies when they are six weeks old and that there is massive disparity in breastfeeding rates across the country. In my borough: Tower Hamlets in East London, 8/10 babies are being breastfed at 6 weeks old, compared to fewer than 1/5 babies in Knowsley, Merseyside.

 

I trained with the Breastfeeding Network (BfN) to become a Breastfeeding Helper in Tower Hamlets because our breastfeeding rates were so low. BfN volunteers run drop-in sessions across the borough, every single day except for Saturday and the freephone helpline offers incredible support out of hours countrywide. Clearly, the support now in place across the borough is having a positive impact, but there is still so much work to be done - and we’re doing quite well in comparison to other parts of the country. Despite the policies and campaigns, from the NHS Start4Life, midwives and other healthcare professionals, to promote and support breastfeeding, it would seem that the messages simply aren’t being heard. 

 

As a breastfeeding mum of two, I am not afraid to admit that breastfeeding isn’t always easy. Becoming a tandem feeding mum has definitely not been easy and continues to present me with daily - and nightly - challenges. However, I have sought out support: lots and lots of support over the years, and I continue to do so, from all manner of sources. I am now on a mission to pay that support forwards.

 

The key to it all, in my humble opinion, is education. Expectant mums need to seek out support antenatally, before their baby is hungry and they have no idea what to do. New mums need to know what breastfeeding is all about - the ups and the downs, the highs and the lows: just how teeny tiny a newborn’s tummy really is and how little they need in those first few days of life; the role of colostrum; the principles of skin-to-skin; how our bodies work to produce milk and sustain supply; how best to support our babies and ourselves as we learn to feed together; how to recognise feeding cues; the dangers of interval feeding; the realities of life with a breastfed baby; what to wear; different feeding positions; how to co-sleep safely; the benefits of babywearing; how to recognise when to ask for support; when and where to find support; ways birth partners can offer their support and all the ways they can bond with their breastfed baby; the benefits of breastfeeding for the baby including: protection from infections, nutritional balance, a lower chance of sudden infant death syndrome, childhood leukaemia and allergies and a lower risk of developing diabetes or become overweight when they are older; the benefits for mum: bonding and burning off calories, lowered risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. 

 

There is so much to learn and indeed unlearn about breastfeeding.

 

Ultimately, as your baby’s mum, whether you choose to breastfeed or not, is entirely your informed decision, but please know this: there is so much help and support available. From free or paid for antenatal classes; in person drop-in sessions, like the ones run by the BfN; on the other end of a free-phone helpline; from books; lactation consultants; via other breastfeeding mums; at fantastic in-person support groups like the free monthly Tower Hamlets Family Meet Up which happens at Poplar Union on the 1st Thursday of every month from 10:30am as well as an amazing selection of global online support groups. 

 

The world is full of helpers - please seek them out and know that you are not alone.

 

All the love xxx

 

Helen Wright, Founder of BirthWright, lives in Wapping, East London, with her partner and their two young children. In her life BC (Before Children), Helen was a primary school Assistant Headteacher, specialising in the Early Years. However, since becoming a mum, she is now a massive advocate for positive birth and is on a mission to help as many families as she can, to have the right births, indeed the best births, for them and their babies. Helen is an IPEN Certified Placenta Remedies Specialist and the London-based IPEN Trainer, a Positive Birth Coach, KG Hypnobirthing Teacher, creative genius behind BirthWright Affirmation Cards, a breastfeeding peer supporter and cohost of a monthly meet up and support group for parents in East London. 

 

Head over to Facebook to join her group: The Pregnancy, Birth and Parenthood Village and follow her adventures over on Instagram.

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