Yup, nothing is sacred in our household.
World Breastfeeding Week is this year focusing on support for breastfeeding mums.
I think support is paramount in being able to breastfeed and often goes hand in hand with education. You don’t need a degree to pass on knowledge or to support a new mum.
The vast majority of Australian babies are breastfed from birth, but somewhere in those first few weeks, the rate of exclusively breastfed babies drops off significantly. And it’s important to note that many mums who stop early on don’t want to. With my first baby, despite pretending otherwise, I was one of those mums. The second time around, I read, I listened, I asked and I still struggled with it, but I was lucky enough to be so very well supported- by my husband, by the community LCs and by a wonderful group of women on a parenting forum. This third resource was such a wealth of experience and knowledge. The support and understanding offered to me so freely by other mums who had breastfed is something I couldn’t have persevered without- it is a big part of why I’m still breastfeeding today. The knowledge and support of peers carried me through the painful bad latch, the low supply, the difficulties of comp feeding, the bout of mastitis and the struggle to rebuild my supply again.
I’m not the only one who has been able to breastfeed thanks to the advice of other mums-far from it. Historically, this is how women learned to feed- during their day to day lives, they saw breastfeeding constantly and helped each other to learn when the time came- other than wet nursing, there was no alternative. There was no infant formula or lactation consultants-just each other. The trend of successful breastfeeding from a strong peer support network, while not new, is now being actively encouraged, such as the trial being conducted by La Trobe University, where they are setting up new mums with a peer mum experienced in breastfeeding. The idea being that new mums can ring the more experienced mum for advice. I think it’s a fantastic idea and you can read more about it here.
I guess the message is, if you have breastfed and know a thing or two about it, the most valuable thing you can do with that knowledge is to share it. I bought a few books about breastfeeding and most are kind of intimidating to read. It’s a block of information, almost like someone delivering a speech and then not answering questions afterwards. Whereas reaching out to another mum, something as simple as “Hey, my baby wants to feed for like 3 hours in the evening- NON STOP!! Did that happen to you? Is it normal?” And hearing (or in my case, reading) that yes, it is, is so reassuring. Supportive mums groups, peer groups and online parenting forums are like a brains trust that we all should be able to access when it comes to breastfeeding.
I have heard so many stories of GPs being unsupportive of breastfeeding past the first few months, and experienced it myself when my own doctor shrugged off my supply issues, refused to prescribe motilium and told me to formula feed my 6 week old. I think the fact that Australian GPs receive little to no education in this area is also reflected in our low rates of full term breastfeeding. The World Health Organisation says:
“Breastfeeding is the normal way of providing young infants with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development. Virtually all mothers can breastfeed, provided they have accurate information, and the support of their family, the health care system and society at large.
Colostrum, the yellowish, sticky breast milk produced at the end of pregnancy, is recommended by WHO as the perfect food for the newborn, and feeding should be initiated within the first hour after birth.
Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.”
And this is exactly what I told my doctor. If your GP is unsupportive, maybe direct them to this information. Hopefully it will spur them on to doing their own research and they might be more supportive of the next struggling mum to sit in their office.
If you know someone that is breastfeeding but haven’t done so yourself, you can still be supportive. You can not freak out if they feed in public or you can just tell them they are doing a great job. Every bit of support helps!
Human milk is the perfect food for babies, contains immunological benefits and is just generally awesome, makes children smarter, more attractive, gives a keener eye for real estate purchases and almost guarantees future instant scratch lotto ticket wins will always be above the purchase price of the ticket. Ok, maybe not all that. But it is easily digested, good for baby’s immune system and free! Breastfeeding is also instant comfort for most babies and that in itself is worth just as much as the nutritional benefits for me. It also has health benefits for mum, helping to protect against certain cancers and allegedly helping mums to shed their baby weight sooner (I’ll let you know when that one kicks in haha!) So if you’re hoping to breastfeed or struggling with some aspect of it- reach out. Ask another mum you know, ask your mum, ask your mums group, go to an ABA meeting, ask online- just ask, because the support is there and with breastfeeding, the support of your peers is invaluable.