Fed is Best

In 2010, a 39yr old new mother took her own life when her baby was just 10 weeks old because she was suffering from postnatal depression because she was struggling to breastfeed her new baby and the pressure to do so was too much! Have we learned any lessons from this? Sadly, no, over the last 6 years things have got a lot, lot worse.

The pressure to breastfeed or ‘bressure’ as it has been named has almost become a media frenzy with constant stories on ‘brelfies’ or breastfeeding selfies, especially celebrities, or defiant mums claiming they were stopped breastfeeding in places such as swimming pools!

Unfortunately, what is not as appealing to media is the many stories of mums struggling with depression and exhaustion caused by the pressure to breastfeed or the mums excluded from baby groups because they feed by bottle or the baby suffering from anxiety because they’ve been exclusively breastfed and for whatever reason now suddenly need a bottle. Yet these are the reality faced by many mums within their baby’s first year.

I am infuriated by the judgement levied at new mums if they choose to or have to bottle feed and the pressure all new mums are put under at a crucial bonding time to breastfeed. Every baby is unique and so is every pregnancy, birth and new mum!”

Many new mums are under so much pressure to breastfeed when their baby is first born that they struggle, often without any help, and the first days that should be spent relaxed and bonding with baby become fraught and stressful for everyone.

There is not enough useful information about breastfeeding giving to mums, there is just a blanket message of ‘you must breastfeed exclusively’

Every mum and especially new mums know – Breast is Best. We can’t avoid it, we get told it at every opportunity but most of all breastfeeding is in our faces – quite literally!

This blog is not about whether or not I agree or think it appropriate that women breastfeed absolutely anywhere  – that’s another debate!

No, this rant (and I apologise but it is a rant) is about the pressures that are put upon every new mum to breastfeed their baby. There’s the ‘professionals’ that only advocate breastfeeding that vilify those that don’t and even worse for me are the breastfeeding ‘mob’ – the avid breast feeders that positively ostracise a (shock horror) ‘bottle feeder’.

There have tragically been incidents of new mums committing suicide due to the pressure of breastfeeding when for their own reasons they clearly couldn’t. There are enough pressures in life, enough things to make us feel guilty already without constantly putting in our faces that if we DO NOT breastfeed then our babies will be obese or have heart disease or now it seems be less intelligent – according to an article from the BBC.

I couldn’t breastfeed – I write about it and the guilt I was made to feel in my book Babyopathy – baby care the natural way! I have heard an untold number of new mum’s stories of being pushed out of their baby group or even being blatantly ‘verbally abused’ by other mums when bottle feeding!

I wonder on the future of our children when basic compassion seems to be a dying emotion in the very people who should be pure examples of it – we never know someone else’s circumstances (unless we take the time to find out) so do not judge, do not vilify for you never know the damage it may cause!

Those that can’t or chose not to breastfeed feel guilty enough, do not add to it. There are many other factors that can have an influence on your baby’s health and development that you can still play a part of and they are just as important – breastfeeding isn’t the be all and end all of your baby’s development – their home environment, their sleeping patterns, their weaning, you and your partner’s well-being (yes that has an impact too) and don’t get me started on the use of technology and how it is damaging to babies development – that’s a whole other blog!

So my message is not ‘Breast is Best’, my message is ‘FED IS BEST’ and here I diffuse some of the myths and also give my reasons why a bottle can be your friend, even when breastfeeding:

  1. Position is everything.

A newborn baby’s first instinct is to take their first breath, usually resulting in a good cry. Their second is to ‘latch on’. Neonatal instincts include the ‘how’ to do things as well as the ‘need’. For example, look at animals in nature. When it’s time for their babies to feed everything else stops! They lay down, let their babies find their natural instinctive place and a good meal is had by all. Breastfeeding for many new mums is awkward and clumsy and painful! For some it can also be embarrassing or culturally unacceptable to expose their body in public, or even to other family members. This is the reason many give up and also why introducing a bottle is blamed for disrupting breastfeeding. However, this is not how it needs to be.

My Babyopathy programme is very focused on ‘natural parenting’ and the most natural position for breastfeeding is not how it is conventionally taught – that position is the ‘convenient’ way to feed as it means we can do it anywhere, even in a swimming pool!

The Babyopathy way is also the most natural way and mum should lie back and most importantly RELAX! Then lay baby up along your body (belly to belly in effect), a little head bobbing is normal as they instinctively search out your nipple and then they can easily be guided to latch on. This way it should not be painful, mum and baby are relaxed and not stressed and baby is getting a good feed. Once this position has been established and a good latch secured you can gradually move your baby to a more ‘convenient’ position. I would always advocate using a thin scarf to cover both yourself and your baby as this should be a personal moment for you both without distraction. A moment that allows the vital hormone oxytocin to be produced and flow to promote lactation and secure the bond between mum and baby. Many things can affect the production of oxytocin including stress and the stress of surrounding environment etc. So before any ‘any place’ advocates bombard me with abuse, it is not about ‘freedom of breastfeeding’ it is about thinking what is actually best for you and your baby!

  1. Introducing a bottle does NOT disrupt breastfeeding!

This myth has been widely used to reinforce the Government directive to exclusively breastfeed. Exclusive breastfeeding was a message introduced by the World Health Organisation around 10 years ago because of the inappropriate marketing of certain baby milk brands in third world countries causing devastation to those family situations.

The ante-natal information is ‘introducing a bottle will affect a baby’s ability to latch on to the breast’ – there is NO evidence whatsoever that this is true. I have already demonstrated that a baby’s natural instinct is to latch on and once this is established, merely introducing a bottle once a day will not disrupt that inbuilt instinct. After all, giving them a dummy doesn’t, weaning doesn’t so why should a bottle?

  1. A bottle a day!

Introducing one bottle a day can also have a huge positive impact for both mum and baby. For mum, it means they can get some extra, much needed sleep, especially if it is the late night bottle. For baby, it can be an opportunity for Dad or other close family members to bond. It also means that should Mum have to stop breastfeeding suddenly for whatever reason, you don’t have a very stressed and hungry baby!

  1. Diet does affect breast milk.

Breast milk is an amazing feat of nature as it does contain everything your baby needs nutritionally. However, it CAN be affected by what you ingest so here’s some simple tips to remember:

  • Smoking and drugs can pass through your breast milk to your baby. Some prescribed medications are safe but ALWAYS check with your GP first. If you have to take medication yourself for an unexpected medical condition you may have to stop breastfeeding immediately – a reason to have that ‘one-a-day’ bottle (expressed milk or formula) in place.
  • Alcohol can pass through your breast milk to your baby. Whilst I am not an advocate of daily drinking, a glass of wine enjoyed with a well-deserved dinner with your partner will not harm your baby!
  • Trans fat can pass through your breast milk to your baby. Research suggests that trans fat increases the risk of your baby having a high body fat count. Trans fat is found in fried foods, margarines and commercially baked foods etc.
  • Caffeine can pass through your breast milk to your baby. We all know that caffeine can affect sleep patterns and brain function and we certainly don’t want that for our babies! However, again it is moderation, no more than 300mg per day. Just be careful because as well as a cup of coffee – 100-200mg depending on strength, the caffeine in cola drinks and chocolate for example all add up too!
  • Herbs & spices also pass through your milk to your baby but in doing so have benefits and increase the range of tastes to your baby and seeing as taste preference can also begin in the womb this is not a bad thing to widen the spectrum of!
  • Your own unhealthy diet can increase the risk of you having an unhealthy gut. The health of your gut can be very closely linked to the health of your baby’s Health of the gut can have far reaching effects on immune system and brain function, so, yes – your diet can affect your breast milk!