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Written a letter to Mother & Baby magazine:
Reading the statistics in your October issue that confidence in breastfeeding has dropped significantly in the UK, I was unsurprised, especially when seeing the Editor of Mother & Baby in the recent Is Breast Best? documentary rolling her eyes and seemingly dismissing breast feeding as just something she didn’t really fancy the idea of. It’s highlighted a number of gripes that have been building up since I started reading M&B just before my daughter was born 8 months ago.
My view is that most women (including myself) are thoroughly unprepared for exactly what bloody hard work, exhausting and agonising an experience breastfeeding can be to establish even when things are going well. I have found that, whilst many sources pay lip service to how great it is, there is very little real support for women who do not actively seek it, with the assumption that most women have already resorted to formula so you may as well help them out with that.
If M&B truly wants to support breastfeeding mums as well as formula feeders, may I suggest the following:
1. Include as much information about latching on and feeding in every issue, rather than just every few months-if you can find space for info on bottles, sterilisers, formula dispensers and the like you can surely find a page or so to squeeze it in, or at least give us a fair deal with some reviews on nipple creams and breast pads! Oh, and tell us about the horrors of cluster feeding, cracked/ bleeding nipples, teething etc, how to cope with it, and reassure/remind us that it does all work out OK after a few days/weeks. So many mums stop or don’t even try breast feeding because they “just couldn’t do it”. The number of women who physically can’t breast feed is minimal, most of those who “can’t” could, if only they had the support. Because it is damn hard work.
2. Quote a bit more of the WHO recommendations-that breast feeding should continue up to or beyond 2 years old. I for one am struggling with the idea of continuing feeding beyond the age of 1. I have no idea why, it just feels “weird”. Maybe if the concept of feeding babies for more than the first 6 months were more widely discussed and publicised we would all feel a bit happier about doing it, and less like abnormal freaks.
3. Stop telling us over and over that our babies should sleep through the night from 6 months-I was gutted when I got to 6 months to find out that it’s normal for many breast fed babies to still wake for at least one feed. Not to mention universal issues of teething, rolling, colds, wind since starting solids etc. My light at the end of the tunnel was that of an oncoming train!
4. Please, please, please….Start including tops and dresses that are suitable for breastfeeding in the fashion pages-I can think of ONE breastfeeding suggestion (not even a proper feeding top, just a vest/crop top combo) in all the issues I have read, but at least 5 gorgeous outfits that I have to sigh and think “maybe when I’m done feeding”. It is highly depressing wearing the same few feeding tops week in week out, and it’s hard to feel like a yummy mummy and not frumpty dumpty when all you can find are “functional” tops in Mothercare, when your formula feeding friends are in their trendy new outfits. If even M&B can’t source some breast feeding tops that are on trend, what hope do we have?!
Sorry if this all seems very negative, I have been finding it progressively harder to connect with your magazine as I continue to breastfeed, and many of the pertinent articles have been either too little or too late to be really supportive. I would like to continue reading your magazine (it is one of the little luxuries I allow myself now my maternity pay is dwindling!) however it feels that the priorities of the magazine reflect the attitude of the editor-that breast feeding is something we’re told to do, but really no one does it, or needs to do it. Either that or (cynically!) the income from advertising next to a review of bottles is just too tempting to pass up.
Grrr. By no means should mums who bottle feed end up with post natal depression beating themselves up for their decision, but it does seem to belittle those of us who have been through hell to keep breast-feeding for the health benefits to be sidelined by the media. Bad enough that we have to chose between feeding in public or missing out on what’s going on, though like the girl in the programme said-if you see other women breast-feeding in a place it feels a lot easier to do it yourself. I’ve tried stick to a self-imposed “could I do this if I were bottle feeding?” rule, which has pushed me somewhat out of my comfort zone, feeding in front of friends, family and colleagues-male as well as female, because why the hell should I miss out on things that I could do if I were to just shove a bottle in Missie’s hands and carry on the conversation?! If I can cope with being used as a teething ring, the indignities of birth (or more specifically haemabate side effects-don’t look it up, it’s not nice!) and waking up every few hours for months at a time, I’m sure I can cope with the odd flash with a wriggly baby and making one or two people unsure where to look (in the eyes-as usual please!). Ah well, rant over. Hopefully be more positive next time! x
Edit: Should clarify the statistics!
M&B October 2012 issue refers to a Lansinoh study stating that 86% of UK mums (in a survey of 4000) thought breast was best, down from 98% last year. 12% fewer! On a positive note, this issue did also contain a quote from a mum still bf at 16months-so maybe I was a little harsh, but it did only stand out on a second read through!
Is Breast Best? Documentary mentioned that only 3% of babies are exlusively breast fed at 5 months! Even factoring in early introduction of solids for babies who are ready for them, I was still gobsmacked by this stat.