Monday, 20 June 2011

The End Of Breastfeeding Awareness Week

I heard today that the Government has cancelled the central funding for National Breastfeeding Awareness Week, which starts today.  The locally organised events will still run, but there’s no national campaign, in the name of money-saving.
I predict another lot of ‘healthy’ debate about the pros and cons of breastfeeding, and another lot of poor mummies made to feel like failures because they can’t, or they choose not to!
So is this an obvious place to save some cash, or something we can’t afford not to support?
It’s been nearly 20 years since this campaign started out, yet still there is a relatively low proportion of British women that breastfeed their babies for any real length of time.  One could argue that if little progress has been made in that time, then perhaps the funding could be better invested.  New figures are due out soon, expected to show an increase, but still nothing like the numbers still feeding at 6 months, which is the World Health Organisation recommendation.
There are also fears amongst pro-breastfeeding campaigners that the network of regional baby feeding co-ordinators will also be cut back. 
My mummy and some of my friends’ mummies didn’t have such great experiences with the feeding ‘experts.’  Their advice often contradicted each other, and for people supposed to be helping hormonal beings at their most vulnerable, they really weren’t that supportive, saying unnecessary or hurtful things.
I don’t know why breastfeeding rates are so low. In my experience, it was easy, convenient and a great chance to spend time with Mummy.  But, it didn’t fill me up.  We had lots of chats with the feeding crew, checking my latch on and so on.  Mummy got stressed, Daddy got stressed, and so I got stressed. 
Nowhere in any of the books or classes, or in conversation with any healthcare professional, was the idea of combination feeding even muted. Surely that’s a viable option, and if that were promoted more, I think breastfeeding rates would benefit.
I would say the lack of this alternative has a big part to play in why so many women give up.  No mummy wants to think their new baby is hungry so all the while the “breast is best” message is force-fed to them, they’re worn down by hearing it, and it’s actually much harder to persevere.  What they need to hear is encouragement.
Strangely, it seemed that the ladies who were struggling, or who wanted advice, were the ones who were ostracized.  Bottles were banned at the Breastfeeding Clinic at our local children’s centre, held right after a big weekly baby group, but those that weren’t breastfeeding were not welcome to stay on.  That included those who might have needed some help. 
In my opinion, the pressure put on mummies to breastfeed is wrong, and the way our country goes about it just makes the divide bigger.  Do understand though, I’m not anti-breastfeeding, I just don’t support how we do things at the moment.
As soon as the infant-feeding co-ordinators find out you’re not breastfeeding, you’re dropped like a stone and they look down their nose at you as you fall.  And that often makes ‘those that can’ act superior, further compounding everything that’s wrong with the debate.  Whatever happened to Sisterhood? I guess that’s something for another post!

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