All mums and mums-to-be have undoubtedly heard about the benefits of breastfeeding and the wonders of breast milk. From providing all the necessary vitamins and nutrients a baby needs in the first six months of life, to reducing the risk of obesity in adulthood, breast milk has already been proven to be a baby’s best first food. Most pregnant mums start their motherhood journey with the intention of breastfeeding their babies.
However, a UNICEF report recently said that the U.K. has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in rates in the world – with only 1% of mums exclusively breastfeeding and 34% of mums mixed feeding (giving their babies both breastmilk and formula) at six months. So, why are the U.K. breastfeeding rates so low and what can we do about them? Also, is breastfeeding really that important?
Let’s start this conversation by saying that fed is best. No one is saying that formula is evil, or that breastfeeding is a measure of a mother’s love.
Whatever you feed your baby, the most important thing is that he receives the sustenance he needs to thrive. When comparing any kind of food to each other, there’s always going to be a meal that surpasses the other in the hierarchy of nutrition. No one can dispute that eating a healthy, organic, well-balanced meal is better than eating a slice of frozen pizza. We can say the same thing about formula and breastmilk. Both are perfectly fine, but one is scientifically better in terms of nutritional content.
Now, let’s go back to the questions above – how can breastfeeding rates improve in the U.K? First, the government needs to step up its campaigns to help promote breastfeeding. It needs to provide easier access to health services that can help support mums who want to breastfeed. This has already started with local authorities officially being given the task of improving public services and social support in each community.
When the right support is in place, another important factor is for a mum to arm herself with information and a positive attitude towards breastfeeding. Learn about the benefits of breastfeeding – how it helps your child battle all sorts of diseases in childhood and even adulthood, that it lowers the risk of ovarian and breast cancer for the mother, how it helps creates a special bond between mother and child, and the list goes on and on. Once a mum realizes all this, she may want to put more effort into having a successful breastfeeding journey.
There are also other issues to keep in mind: Breastfeeding is natural, but it is not easy. Some mums assume that nursing is as easy as putting the baby to the breast and voila! Unfortunately, there is a learning curve when it comes to direct feeding. Both mum and baby need to learn the proper latch and nursing positions. When a mum manages her expectations about breastfeeding, it’s easier to be patient and work through the initial difficulties. It’s also good to remember that a newborn baby’s stomach is tiny! You don’t need to be a cow producing ounces upon ounces of milk for your baby. Your body, and your baby, will know how much milk you need to produce.
Armed with the right information, support from her family and the community, and a positive attitude, any mum can breastfeed. To answer the last question if a mum NEEDS to breastfeed, only a mum can answer that depending on her own special situation. Remember, a happy and healthy mum is best. Whether you breastfeed for 1 month, 5 months, or a year, any amount of breastmilk is better than none at all. At the end of your breastfeeding journey, if you can look back and say that you did your best given your own unique circumstances, then you can proudly say your breastfeeding journey was a success.
If you want to learn more about breastfeeding, check out these sources: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/benefits-breastfeeding/