Solent NHS TrustHigh quality community and mental health services

Breastfeeding blog - August

Breastfeeding Awareness1- 7 August is World Breastfeeding Awarenees Week. We are taking the opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of breastfeeding. We have created a dedicated area on our website where you can find useful articles and top tips, including ‘how Dads can support mums’. You can also find more information about the support available to mums and read stories from two mums about their experiences.

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In this month's blog, Amanda Malthouse, Specialist Practitioner for Breastfeeding, talks about how every breastfeed is valuable, but that mums need to be supported.

In my role as Specialist Practitioner – Breastfeeding, I often hear both parents and health professionals talk about the guilt that mums feel if they choose not to breastfeed or not to continue breastfeeding their baby.

But like many choices, a mum doesn’t make her decision to breastfeed in isolation, there are a whole network of factors that all influence how she feels about being a parent and her feeding decisions, some of which the mum may not even be aware of. For example – how was the mum fed when she was a baby? Are her family supportive of her decision to breastfeed or has no one in her family ever made this choice? What about her partner? There is lots of evidence that having a supportive partner can be one of the most important factors in helping a mum to breastfeed.

How does the mum get around when she goes out? If she has her own car this creates a little flexibility and even a private place where she could sit and feed her baby. But if a mum is reliant on public transport she may feel much more anxious about how she will manage feeding her baby on a bus. And what of the wider public’s attitude? Many mums feel that they are being judged for “exposing” their breast if they feed outside their home, although no-one thinks twice about seeing breasts bared in “page 3” type pictures. This is a real double standard – breasts are now seen as sexual objects, not the means to nourish and soothe our babies. In reality, very few people mind seeing a baby being breastfed in public, but the stories that hit the media are always the ones where someone makes a fuss.

If mums are going to be empowered to make this positive choice then everyone around them has a responsibility to do all they can to make the choice easier. Families and partners can respect and support her choice to breastfeed; public places can make it clear that they welcome breastfeeding families; the media can convey positive messages about breastfeeding. Health professionals can give new mums the time and information they need to learn about their baby and how to be a responsive parent.

Babies need close and loving relationships with their main carers, to allow them to grow physically and emotionally - however they are fed. Part of my role is to ensure that all the staff that attend our breastfeeding training understand that feeding a baby with love and respect contributes to this loving relationship.

Any and every breastfeed is valuable but mums can only be confident to give it a try if the rest of us make it as easy for her as possible.