Saturday, 4 August 2018

Why saying 'Fed is Best' is dangerous | World Breastfeeding Week

As a disclaimer before we get into this, I am NOT bashing formula feeding. I formula fed Squidge after failing to breastfeed, I own that I did that, and I’m not ashamed. How a mother decides to feed her baby is her choice, and shouldn’t be made to feel bad for her choices, whether that’s formula or breastfeeding, and believe me, both get made to feel bad by others.

Me breastfeeding Dot in the woods

It’s no secret that Britain has some of the worst breastfeeding rates in the entire world, not just the developed world, but the whole world. Just let that sink in for a moment. A country that is wealthy, well educated, with a free health service, most things we could ever want, yet we have some of the worst rates for breastfeeding.

Fed is best

Ok, so I used to totally agree that what’s most important for a baby is to be fed, and I still don’t really disagree with that. But the whole ‘fed is best’ movement or approach is damaging to breastfeeding. Lets face is, fed is required, babies have to be fed. What is best, scientifically is breastmilk. Again, not bashing formula, I’m just stating facts. If you look at the list of ingredients on a carton of formula, you’ll see lots of vitamins and minerals, it’s a synthetic mix of dried milk with added nutrition, it will meet your babies needs.

The breast is best movement isn’t about shaming bottle feeding mums, it’s about promoting breastfeeding as the norm, quite simply it IS what is best for baby. 

What a lot of people don’t seem to realise, is all the super amazing things that are in breastmilk, naturally. As well as amazing things like stem cells, they are also full of antibodies which help your baby to battle illnesses. 

"Breast milk contains more than 200 known beneficial elements, with more being discovered all the time. For example, researchers believe that a recently discovered fatty acid in breast milk promotes the growth of a baby's brain and retina and may even enhance cognitive development. Many of these elements, including infection-fighting white cells, can't be manufactured." - Babycentre

Me breastfeeding Dot

'Fed is best' encourages switching to formula

I’ll give you a scenario. Imagine a mum who’s struggling to breastfeed, her baby is 6 weeks old and cluster feeding (absolutely normal). Mum feels like because the baby is on her breast all the time, that she’s not making enough milk. Baby is being fussy when coming off as baby is also getting comfort from the breast, and going through a developmental growth spurt (leap), making them extra fussy too. Feeling like her milk isn’t enough, in desperation she reaches for some formula, gives baby a huge feed (at this age the formula box recommends a 4-5oz feed, whereas on the breast baby would be getting about 1.5oz per hour), knocking the baby into a deep sleep. This affirms her fears that her milk isn’t enough (which wasn’t actually the case), and slowly starts to transition to formula, her milk starts to dry up. Mum feels like she’s doing the right thing for her baby as baby is now less fussy and filling up more, and getting more sleep. But all along, it was just a growth spurt and baby wanting to be close to mum.

The issue here is education. Lack of knowledge. When I had my first, I had no idea about any of this, I had no support, wasn’t a member of breastfeeding support groups to help me learn about all this. I expressed for 6 weeks until my milk dried up, Squidge never had a successful breastfeed, despite trying. If knew then, what I know now, I’m almost certain I could have made it work.

We need to be supporting mothers who choose to breastfeed and not encourage them to switch to formula because it’s ‘easier’ or more convenient, or because others have an issue with it. Breastfeeding should be the NORM, but instead it’s socially frowned upon and whenever us mums do talk about it, or show pride in it, formula feeding mums tell us it makes them feel bad, or that we’re shaming them, when in actual fact, we’re just trying to promote breastfeeding (and not shame bottle feeders).

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to talk about this without fear of a massive backlash. I’m already bracing myself for the backlash this might get, but I feel so strongly that we need to talk about it in a non-confrontational way, so I’m talking about it anyway.

What experiences have you had with breastfeeding?


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