Sadly, the world does not make life easy for breastfeeding parents. There are still a lot of people out there who have negative opinions of the process and condemn anyone trying to feed their children this way in public.
The breastfeeding stigma is a fairly archaic one that is fed by misinformation and misunderstanding surrounding the benefits and process. But by sharing more about the topic and helping more people become aware of why people do or do not feed this way, we hope to make the world a much more accepting place for parents!
Benefits of Breastfeeding
It is recommended around the world as one of the best sources of nutrition for babies. A perfectly normal and natural function that supports young children should not be one that is surrounded by so many negative connotations.
Strengthens The Bond
One of the main benefits is the bonding experience it offers between mother and child. This time spent close together helps to create an unbreakable bond that can offer lifelong benefits. A lot of mums decide to breastfeed to experience this incredible time between themselves and the child they are raising.
The physiological effects felt by the parent during nursing can lower stress and create a sense of calm that can also aid in better sleep. Skin-to-skin contact is one heavily recommended by healthcare professionals all over the world – breastfeeding is just one of the great ways to experience this and grow your bond from day one.
Improved Immune System
It also helps with the baby’s development of their own immune system as well as providing them with vital nutrients and antibodies that they may not get from other sources. It has been shown to reduce the risk of:
- Type II diabetes
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Childhood leukaemia
- Ear and respiratory infections
Amongst other incredible health benefits, these are risks that can be extremely problematic for young children and so any possibility of mitigating these risks should not be scoffed at!
Aids Pregnancy Recovery
The breastfeeding stigma also fails to recognise the benefits the mother receives. The hormone oxytocin is produced during feeding, causing the uterus to contract and return to its usual size more quickly. This can help to reduce the amount of bleeding after pregnancy and even lower the risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer.
What If I Can’t Breastfeed?
There are many reasons why a parent may not be able to breastfeed their child. Perhaps they are taking medication that is not compatible or maybe they have a medical condition that doesn’t allow it.
Some mothers simply cannot produce enough milk for their baby or choose not to breastfeed for personal reasons. It can be a stressful and painful time for many so no matter what the reason may be, no parent should ever feel ashamed or embarrassed about how they feed their child.
Below are some more very common reasons why mums choose to stick to the bottle:
- Returning to work or school
- Lack of support
- Personal fears
- Health concerns
We need to break the breastfeeding stigma and help to educate those who do not understand the process or the benefits. Only then can we create a more accepting world for parents and their children.
If you or someone you know is struggling to breastfeed, it is important to first visit your doctor, midwife or lactation specialist. They can give you support after leaving the hospital and ensure you have all of the resources and understanding you need to make it as enjoyable of an experience as possible.
However, if you cannot or choose not to, it’s just as important that you are aware of the best alternatives available to you such as formula or exclusive pumping. For more information, you can visit the NHS website.
Struggles Associated With Breastfeeding
It’s not always an easy process, nor will it work the same way for every parent or child. It’s important that if you are struggling – you talk to your healthcare provider as soon as possible so that they can help you tackle or overcome any issues.
When the strip of tissue attaching the tongue to the mouth is shorter than usual, it can create problems when breastfeeding. Cases can range from mild to severe but if you notice issues with latching as well as any of the signs below, it could indicate a tongue-tie.
- The tongue does not lift or move side to side
- Refusing to feed
- Difficulty with any form of feeding
- Slow weight gain
Colic is most common in babies from a few weeks old up until they are around 4-6 months. It affects around 1 in 5 babies and could occur whether they are breastfed or bottle fed. Whilst there is sadly no cure, it’s important to look out for the signs and try some soothing methods such as burping, proper latching and sitting up your baby to console them.
If you notice the tissue around your breast becomes inflamed and painful, or there is a lump around the sore area – you may be suffering from mastitis. It’s something not a lot of women talk about because it can be embarrassing and painful.
It’s an important topic to be aware of as it can leave parents feeling run down with flu-like symptoms that need to be treated. Feeding from one side more than the other or improper latching can be some of the most common causes, however, it may also come from:
- Not feeding enough
- Milk duct or gland damage
Catching it early is crucial as it becomes much easier to treat. Antibiotics can be used for any infection, but you should try to continue breastfeeding in spite of the pain.
For more information on managing mastitis and other challenges – visit this NHS page.
Is It Illegal To Breastfeed In Public?
Despite the breastfeeding stigma and the fact that some people may feel uncomfortable about the matter, it is completely legal to breastfeed in public areas in the UK as well as in most European countries.
The Equality Act states that it is discrimination to treat a woman poorly if she is breastfeeding. You are absolutely within your rights to challenge anyone who asks you to leave, but the more it is done and the more people understand the process, the more normal it will become.
Many parents choose to use a muslin or oversized shirt to cover up as they breastfeed in public, but there is no right or wrong way of doing so. Just ensure you feel comfortable.
Benefits For Developing Countries
As well as the antibodies passed from mum to baby, breast milk contains all of the vital nutrients newborns need. It can be a major way of aiding digestion and ensuring newborns are as protected as possible from common illnesses.
In areas with poor water sanitation and high rates of disease, it is often much safer than giving a young child contaminated water. It can also help to reduce the risk of malnutrition and dehydration, both of which are common problems in developing countries.
As well as this, in countries where food is in short supply – breast milk is a free alternative that ensures newborns are getting the fuel their body needs to grow. This cheaper option makes a great choice for developing areas that cannot afford to repeatedly buy baby food high in nutrients or formula that can be extremely expensive.
The formula can also be difficult to come by in any areas that are not easy to import to or are not developed with plenty of shops and cities. As a result, breastfeeding may be the only option for some parents. It’s important to remember that even if it is not possible or chosen to breastfeed in developed countries, this does not make it any less essential for those who live elsewhere.
This is part of the reason why we need to educate those who do not understand. Only then can we create a more accepting world for parents and their children.
Tackle Breastfeeding Stigma With Us
From the 1st of August to the 6th of August this year is World breastfeeding awareness week. We work with parents through fertility journeys and pregnancy recovery – seeing all the struggles and challenges they face along the way.
This should not be a barrier people have to deal with simply to ensure their child gets the nutrition and energy they need every day.
We believe that this natural process should be a comfortable and happy experience for all – without the breastfeeding stigma. This is why we will be discussing your thoughts and feelings as well as professional advice on our social media throughout the week. We hope you’ll join us in asking questions and sharing information. Let’s educate and empower parents everywhere to feel confident about their choices!