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Sarah Norris – The Baby Detective

Liberty, Equality, Maternity ! How Breastfeeding and Bottle Feeding can Become Equal
August 7, 2015

Liberty, Equality, Maternity ! How Breastfeeding and Bottle Feeding can Become Equal

How Breastfeeding and Bottle Feeding can Become Equal.

‘Parents should be free to feed their babies however they want, wherever they want, and with equal support’

Every year in August we have World Breastfeeding week, and every year, it brings up the whole breast Vs bottle issue again.
I will confess that I am getting weary of all the controversy around the subject of breastfeeding and bottle/formula feeding and the stress, distress and harm it causes, but it is too important to ignore.

The issue has become got so confused and emotive that it just goes round and round, fuelled by misunderstandings and defensiveness from all sides….and nothing is ever resolved.

Problems Faced By Todays Parents

In my role as a Maternity Nurse in the UK I have spent the last 25 years witnessing the heart-breaking distress and anxiety that parents suffer when…

• They are confused by conflicting and/emotive information regarding benefits of breast over formula and vice versa.
• They want to breastfeed but can’t get help or support because the health professionals in hospital and clinics are too busy or untrained, or the help they do get is inconsistent or biased or just plain wrong.
• They know what feels right for them and their baby, but daren’t actually do it because they are afraid of being judged or discriminated against by health professionals, and, what is worse, by family, friends and other parents.
• They are struggling to decide what to do when feeding is going wrong but have no one to turn to for non-judgemental advice.
• They feel isolated, judged or excluded because of their feeding choices.
• They feel, or are made to feel, like a failure because of their feeding choice.
• Their baby is failing to thrive or re-admitted to hospital because of feeding problems.
• They are torn between their own instincts and the advice of professional, family or friends.
(I have gone more deeply in to the harmful effects of Breastfeeding Pressure in this article in my blog which might be of some help to struggling parents.)

Why Do Bottle Feeders Get So Upset ?

Now, I know that some people are saying that the combo/formula feeders shouldn’t complain about World Breastfeeding Week as it is important that people should be able to celebrate breastfeeding, and have attention drawn to what resources are available, and what aren’t etc. and in some ways I do agree, but just stop think about it for a minute.

Isn’t it great that we have Mother’s Day and Father’s Day as an acknowledgement of the importance of both parents, and of their contribution to parenting ?

How would the dads feel if we suddenly did away with Father’s day, and said that, actually, only mums are important ?

How would they feel if Mother’s Day was then extended to World Mother’s Week and plastered all over the internet and the media so that everywhere they turned they saw it?

Wouldn’t they feel excluded, ignored, rejected ? Might not some of them feel angry and resentful ? Would some of them get upset or defensive ?
Could you blame them ?

Well, this is how a lot of the parents who bottle feed are feeling, so can you blame them for wanting to voice their feelings ?

What is even worse for combo/formula feeders than for the dads in my make believe scenario is that they aren’t just being side-lined as unimportant. They are, in fact, being openly accused by family, friends, press and health officials of being poor parents, as being selfish, lazy, and uncaring and of making ‘mountains out of molehills’ !

They have to listen to comments such as
‘Every woman can breast feed’
‘You aren’t trying hard enough’
‘Just push through the pain’

For those of you who do still subscribe to the myth that every woman can breast feed, just take a trip over to the website of Fearless Formula Feeder and have a look at the Friday feature where women tell their own stories of the problems they had, the decisions they had to make, and the agonies they went through as they made them. Some of the stories are so harrowing it difficult to read them.

Or go to https://fedisbest.org/blog/ and read the stories of the thousands of women there who struggle to breastfeed for all sorts of reasons, and how it has affected their babies health and wellbeing, and  their own mental and physical health.

What I do find heartening  though, is that both these sites are awash with support and understanding, and are unbelievably accepting of every type of baby feeding, everyone is welcome there and no one is excluded. We could learn a lot from their attitude !

To the breast feeders I would say celebrate your breastfeeding by all means, you deserve it and I’m happy for you that breastfeeding went well. I’m relieved to hear that you got the help and support you needed to sort out any problems, or that you managed to sort it all out for yourself, but please, spare a thought for those who are excluded from any such celebration and understand why they are upset.

The crazy thing is that the divide between parents based on feeding methods is totally unnecessary. It was artificially created by authoritarian interference which was then magnified and exaggerated by the media in search of sensational headlines.

The good news though is that it could easily be remedied. All that is needed is for the quality, consistency and availability of current feeding support to be improved, and for it to be extended to include combination and formula feeding.

 

Breastfeeding support in hospital

How Can Things Change For The Better ?

The change needs to come from the top, and in the UK that is the NHS and the Health Authorities.

How much better would it be hospitals stopped spending vast amounts of money trying to convert all women to Exclusive Breast Feeding, and instead provided accurate, up to date, and unbiased information and allowed the parents to make up their own mind about which feeding method best suits them, their baby and their lifestyle ? They could then respect these feeding choices and support them with skilled and trained staff ?

The money saved would pay for Midwives and Lactation consultants to take extra training, and they could all became Infant Feeding Consultants. Wouldn’t that be a better use of resources in our overstretched NHS than wasting precious money and time trying to convert everyone to exclusive breastfeeding ?

Would it be so hard for the policy makers to include all feeding methods ?

If they offered feeding help for only white parents, or rich parents, or Christian parents wouldn’t there be outrage against such discrimination ?

So how is it ok to discriminate against combination/formula feeding parents, especially as they are actually in the majority ? ?

What You Can Do To Help Other Parents.

The only time those in power listen to the ordinary people is when those people get too loud to ignore….so we have to get loud!

Breastfeeding and Bottle Feeding parents have to make a stand, side by side, and demand comprehensive Infant Feeding education, and consistent and easily accessible help and support for all parents !

If you receive poor or no support, for either breastfeeding or bottle feeding, in hospital then send that hospital an email and complain. Tell them you expect them to respect your parental choices, and remind them that it is their duty to help you feed your baby, whatever feeding method you choose.

If a Midwife or Health Visitor seems judgemental or critical because you are combination or formula feeding then contact your local health authority and tell them you want support and advice on all feeding methods and don’t expect to receive second rate treatment because of your feeding choice. If they don’t give you the help and support you need for breastfeeding, or leave you feeling like a failure if you are struggling…tell them !

If you go to a lactation consultant and they criticise you for you giving top up bottles, or make you feel inferior, or dismiss pumping/expressing them tell them. Tell them how bad they made you feel, how unsatisfied you were with their service and how you won’t be recommending them to anyone else.

I know how hurtful and demoralising these experiences are, both for breastfeeding and bottle feeding parents, and how it is easier to just walk away and suffer in silence, but if you don’t complain, things will never change.

Why Support Is Vital For Every Feeding Mother and Father

The right level of support and education can make the difference between successful or abandoned breastfeeding, or between happy, relaxed, effective combination/bottle/formula feeding, and the feeling of failure that can mar the whole experience.

I worked recently with a client whose 5 week premature baby could not latch on to feed and most of the midwives, after the ‘grabbing baby’s head and jamming it on the boob’  tactics failed, just gave up. Only one midwife knew how to help and got baby latched on, but then she changed shift and mum left hospital.

At home, she tried again, but struggled and baby wasn’t gaining weight so she used expressed milk and formula. She still wanted to breast feed so she went to an NCT drop in clinic where they did try to help…..until she mentioned she was using formula top ups. The lactation consultant immediately changed her attitude and moved on to another mum and when my client went to get a drink she overheard the consultant and other staff talking about her in a very derogatory way.

Needless to say, she left and never went back and the baby didn’t latch so she pumped and used expressed milk once her supply improved.

When I arrived I supported the mum’s choice and assured her that breast feeding was still possible as she had kept up her supply, and baby was a bit stronger so would be better able to latch and suck.

Unfortunately, baby then suffered 3 breathing apnoea episodes and was 2 weeks in hospital followed by a reflux diagnosis. When baby was 7 weeks old and the reflux was under control, we set aside 3 days with no distractions and, with persistence and patience on the adults side (and some very loud complaining on baby’s side) plus some cunning tricks and strategies, we got baby latched and sucking at the breast and they went on to breastfeed successfully…for 2 years !

This wasn’t because I am some sort of baby whisperer, but because I had training and experience, and the time to spend helping the mum. Many any other parents could be helped and supported if they too had access to trained and experienced (and open minded !) advisors.

If everybody complained every time they didn’t get the help they wanted and needed then maybe, just maybe, things will start to change.

Just take a few minutes to write that email, or comment of a Facebook page, or Tweet your disapproval.

do it for a friend,

do it for a fellow parent,

do it because it will help someone else,

and do it because next time you have a baby it might be you who needs the help.

I would love to hear your stories and experiences of all types of feeding so please share and lets support each other as much as we can,
Sarah x

 

The Author

I’m Sarah Norris, a Baby Care Consultant and Parenting Coach.

I have spent over twenty five years, often working 24 hours, 6 days a week, supporting hundreds of families with new or young babies aged from newborn to 12 months old, and often helping with their toddlers and older children.

I help parents discover what parenting style they want to use to care for their baby, and offer advice on different approaches that might suit them and their circumstances best.

12 Comments

    • Babyfriend

      Thank you so much Merlinda Little.
      I don’t think it will be easy changing peoples minds, but I have to try, and maybe a resource list will at least help those people who are struggling x

  1. Laura's Lovely Blog

    Yes this! I was so naive with my first child I honestly thought it will just be natural you will just pop the baby on and it will all happen naturally – foolish woman I was. I tried so hard to breastfeed him and in the end, after cracks, infections, thrush, I found a balance with combination feeding. My daughter latched beautifully but had silent reflux, lip and tongue-tie (undiagnosed in hospital), feeding issues, dairy allergy which meant a total elimination diet for me to continue breastfeeding it was actually quite exhausting and isolating. I worry about the commercialisation of formula – and that brands make profit out of it, but I think that every parent should do the best that they can.
    Laura’s Lovely Blog recently posted…11 Things Tag

    Reply
    • Babyfriend

      Thanks for stopping by Laura.
      It sounds like you really went through the mill with all the problems you and your baby faced, No wonder you were exhausted !
      Sorry you had to go through that but so glad you found a balance that worked for you in the end.
      I don’t worry about the commercialisation of formula so much because no one does anything for free nowadays, and in this case the competitive nature of the formula market works in our favour.
      Apart from keeping the prices down, the competition is driving the manufacturers to constantly research and improve the formula so any new discovery or insight in to the make-up of breast milk is quickly and safely incorporated in to the formulas which they wouldn’t necessarily do if there wasn’t so much of a commercial incentive.
      As part of the resource directory I want to build up a library of Baby Feeding Problems – Real Parents Solutions that show how parents work through problems and come up with solutions I wonder if you would be interested in writing a few paragraphs about what you went through and how you came to a solution ?
      If you are interested just drop me a line at info@babyfriend.net
      Sarah x

  2. Al

    Great to hear about your resource page and completely agree with people working together side-by-side, not against. Thanks for linking up #bigfatlinky

    Reply
  3. A Cornish Mum

    I’m the same as you and was getting a little sick or the arguments for against etc etc, at the end of the day whatever works for you and your baby is what is best regardless of anyone else’s beliefs or opinions, and Mums need to feel that the choice is theirs.
    Thanks for linking up to #PicknMix 🙂

    Stevie x
    A Cornish Mum recently posted…SWIG Flasks – Competition!

    Reply
    • Babyfriend

      Thanks Stevie,
      I think a lot of people are sick of the subject and I nearly didn’t write the post because of that BUT the problem still exists, and parents and babies are still suffering, and because of my work I see it in front of me, everyday, so I can’t just ignore it.
      Your last few words summed it up perfectly ‘Mums need to feel that the choice is theirs’.
      Thanks for stopping by
      Sarah x

  4. StressedMum

    What a great post and refreshing to read something that is not all breast is best x
    StressedMum recently posted…My Week – 11/09/15

    Reply
    • Babyfriend

      Thanks
      I sometimes wonder if I come across as being anti breastfeeding. I am not, it’s just that there are so few people standing up for the bottle feeders that I feel I ought to speak up on their behalf.
      Sarah x

  5. Tori Gabriel

    Great project. I will try to send you my story later. I breast fed my first but only managed two weeks with my second (and it made her very poorly).

    Reply
    • Babyfriend

      Thanks Tory,
      I would love to hear your story when you get a chance,
      Sarah x

  6. Charlice

    I agree with your stance here, Sarah “The right level of support and education can make the difference between successful or abandoned breastfeeding, or between happy, relaxed, effective combination/bottle/formula feeding, and the feeling of failure that can mar the whole experience”. As someone else commented above, without the proper education of the mother, the baby might be denied some vital nutrients when it needed it the most. Even if there are formulas around to substitute for breast milk, it’s still good to find a way to help the baby latch as it will be extremely beneficial to the baby in the future. Thank you for sharing these stories, inspirational.
    Charlice recently posted…Best Baby Bottles for Wind in 2018

    Reply

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