I’ve often heard the phrase ‘I felt pressured to breastfeed.’
While I don’t wish to dismiss the experiences of the people who feel this way, if we look at it realistically, does pressure to breastfeed really exist? It’s my view that it’s actually the other way around. The pressure is to formula feed.
How many TV adverts have you seen for breastfeeding? Full page ads in magazines, Pop ups on that baby website you read, Facebook ads ‘tailored’ to you, well-meaning friends and relatives telling you ‘you did your best, why not just give a breast? Not everyone can bottle feed you know.’ When a baby is screaming in discomfort due to being unable to digest formula, how many people say ‘it’s the formula; you need to give the breast.’
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It’s a very rare circumstance that any of these things happen, in fact if anyone were to say any of those things to a bottle feeding mum they would be accused of being unsupportive, a ‘breastfeeding Nazi’, they’d be accused of putting pressure on mums and being judgmental. Why not the other way around? Why is it supportive to suggest a bottle but not to encourage people to continue on with breastfeeding?
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Mothers however, are faced constantly with formula ads, well-meaning friends and relatives telling them to just give a bottle when things are tough with breastfeeding.
It’s because of very clever marketing from formula companies, touting their products as the next best thing. It’s because of the ‘breast is best’ campaign. While the meaning of this campaign is obviously to get mums thinking about how they feed, it also puts breastfeeding up on a pedestal. It makes it an unattainable goal that only a select few can achieve and it makes formula seem good enough.
The unfortunate truth us that formula should actually be the fourth choice when it comes to baby feeding (according to the World Health Organisation). First is directly from the mother’s breast, second is her own milk expressed, then donor milk from another mother and then formula.
We have to stop viewing breastfeeding support as pressure. Breastfeeding is biologically normal. It’s not an impossible goal only achieved by elite mummies. In the absence of true medical problems, any mum can breastfeed. All she needs is support and knowledge, a lot of determination and an open mind.
What formula manufacturers will never admit to is that their products come with health risks, including increasing the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), childhood cancers, obesity, diabetes, digestive disorders, allergies, eczema, asthma and a host of other problems. These products need to come with health warnings not pictures of teddy bears and smiling babies. Any nutrients added to formula are artificial and largely indigestible by a baby’s immature gut.
We have to start being honest about formula feeding if we are to increase breastfeeding rates and we need to be talking to mums before they have their babies. Before they have made their minds up or given up breastfeeding (when they have already given up this is the time mums will feel guilt for changing over, feel attacked and switch off so any conversation is pointless).
There need to be leaflets in our pregnancy folders about the dangers of formula and midwives need to be having in depth discussions with pregnant women so that they can make informed choices. We have to counter the aggressive marketing methods of formula companies who have the money to pay the fines they receive for illegally marketing these products.
I hope that after reading this people will realise the pressure to breastfeed is non existent. All that exists for breastfeeding is support groups, peer supporters and health care professionals doing their best while trying to avoid the label of ‘pushy’. It’s almost impossible to do because any mention of breastfeeding now is sadly seen as pressure.
For help and support with breastfeeding please visit La Leche League here
I felt a lot of pressure to a Formula feed or at the very least pump and bottle feed so I atleast knew how much my child was getting from my husbands family.
They are now generational formula feeders and formula would cure all of my childs perceived ills, stop my husband feeling so left out and Id stop being so unfair and hogging my own newborn.
My own family thankfully were supportive as my mother breastfed and as did her mother.
I'm glad I stuck it out, had support and ignored them.
I didnt have "bad" or "sour" milk, I never ever had not enough but had a huge over supply and a high needs baby who was only happy when with her mum and only her mum. (She's now a bright brilliant emphatic smart girl)
We are now nearing the end of breadtfeeding as im starting to slowly ween my 2.5 year old and I'm pregnant with my 2nd child.
I'm not a first time mother with a "difficult" baby this time around so I plan on shutting down all negitive comments as soon as they open their mouths.
How did women cope before formula came into being. Did the babies just fail to thrive and end up dying ?
Who helped before Lactation Experts became into being. Did mothers and in laws help.
If breastfeeding is so natural - how did women get so far away from it and where did all the problems come from ?
I completely disagree. I had my baby October 1st and had every intention of exclusively breastfeeding. I did for the first three weeks, and at the end my baby that was born 8 lbs 13oz got down to 7lbs 2oz. I was never engorged, and it was excruciatingly painful. (I am a 44I bra size and have very flat/inverted nipples this might be some of the trouble... i am the fourth generation to not succsesfully breastfeed, are we evolving away????) Everyday i nursed i became more and more resentful against my baby because he was never full and hurt me so much. Everyday i nursed i sobbed and cried because i Knew he was starving i knew he wasnt getting anything. I tried everything.. i nursed every hour and pumped inbetween (never got anything),i drank my weight in water, i took fenugreek, i saw several consultants, the public health nurse, they would weigh my baby and then i would feed and then they would weigh him again.. NOTHING. I was so ashamed to formula feed. My doctor, anyone i thought was my support group, everyone was disappointened (except my mom who also formula fed me because she had to work full time when i was two weeks old) I felt so torn and guilty, i wanted to nurse i know its better, but i was literally starving my baby. So all that on top of a three day labor ending in a c section, four blood transfusions, my babys club foot and traveling to a specialist 400 miles away once a week, two deaths in the family, and a self centered narcissistic dysfunctional mother in law. I started smoking cigarettes again when i switched to formula. So yeah, im THAT mom. The one everyone looks down on.
Well meaning, my mum suggested I give my son formula. He wasn't even one month old. It wasn't easy and he was unsettled, but it had nothing to do with my breastmilk. We pushed through it and I breastfed until he was 13 months.
I think if women had the right support, breastfeeding wouldn't be such an issue.
People, however well meaning do seem to think that giving a bottle is the answer to every problem! In my view it's the total opposite and breastfeeding generally answers most problems! That's just my experience though. I'm aware it's not that black and white for everyone. Well done for pushing through anyway! I think that's one of the hardest things about parenting - Someone is always going to try and tell you what to do and you have to be so strong in yourself not to give in!