The Post when I piss off all the breastfeeders.

The news that breastfeeding mums who succeed in breastfeeding their babies for 6 months are to be rewarded with £200 had me digging my nails into my palm and muttering things under my breath this week. And not for the reasons most people were up in arms. For me, it was personal.

To be honest, I just don’t think breastfeeding mums who succeed in feeding their babies for six months need another pat on the back.

They’ve been having pats on the back every day since the baby latched on. Everyone from midwives on the postnatal ward to health visitors in the weeks following the birth, to the media who are obligated to acknowledge breast milk is best for baby every time the subject is mentioned have been cheering them on since the baby’s first feed. ‘Well done, by breastfeeding you’ve helped prevent everything from upset stomachs and chest infections to obesity, as well as encouraging better educational attainment,’ breastfeeding mothers are told at every opportunity.

Besides – as the mother of a son who breastfed till his first birthday and a daughter who only got 2 months worth – I know that the rewards of successful breastfeeding far outweigh a measly £200. Knowing I’d done the best for my son, that with every feed I was bonding and nurturing a closeness no bottle could replicate, that I had special relationship with my son no one else shared, that I could soothe and sustain him on demand – no plastic teats, bottles or sterilizing equipment required – that I’d never run out of milk, that I didn’t need to plan, budget or organize for every eventuality: the milk would always be there, that even if it was a teeny bit awkward getting my boob out in public sometimes, I’d always have the upper hand, the last word, the ultimate come-back. That the law, all the evidence in the world and every baby book I’d ever read had my back – was priceless. And made it even harder when I couldn’t do the same for my daughter.

All together now; breast is best. Don’t we bloody know it.

Am I being harsh and unfair? Probably. Bitter, twisted and biased? Hell, yes.

As a someone who struggled and ultimately failed to feed my daughter beyond 8 weeks, I’d have happily PAID over £200 to make it work. In fact, I think I probably did – now I tot up the lactation consultant fees, the breast-pump hire and the stupid supplementary nursing system that was suppose to wean her off teats.

That’s where I think the money should be going. Instead of giving those who’ve succeeded another pat on the back, why not reach out a hand to those mothers who want and need help, who are trying against the odds, who are failing and feeling crap about it, who are struggling with the realization that if breast is best, then their babies are losing out.

£200 would go a long way to helping those mothers get the help they need to hang in there – in my experience the NHS is rubbish in this department – and pay for expert help, a decent breast pump in case expressing is the only option or counselling if it all gets too much. I’m sure my failure to breastfeed my daughter beyond 8 weeks or hang in there with the pumping beyond 5 months contributed to my struggle to bond with her and my Post Natal Depression.

So sorry breast feeders, but I don’t think this is money well spent. You and your baby already have something money can’t buy. It’s those of us who’ve wanted to breastfeed, tried and faced failure who need the support.

25 thoughts

  1. This is exactly what I have been saying since the news broke. I struggled to breastfeed my first child and really could have used more support than 'keep offering him your breast' which was the helpful advice from the health visitor. Luckily I had more success with my second, but still only managed to get him onto one boob, feeding through a lacerated, bleeding nipple for 7 wks before it finally got easier. And it got easier because I spent hours on the internet, googling how to get him latched on, what to put on the nipple etc, not because the health visitor offered support. The attitude was very much 'well, so you should be breastfeeding, now get on with it'. No-one acknowledged that it was hard work.
    The NHS really needs to look at how they support new mothers, because it is woefully lacking.

  2. I breastfed and wasn't in the slightest pissed off by this post I think you are exactly right. Support is where the money needs to go, having watched my friend struggle with breast feeding and ultimately giving up I've seen how hard it can be. With more support she would have been informed sooner that her baby had tongue tie and it could have been rectified to help her feed him. The money would be much better spent on providing support for those who need it.

  3. Another breast feeder who agrees here! Many of those who have succeeded didn't have it easy and got to six months out of pure determination and hard work during what can be a very painful journey. But money isn't what they need, it's the support you suggest to make it easier for everyone and possible for those that otherwise wouldn't have got there. For the record, I've never had a pat on the back from a health professional re breastfeeding, the only comments have been that it makes their life more difficult as they don't know how much milk baby is getting so maybe we should use formula instead. So much for breast is best 🙁

  4. Could not agree more. What I wouldnt have done to have both my babies tongue ties cut in plently of time for me to make breast feeding work. The NHS took 10 days to contact me with an appointment. However if I had £100 in my pocket I could pay someone privately to do it the same day!! I have just had a baby I dont have £100 spare!!!!!!!! Oh and to have a lactation consultant come round and support me would have been so amazing. As it is both were on bottle by 10 days 🙁

  5. Nope, didn't piss me off either. I agree that the money should be going towards better support for mums in hospital and in the days that follow. Postnatal advice and support is inadequate at best and volunteer organisations and peer supporters who are trying to plug some of the gaps are often giving their time for little thanks and even having to fund their own training. My only disagreement is the idea that breastfeeding mums are being patted on the back by society or health professionals as sadly I have experienced mostly poor advice, ill informed comments and raised eyebrows. In using the money to educated and train professionals then maybe that would change too.

  6. Absolutely agree! I was lucky and managed to feed mine without major problems (unless you count the abscess caused by a nasty case of mastitis-ouch!), but you haven't pissed me off, in fact I said the same thing in my blogpost- the money would be better spent on breastfeeding support services, and to my mind that should include emotional support for those who have desperately tried to feed and for whatever reason been unable to. Please add the link to this post in the comments of the a britmums post so others get a chance to read your views x

  7. So agree!! I was fortunate to be able to breastfeed both my children and also 2 have experienced 2 fantastic midwives who helped at crucial moments. With my first it was encouragement from a good friend who got me through those very painful first few weeks. Better support for those struggling would be a far better use of the cash!!

  8. Totally agree with you, I breastfed my daughter until she was 14 months, but it didn't start smoothly and actually what I did was combination feed her – perhaps that means that I could have 'won' myself £100! This whole concept is ridiculous, I persevered because I had a supportive and kind health visitor who never put pressure on me. Ultimately new mothers need support for however they choose (or don't choose, but life chooses for them) to feed their babies. This scheme is a monumental waste of NHS funds from what I can see. #MBPW

  9. Nope ive breatfed both my babies and not pissed off with this post! Worth pointing out though that this study isn't aimed at rewarding those who wanted to breastfeed anyway. It's supposed to encourage women who wouldn't otherwise try and who couldn't possibly afford to pay lactation consultants etc. That said I dont think this is a good way to do it and suggesting that poor women won't breastfeed just because it's best for their babies but they can be bribed to do it is rather offensive. I also think the money would be better spent on more and more consistent advice. I've also blogged on some of the issues with the science behind this study.

  10. My two children were adopted, and one of them was young enough that had I had the right guidance and resources I might have been able to breastfeed (yes, you can stimulate mild production without having given birth). So I agree with your post completely.

  11. I breast fed both of mine, and I'm aware what a privilege that is and that I was fortunate to be able to do so. I agree with everything you've said, and that would clearly be a better way to spend the money and increase the number of breast-feeders out there. It shouldn't be a reward system, as the reward is your children feeding, it should be a support system for those who need it. #PoCoLo

  12. I actually don't think pro-breastfeeding people should be annoyed by this post at all as you seem to simply be advocating a different (and much better) strategy for trying to encourage more people to breastfeed. I'd have thought that free ongoing support, and free support for people facing challenges, would make much more of a difference that £200 in cash or vouchers. I doubt that the £200 would make a blind bit of difference when it came to dealing with challenges etc.

    Jonathan

  13. Hiya. As you know, our opinions are different but great post! You mention being patted on the back constantly? Not for me, i was advised to stop breast feeding. My son was sick and they blamed breast milk… It was reflux. I am glad i trusted my own instincts and kept feeding and pushing for better answers to his weight loss.

  14. Wow! SO agree! My experience with my one and only was just like your second! The Internet was my life-saver! That and finally getting the tongue-tie snipped (the only thing which I have to thank my HV for). It makes me mad and sad in equal measures that so many women lack the support they need in the early stages. I kept going through gritted teeth, blood (literally), sweat and plenty of tears!! But I understand completely why many women are discouraged. PLUS the fact that many (like my sister) have to go back to work sooner than they'd like and are forced to switch to bottles, 'cos they can't express that easily. The whole system needs a radical overhaul! But wait! That would cost money… right??

  15. I am with you, i find it laughable the government is offering this incentive .. surly the biggest incentive is feeding your baby the best ..

    in my situation i struggled with feeding Joshua by the time i mastered it (with very little support) my milk has almost dried up

    I would love of loved to feed my child and offering me £200 to do would be nothing but insulting x

  16. Interesting slant on this subject which I hadn't thought off but excellent point here. Will not go into my views re: breastfeeding but I think this is a fab idea. Help those who want to help themselves. Great post #pocolo

  17. My heart aches whenever I read a post like this, because I know firsthand how heartbreaking it is to desperately want to do something and not be able to. I wanted to breastfeed, not because it was "best" for baby but because it was what I wanted to do… and yet how we made it to 3 months I have no idea! I started asking for help around 6 weeks when the blocked ducts started… the support from the NHS was appalling – "he's just a fussy baby" (whilst trying to force him onto my breast despite his screaming and pushing against me desperately) or "well you obviously know enough to sort yourself out" (when I mentioned I thought I had major oversupply issues). I agree, money needs to be put into better support for those women who desperately want to breastfeed and cannot. I know so many women (3 friends within the past 3 years) who have been unable to breastfeed for one reason or another and only one of them gained the support she needed by going to a non-NHS group. As I say, I find it heartbreaking that these women are not supported and I thank you for writing so openly and honestly about this!

  18. I totally agree with you, the money needs to go towards supporting those who want to but are struggling. I'd love an extra £200 but I bf my children past 6 months without there being a monetary incentive. However, I would never have got that far if it hadn't been for all the excellent government funded help and support I got – put the money there, and make sure everyone who wants to access it gets it.

  19. Thanks again for the voices of support ladies. I haven't had as positive a response elsewhere so it's good to know I'm not alone in my views. Bitter and biased maybe, but not alone! Really appreciate the feedback.

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