Many people will see another article about breastfeeding and roll their eyes. Why do we keep talking about it? Haven’t there been enough articles on this? Haven’t people got better things to do with their time? Others will feel stronger emotions when they see another headline; frustration, anger, guilt, regret … because they really wanted to breastfeed but were unable to do so.
So why do we keep writing articles about breastfeeding when many feel this way? Precisely because of the emotions above. Over 90% of women in the UK want to breastfeed but less than half are doing so by the time their baby is six weeks old. Although a very small percentage of women are unable to breastfeed for medical reasons, far higher numbers are having their chances of breastfeeding unnecessarily damaged. And importantly this is not their fault. They’re being prevented from breastfeeding by factors outside their control.
This isn’t about women who don’t want to breastfeed, or feel that their baby was fine on formula milk, but rather the 80% of women who wanted to breastfeed but had to stop before they were ready to do so and now feel miserable about it. This isn’t right from a biological perspective and certainly isn’t fair from a moral one and is precisely the reason we refuse to stop talking about it.
Breastfeeding is sold to pregnant women as straightforward, easy and rewarding but many do not find that description matches their experience. But the reason for this difficulty should rarely be to do with breastfeeding itself, but instead because society in the UK is not set up to support women to breastfeed. When I say ‘society’, I don’t simply mean public attitudes but the multitude of insidious and pervasive practices and beliefs that make a determination to breastfeed seem impossible.
photo credit: Lyndsay Jenkins
Some will find it difficult or painful in the early days and be unable to find help to get it right and fix this. This is not the individual mothers’ fault but the fault of the government, who do not…