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Sure would you not have a small bit?

 

Opinion: If We All Know Breast Is Best, Where’s The Encouragement For New Mums?

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Posted October 5, 2012 by Ramp.ie in Ramp Archives
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As a food blogger, I thought long and hard about writing this article. In Ireland there is a cultural taboo about discussing breastfeeding as a food choice. Recently, a young mother commented to me that she really wanted to breastfeed but that, sure, wasn’t the powdered milk a substitute? She then mentioned a named brand that prides itself on how similar it is to breastmilk.

Powdered baby milk is not as good as breastmilk.

The values of breastfeeding go far beyond the simple transfer of nutrition from the mother to the child. It’s not just about how similar a formula is to breastmilk (bear in mind it can never be identical), it’s about the long-term benefits that breastfeeding brings to the child, the mother and society.

I’m a mother to two young boys. I’ve had two very different experiences in attempting to breastfeed my children. The one thing that was common to both of them was the lack of support from medical professionals.

After being in labour overnight and not having slept in 48 hours, I was left to take care of my newborn on the maternity ward with no assistance.

My youngest is 11 months old and yes, he is still breastfed, despite the lack of adequate support from maternity services. After being in labour overnight and not having slept in 48 hours, I was left to take care of him on the maternity ward with little or no assistance from maternity staff. I rang the bell for what seemed like hours because I needed help lifting him from the bassinet. Once I did get help, I tucked him into the bed beside me and kept him there even though the nurses were dead set against the baby sleeping anywhere other than the cot.

I was unsuccessful at breastfeeding my now four-year-old beyond four weeks. I struggled from the outset and when I asked for help from the lactation consultant I was informed that there was only one for the entire hospital and she worked 9-5 Monday-Friday. How inconvenient that I had my baby on a Saturday.

Poster from 1938.

When I was born (over 30 years ago) the practise of ‘rooming in’ was virtually unheard of. My mother was expected to stay in hospital for between 5-7 days. Nowadays, the maximum stay for a normal birth is 3 days at a stretch. The purpose of the lengthy stay of my mother’s experience was to allow the mother to recuperate (particularly if she had other children at home), encourage breastfeeding and bonding alone. Babies were cared for in a nursery on the ward if the mother needed a rest, then brought back to her for feeding time.

The reality is that maternity staff are run off their feet.

‘Rooming in’ is practised in virtually all hospitals in Ireland. It is lauded as a process which encourages bonding and breastfeeding between mother and baby. This means that Baby remains with each new mum 24/7 for the duration of her stay, providing she is not critically ill or that Baby isn’t in the Special Care Unit. If she’s just had a Caesarean section, she will be expected to have her baby in the cot next to her. Nurses are meant to be on hand to assist those who need help, however, the reality is that maternity staff are run off their feet and in my experience you will often see other new mothers helping out those less able to pick up their babies, perhaps after ringing the bell for help with a screaming baby – for up to 30 minutes with no response in some cases.

Labour is so called for a reason. It is one of the most physically demanding things that a woman’s body can go through. You could liken it to running a number of marathons in a row, if you will. Imagine being so physically and emotionally exhausted that you can barely lift your own baby to feed him? So how on earth could you expect any new mother to do this without adequate support?

A rested mother is one who can make rational choices about feeding her child. Imagine if there were enough staff on hand to help, answer any queries, make sure new mothers were doing things right? Straight away I can see why, at present, breastfeeding rates are so low in Ireland. Small wonder why many new mothers choose to give the baby a bottle so that they can rest themselves after such an ordeal.

So why not invest in more staff on maternity wards and more support for new mothers to enable and encourage breastfeeding in a positive manner?

On a very basic level, putting money into maternity services will save in the long run. More money invested in those few short days after the baby is born, and in supporting mothers during the first months after they take the baby home, will result in fewer obese children, fewer children with chronic asthma, eczema, high blood pressure, along with lower rates of osteoporosis, breast cancer and ovarian cancer in women. That’s before we even consider the lower incidences of post-natal depression.

Tús maith, leath na h-oibre!

If the incidences of these illnesses can be reduced from the outset then in the long term it will save our government money. The Irish phrase ‘Tús maith, leath na h-oibre’ comes to mind.

 

For more information breastfeeding visit www.breastfeeding.ie.

Caítríona Redmond

Caítríona Redmond is a writer and mother who blogs as Wholesome Ireland.

 


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  • http://www.lisamcinerney.com Lisa McInerney

    I think it boils down to this: all the breastfeeding campaigns in the world can’t help if new mothers aren’t getting the actual physical presence of support right there from the very beginning. I don’t blame maternity staff – it’s true, they’re run off their feet and don’t have time to sit down and go through the basics with each new mum, and though breastfeeding is natural, it’s not easy.

    • http://wholesomeireland.com/ Wholesome Ireland

      See that’s it Lisa. All the education in the world can’t prepare you for that exhausted moment when you’re handed a baby and have to feed them. You need somebody there to help & encourage you, enable you to rest.

  • Maud

    Yes, yes, yes. Support is vital, especially at the outset. The Irish breastfeeding rates are so depressing.

    What you said in the first paragraph: “a named brand that prides itself on how similar it is to breastmilk” – this is exactly what made me so determined to breastfeed. When I saw an ad for formula claiming that it was almost exactly like breastmilk, I thought, how silly not to use the real thing, when it’s right there for free, when all the formula companies can do is make something that even they admit is not as good.

    But then, with the best will in the world, without support, failure rates are high.

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