‘Like all Good Mummies, I was going to breastfeed. I’d listened carefully during my antenatal class. I’d studied the diagrams in the manuals. It was hardly rocket science, was it? Millions of women did it every day. It never once entered my head that things might actually go wrong!’
Today is the first day of the World Health Organisation World Breastfeeding Week. WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding until a baby is six months old, and continued breastfeeding with the addition of nutritious complementary foods for up to two years or beyond.
Breastfeeding is the only food that is specifically designed to meet your baby’s needs. Packed full of nutrients, breastfeed also contains antibodies that help build up your baby’s immune system. Once established, many women find breastfeeding easier on a practical level too. You don’t need to spend any time making a bottle, counting scoops of formula milk, warming the bottle at the right temperature, washing or sterilising bottles. With breastfeeding, the milk is always ready and at the right temperature and you can feed any time of day or night, any place. It also helps to lose your pregnancy weight.
However, in England, statistics from the second quarter of 2010/11 showed that the prevalence of breastfeeding at 6-8 weeks was only 46.2% of babies due a 6-8 week check. (Source: Statistical release: breastfeeding initiation and prevalence at 6-8 weeks www.dh.gov.uk) So why are less than half of new mums managing to breastfeed?
Breastfeeding does not always ‘come naturally’. Like anything new, it can take time and practice to establish. However, with a hungry newborn to feed, new mums don’t always feel that they have the luxury of time to get it right, and without the right support in those critical early days, breastfeeding can fall at the first hurdle.
It can be helpful to know in advance what some of the potential problems might be and how to resolve them, as well as how to seek support should this be needed.
To read real mums’ stories of how they overcame their breastfeeding challenges, check out my book, Baby’s First Year: A Parent’s Guide.
Photo credit: sdminor81