To celebrate World Breastfeeding week (August 1-7), we spoke to a new mum from Wirral, and a breastfeeding support worker with Home-Start Wirral.
The week is a global campaign to promote breastfeeding and we talked with Joy and Sarah about why breastfeeding can be difficult for new mums, and what support is available when things get tough.
How was your experience breastfeeding to begin with?
Joy: ‘Initially breastfeeding went well. In fact, it was going perfectly until my baby was 6 weeks old. He had weight gain issues, so we started giving him top-up bottles of expressed milk. After 6 weeks, he just refused to breastfeed completely, every time I tried to get him to nurse, he screamed.’
‘I had to pump breast milk exclusively every two hours for 7 weeks before he went back on the breast and it was exhausting. This was a really difficult time for us.’
Where did you go for support?
Joy: ‘In the early days it was my midwife, but Home-Start visited regularly in the first few weeks. I had a C-section and couldn’t drive for 6 weeks so it was nice that they came to me.
‘After that, the breastfeeding support groups were so helpful. To be around other mums going through the same problems was really useful and allowed us to bounce ideas of each other.
‘I knew if I had a problem, another mum will have had a similar issue at some point and knew how to get through it.
‘You can always Google it if you have a question, but nothing can substitute one-to-one support.’
‘There’s also a Wirral Breastfeeding Mums Facebook Group with 1200 mums in all from Wirral. They are so supportive, day and night. Even if you are stuck at 3am and need someone to talk to, you can guarantee there is another mum that’s still awake to help!’
Sara: ‘Some mums have stopped breastfeeding on the group but stay in it to pass on their experience and knowledge. Home-Start don’t run the group but we monitor it and can offer our expert advice if we need to as well.
‘We often post evidence-based links to support the anecdotal evidence from mums as well to give mums confidence in the information they are reading.’
Joy: ‘I wouldn’t have carried on if I didn’t access the support. I got through all of the issues I had and I am still breastfeeding today.’
How do you find breastfeeding now?
Joy: ‘Easy! It took 4 or 5 months to get there, but it just got easy.’
Sara: ‘Every mum is different and it can take longer for some mums. Breastfeeding is a skill, and if you don’t see other people doing it or have the right support it can be difficult to learn. You don’t see breastfeeding in the media, on TV or in soaps so it’s hard for mums to pick it up.’
‘Women often aren’t exposed to how they hold a baby to feed, and it is quite different to how you hold a baby to feed with a bottle.’
‘New mums are vulnerable, and they feel vulnerable. Mums are often frightened to go out in Public and that can be a massive barrier. And we need mums to stick together and support each other regardless of their parenting choices.’
Joy: ‘For those 7 weeks, where he was drinking expressed milk from a bottle, I just wanted to shout, ‘this is breastmilk!’, because I felt judged for feeding my baby a bottle as well. And actually, mums should feel comfortable with whatever choice they make, it’s their baby.’
Sara: ‘If mums want to breastfeed or not, the point is that mothers make their own informed choice and are supported when they make that decision.’
What did you find to be the biggest benefits of breastfeeding?
Joy: ‘Lifestyle wise I found it much easier not to have to make bottles during the night.
‘Coming from a family with a history of breast cancer as well, I really wanted to reduce the risk for myself and breastfeeding was a way to do that.
‘Also, it is nice to know my milk is designed for my baby and changes every day depending on my baby’s needs.’
Sara: ‘It is definitely cheaper as well. Formula can cost up to £600 a year.
‘If you look at the breastfeeding statistics, it also provides protection against type 1 and 2 diabetes later in life and this is one of the biggest costs to the NHS.’
What would your advice be to expectant or new mums?
Joy: ‘It will get easier! All I can say is, if you are struggling, find help.’
Sara: ‘I agree. Help is always on hand and can be accessed in a number of different ways.’
For more information, and to find out what support groups are available, visit home-startwirral.co.uk or call 0151 608 8288.
For more advice and support speak to your midwife, health visitor, local peer supporter or GP. Alternatively, visit your local Children's Centre or download the new Breastfeeding Friend from Start4Life on Amazon Alexa, Facebook messenger or the Google Home app for support, 24/7.