I'm not going to post specific stats here about breastfeeding. This post is simply about how I wanted to breastfeed my children and I have done, against the odds. I grew up in the UK borough with the lowest rates of breastfeeding and having gone for 2 years with my first child and breaking the 1 year mark with my second today I'm in a minority of women who breastfeed their children beyond an initial period of weeks or months.
Two things that have made this possible:
1. My first child weighed, wait for it, 11lb 1oz at birth. He breastfed in the hospital after a traumatic forceps birth. He refused to feed when we got home. He lost 10% of his birth weight. When the midwife (from the team at the then Glasgow Southern General Hospital) came round to check on us we were on the verge of being readmitted. Said midwife cleared their diary for the rest of the day and told me they were staying with me until we got it sorted. I wanted to breastfeed, so breastfeed I would. Dad was sent off to Tesco for a breast pump, a steriliser and a small box of formula, just in case. By the time he got back the baby was latched on and pretty much didn't latch off again until the week before his 2nd birthday.
2. I had seen other mothers breastfeeding as they went about their daily business.
Being a visible breastfeeder
The second point is why it has been important to me, especially over the last year, to be vocal and visible about breastfeeding and to get on with it wherever and whenever it's been necessary. My second child had absolutely no issues with breastfeeding but has never taken a bottle of expressed milk. It's made exclusively breastfeeding trickier, but still doable, and has had the added bonus of meaning I've been out there role-modelling to the max for other women who might want to breastfeed in the future.
A few things that I personally think would make breastfeeding easier (for women like me):
- Ditch the Breastfeeding Friendly campaign: (controversial I know but...) in three years of feeding I've not once checked to see if it's OK to breastfeed. If you could drink a cup of tea or coffee somewhere then you can breastfeed your baby there. The sign "lets you know that businesses like cafes and restaurants will make an extra effort to look after and welcome breastfeeding mums" - What exactly are we talking about beyond common decency and being part of a society where we would look out for someone who has both hands full with a baby feeding from the breast or bottle? Not all babies want a quiet space for feeding, not all mums want to hide behind a curtain whilst breastfeeding - we can't be prescriptive about what's needed. (Note: if we are talking foot massages and haircuts while feeding, that's a different matter)
- Fund broader concepts of peer support: peer support is not set up for working mums and we need to stop assuming that all breastfeeding mums are on extended maternity leave and can trot off for a chat about how they are getting on during the day on a weekday
- Please, Scottish Government, put reusable, washable breast pads into the baby box: the plastic backed ones make your boobs sweaty, fall out and are an example of a single-use plastic that doesn't make the job any easier