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Influences on breastfeeding experiences

(39 Posts)
rhubarbcustard Tue 14-Jun-11 22:57:39

I'm a trainee Breastfeeding Counsellor and I'm working on two assignments about the services and range of people that influence mothers' experiences of breastfeeding. I'd be really interested to hear from Mumsnet Mums about the the influences on their decisions about baby feeding.

Any thoughts on this would be very gratefully received. If you'd be happy to be quoted in an essay (anonymously, of course) then please indicate this. Many thanks!

I've also put a post on the Enfield section of Mumsnet Local so if you happen to live in Enfield and would be willing to comment on your experiences in the borough, please post there instead.

Many thanks for your help with this.

hellymelly Tue 14-Jun-11 23:09:24

Well I wasn't breastfed as a baby,I was in fact shipped out to another hospital from my Mum,and I have allergies and other issues which may trace back to my having formula in the 60s as a prem baby. I was very committed to breastfeeding my babies, and i have a close friend who fed her son until he was three. I fed my first daughter until she naturally stopped at 2 and a quarter,and I'm still feeding my second who has just turned 4.I grew up around formula as I was born in the 60's,and I didn't see a baby breastfed until I was in my mid-teens and babysitting.However the woman I was sitting for was a very positive influence. Now I am old enough not to care an awful lot what people think (I'm 47) but I still wish there was more of a positive attitude socially about feeding todders.
(quote away,I am about to go to bed so I sound like the speaking clock sorry!)

EauRouge Tue 14-Jun-11 23:24:55

I didn't make a feeding decision really, everyone else in my family BF so I did too. I think only one of my cousins BF past a year so I didn't realise you could go on for so long. I've never seen any reason to stop BF DD1, it's going well and we both enjoy it (most of the time!).

I'm now tandem feeding DD1 (2.8 yo) and DD2 (14 wo). It's unusual to the point where a lot of people tell me that they didn't realise you could do it but I have found so much support on the internet- mostly on MN of course grin and also at a LLL group. I think the longer you BF, the more you have to really search for support.

You can quote me if you think I've said anything sufficiently interesting grin

duchesse Tue 14-Jun-11 23:28:45

My major influence is the fact that I have a lot of food intolerance issues which I put down to inappropriately early weaning in the late 60s. I was breastfed but put on solids at 2 months (which was quite normal back then I believe), was on fish, egg, weetabix etc by 5 months. Two of my major intolerances (as, sends me running to the loo up to several times an hour) are wheat and egg. I didn't want this for my children and so far (touch wood) they seem OK. All were exclusively breastfed for 6+ months (9-10 months for the last 2 daughters) and all are very healthy. I'm happy I've given them the best possible start given the undoubted genetic disadvantage.

HipHopOpotomus Wed 15-Jun-11 04:48:19

I wasn't BF but my stepmum was a midwife so bf became normal for me I guess via her and her friends.

Most babies around me growing up prob had formula but it was never an option I considered for my own babies. I had my first at 40 and maybe that was a factor? Things might gave been diff if I had been 20, o couldn't say.

I am inherently lazy though and bottle feeding sounds like an awful lot of hard work too!

I've always been interested on the experiences of others too - being able to discuss bf with older women and other women who bf was invaluable to me with my first.

ChunkyPickle Wed 15-Jun-11 05:59:39

Mum breast fed my siblings and I so it was normal for me, and whilst in my head I know babies drink from bottles I never actually connected that with the idea of formula feeding my own baby.

Much like HipHopOpotomus I'm also rather lazy, and knew that if I couldn't keep a steady supply of clean tea mugs for myself then the chances of me keeping clean bottles for the baby (without major stress) were pretty low, whereas my boobs are ever-present and easy to wash in the shower wink

pinkgirlythoughts Wed 15-Jun-11 09:31:55

My mum breast fed me and my siblings, as did my auntie with all of hers, so growing up I sort of assumed it was what everyone did, particularly with new babies. Whilst pregnant, I never even considered formula for ds, to the point where I was utterly devastated when the midwife in hospital said he needed to have a top-up of formula milk as he was dehydrated. However, now that I've discovered breast feeding isn't actually as easy as I thought it was going to be, I'm starting to consider it as an option for when he's a little older, if necessary.

I don't know if age is a factor, but I do know that most midwives and health visitors have seemed surprised when I tell them I'm feeding him myself (I'm 25). In fact, the health visitor's first question to me was "which formula are you giving him?" I have also found that everyone else I know of a similar age to me has chosen to formula feed from the outset.

HarrietJones Wed 15-Jun-11 09:38:55

I think I bf dd1 cos I liked to be different blush
dd2 was bottles because I was ill for the first week & unable to feed. I would have liked support to restart but I only found out too late I could.
Dd3 I feed because it's easier. My dds & their friends are all v aware of bf & how easy it is and will all have good knowledge hopefully as they all quiz me (11year olds are v interested in babies!)

VeronicaCake Wed 15-Jun-11 11:44:39

I was BF, my sisters (twins) were BF, my DH was BF. Most of my friends who have had babies recently BF, except where serious problems forced them to stop. So it seemed like the normal thing to do. I never even considered anything else.

I didn't do any research into the benefits of breastfeeding before birth. If anything I was a little sceptical about a lot of the claims made by my MW and our NCT teacher about the benefits of bf-ing. It was only after DD was born that I made an effort to read some original research papers and concluded that the evidence about the massive benefits to the babies immune system was really overwhelming. I'd assumed the effects would be marginal at best.

So in order I'd say the reasons for bf-ing went:
1) It's just how babies get fed innit?
2) It looks very cuddly
3) Less washing up than with bottles
4) Mum said that once you'd put the initial effort in it was easier than bottles
5) Don't need to buy anything special
6) Probably better for the environment

But 1 and 2 were really all I needed.

halfdrunktea Wed 15-Jun-11 13:17:00

I was BF myself and all the friends/acquaintances/relatives I know who have had children also BF them, at least for the first few months. So I suppose for me it seemed the normal thing to do. I was also aware of the health benefits for both baby and mother of breastfeeding, plus it avoids the hassle of making up feeds and sterilising bottles.
I naively assumed that BF would be easy - after all, haven't humans been feeding their babies for millenia, without the help of YouTube videos telling them how to latch their babies on? But I found it really, really hard for the first couple of months. My son would wriggle around, put his hands in the way, not open his mouth wide enough and then get too upset to feed. I was in agonising pain with a cracked nipple that wouldn't heal up until I asked to be prescribed some medication for thrush at my postnatal check with the GP. After that it healed up very quickly. I think if I hadn't been very determined to carry on and hadn't had family support it would have been very tempting to give up.

Yesmynameis Wed 15-Jun-11 15:46:27

Hi. My mum BF me for 12 weeks before switching to ff and subsequently ff my little sister. I think she regrets that she wasn't able to do more breastfeeding. My MIL BF both my SIL and DH. Both my immediate family and DH immediate family have been supportive of my breastfeeding.

I didn't grow up around babies and didn't know a BF mum until my sil gave birth to my nephew a few years ago and she then successfully BF him until 1yr old. Although she always went in another room, so my first direct experience of seeing a baby actually feed was my own DD.

I did read a lot of books and articles etc about positioning and how to bf whilst preg and mercifully I have had a very easy bf journey with no problems at all. However I know that I am the exception rather than the rule and thank my lucky stars for this.

I have accessed the breastfeeding support group drop in sessions run at my local Surestart centre, which I found to be really helpful purely for moral support when I had a bit of a wobble when DD was around 6 mo. I also draw on support from other bf mums I have met through various mum and baby groups. Although as pp have said, I tend to find that these are older mums and that other mums of my age (26) and younger are tending to have chosen to FF.

At 8 mo, my DD is still having 4 feeds during the day and 1 at night. I hope to continue until she is at least 1. I feel I would be wary of bf her beyond 2 just because I don't yet know how I feel about older babies still BF, but we shall see! I'm just going to take it as it comes and do what feels right for us. I think it is the support I have had from those at the Surestart centre that has helped me have the confidence to consider carrying on longer.

Good luck with your training course!! Feel free to quote if anything here is useful :-)

FullCream Wed 15-Jun-11 15:52:14

I never considered anything else I think because I felt it was the way a baby should be fed and was better for baby. Also I really wanted the experience of feeding my baby. I've lived in africa where formula doesnt exist so until I fell pg never had any idea it could be so difficult. Now that I've read up lots more about it (inc the politics of bf) I feel I would like to carry on until he self-weans. So I'd say books (and mn) have been a strong inflence in carrying on bf.

jenniferturkington Wed 15-Jun-11 15:58:00

By the time I had my first dc I had watched my dsis breastfeed her 4 dcs each well in to their 2nd (or even 3rd) year. It would simply have never occurred to me not to do it. However, I have to admit I was shocked at how difficult it was- as dsis seemed to do it effortlessly (of course I now know this probably wasn't the case at all!).

TittyBojangles Wed 15-Jun-11 17:57:46

Happy to be quoted.

Never considered a different method of feeding. My DM tried to bf me, but stopped due to an abcess as the result of poor advice from HCPs. She did manage to bf my DB. It is the natural way for a baby to be fed and we all know the benefits for mother and baby, for me there was no other option, I was very determined.

It was very difficult at the start, missed TT, sleepy baby not wanting to feed etc. But I think my determination and the fact that my DH and DM (big influences) knew how important it was to me and so supported me through the tough times really made it possible. I also attend a bf support group which has been amazing... the best support for bf is from others who bf. You can share problems and questions and someone has always been through what youa re going through.

The feeding in public thing has never really bothered me though I know a lot of the mums at the bf group were worried about this so we now have a 'cake club' too where we frequent cafes and get our baps out with 'safety in numbers', I think this really helps the newer mums when they see others doing it.

FetchezLaVache Wed 15-Jun-11 18:26:55

I and all my siblings were BF for a couple of weeks- Mum really wanted to, but never quite managed it, so ended up moving on to formula quite quickly each time. Same story for MIL and DH.

I remember the "breast is best" message from my Dsis' pregnancies when I was in my teens, so it's something I've always been very much aware of, but my main BF influence is my DSIL. She was totally opposed to BFing when she was pregnant, thought it was disgusting, wouldn't even entertain the idea of it, was ready to tell the MWs to fuck off if they put pressure on her to try. But then she had a last-minute change of heart and thought she may as well just give it a try, as the arguments in favour of it are so compelling. She ended up BFing her DS1 for 3.5 years and DS2 for 2.5! Her advice has been superb, as well as the fact that she made BFing look lovely. My DS is now 13 months and we're still going strong, despite a shaky start.

I might also add that financial considerations played a part- we could have afforded formula, but it's money we're glad we didn't have to spend out, all the same. And it's unquestionably far, far better for the environment.

I will definitely BF again. Apart from anything else, I couldn't be arsed with sterilising bottles and making up feeds!

MedicalEd Wed 15-Jun-11 18:42:58

I was really not fussed about it before DC1 was born.
I'd had a rather off-putting NCT breastfeeding class where the teacher kept doing impressions of babies rooting but I know how much better it is for the baby and for me (history of breast cancer in family) so I was prepared to give it a go.
I said to DH that if it was too hard I'd ff and not beat myself up.
DD had a difficult birth and was slow to feed, then we were advised to top-up with formula as feeds were taking over an hour.
At 4 weeks her tongue tie was spotted and cut and the top-ups reduced.
Then we had thrush.
So it was all very hard but foe some reason I was determined to keep feeding her myself. I don't know why.
Several times I discussed giving with my DH and my mum but felt really depressed at the prospect.
My mum could only feed me for 3 weeks but fed my younger sister for 10months so she was very understanding either way.
I am now ebf at 16 weeks and DD is doing great.
I love being able to settle her so easily when she is upset and feed her whenever or wherever without any fuss.
I found the idea of formula, sterilising, correct amounts ect quite daunting and a real faff.

pettyprudence Wed 15-Jun-11 19:05:18

I come from a family of bf-ers so it was normal to me, but not to DH. I couldn't imagine ever giving formula to my baby however bf-ing was bastardly hard and painful and on day 8 I gave up and gave him formula (V expensive trip to Tescos to get all the equipment!). I woke up on day 9 and felt a million times better and went to a breastfeeding group to get help.

If it wasn't for the support available to me (Cardiff) I wouldn't be bf-ing now (only 11 weeks in but its sooooo easy now!).I was lucky that there is a group available almost every day here. The MCA's who came over to my house (from the hospital) were useless however the Lacation and breastfeeding consultants who run the groups are fantastic - I went to so many groups to keep me going I have met every breast feeding counsellor in Cardiff grin. It also took 6 weeks of sheer bloody mindedness.

As well as believing that bf-ing is the normal way to feed a baby I also wanted to do it because its free and easy (eventually). I am bone idle lazy and could not be arsed to make up formula and clean bottles etc....

theborrower Wed 15-Jun-11 19:31:56

Decisions about baby feeding? In my experience, it doesn't always come down to choice.

When pregnant, I was absolutely determined to BF, never considered formula at all - for lots of reasons, but mainly because it seemed like the natural choice (as someone else said, it's how babies are fed, innit?), it was better nutritionally, it was free (why pay when you don't have to?) and it seems a nice thing to do.

Fast forward to having my DD by EMCS, being prescribed formula at only a few hours old as she won't latch and she's tiny and can't afford to lose any body weight, DD not latching for weeks, when eventually latching she isn't feeding effectively, not getting a tongue tie fixed until nearly 8 weeks... I ended up mix feeding until about 7 months, after finding it nigh on impossible to get to exclusive BFing.

So, my initial reasons for wanting to BF were still massively influencing in me persevering and not stopping BF completely (apart from the free bit, as we still had to pay for formula), but FFing was never a 'decision'.

pinkyp Wed 15-Jun-11 20:39:25

I never really thought about bf before my dc's. I remember when I use to play with dolls they all had bottles. I decided to bf my ds when my mw asked me on the spot how I was planning to feed him & asked if I would like to try bf, I said yes. My 2nd ds I was more relaxed & thought I'd just go with the flow & try bf again just for a few days...6 months later he's never had formula! I'm 25 btw. My mum seems to lack knowledge of breastfeeding, not really supportive but not against. My dad finds it a bit embarrassing & will nip out of the room when I am feeding. None of my friends have breastfeeded, some wil of tried but not worked out. All of them are dead enquizetive about my bf & say how easy it looks and they'd def bf if they had any more etc.

I always find that people who ff Always tell me why they didn't bf - without me asking. I never find people who bf telling me why they decided to :-/

FetchezLaVache Wed 15-Jun-11 20:59:27

Pinky- I find that too! I have never asked anyone why they didn't/don't and I never would, but I find a lot of women seem to feel the need to justify their decision to FF.

chocolatebourbon Wed 15-Jun-11 22:53:44

My influences came from:
My mum
My sister
My two best friends (one a paediatrician, the other a GP)
The politics of breastfeeding
Mumsnet
My support came from all of the above plus my husband and my local breastfeeding cafe.

I found health visitors at the local clinic to be very formula focussed (especially after 6 months - as if you can suddently stop breastfeeding at 6 months) - I was amazed at how I could get completley the opposite (and more breastfeeding friendly) advice by speaking to the midwives and health visitors at the breastfeeding cafe. I do think the overall approach needs to be more joined up.
After I had read Gina Ford I understood why so many people are put off breastfeeding. I had never thought of routines for a tiny baby and can't really see how this would fit with breastfeeding in the early months. The idea of expressing for other than an essential reason also seemed utterly bizarre and it would have put me off. I was really glad I didn't read this (or any other "how to look after your baby" type books) until my son was about four months old. Mumsnet was a much more useful source.
Also this idea that you should avoid a feed-to-sleep association...umm..I always found that extremely useful! (and it was easy to break when my baby was older!)

I feel so lucky because I found breastfeeding an amazing experience overall and I am sorry that many others don't have this experience. It was difficult to start with/timeconsuming and exhausting during growth spurts/irritating when DS started nursery at 9 months and still completely refused any formula or bottle (and wasn't that enthusiastic about food either) - but it was great to be able to whinge about these things and still have the support to keep going. I think it is really important for mums to be able to have friends or family they can moan to about difficulties and be supported through them without constant suggestions of formula or expressing. I found expressing very faffy and timeconsuming and for emergencies only, and I know my sister and mum found formula to be a right pain when they were mixed feeding.

Happy to be quoted

GraceK Thu 16-Jun-11 00:18:29

Breast feed both DD's - (#1 til she was 22 months *& #2 still going at 16 months). I've always felt it was the natural way to do it & a lot simpler / less faff than FF - I'm very forgetful so would probably have gone out with v small baby without food for it at least once - can't go out without your boobs.

My mum was a big influence & a big help - I was FF as she has inverted nipples & no one mentioned it to her until after I was born by which time it was too late (in early 70's). With the aid of breast shields she successfully fed my sister. I too have very inverted nipples & without the advice / forewarning of my mum I would have been totally unprepared to feed my children since neither the NHS or the NCT courses I went on even mentioned the issue! (Odd considering 10-20% of women have at least one). Even when I mentioned it as a potential problem, no one actually bothered to look at them & I was told they would soon be sucked out.

I purchased nipple shields in advance (on the advice of my mum) and had to use them with both children - it was the only hope they had of latching when my milk first came in and whilst my nipples now pop out during feeds, they always retreat in between. Some HV's (& all the nurses in Special Care with DD1) were very supportive but I have had some HV's be very negative about the use of nipple shields - only my bloody minded determination to carry on (I'm in my mid 30's) saw them off. Some were so anti any form of 'intervention' that they seemed almost happier for me to FF than carry out getting breast milk to my children via a shield.

Feel free to quote if useful...

greeneone12 Thu 16-Jun-11 08:11:10

My midwife lead birth centre was very keen on BF-ing. I wanted to give birth there and had all my ante-natal classes there so that was an influence. Also lots of people I know who had close to 1 year olds had all BF so I had lots of support. Also my Mum fed me, and my brother too.

I also did want to give it a go as it is a natural thing.

Just to mention the BF-ing drop in at Chase Farm is amazing!

CountBapula Thu 16-Jun-11 09:02:41

My mum wanted to bf my older brother but was given rubbish advice by her HV (feed for 10 mins on each side every 4 hours etc) and never got her supply properly established so had to ff from 8 weeks or so. After this experience she was determined to succeed with me and had read the book Breast is Best in preparation (it was the late 70s). When the MWs asked if she was feeding 10 mins each side every 4 hours she would smile and nod but then when they left the room she let me feed as much as I wanted. She fed me until I was 2.

When I was pg with DS, she (and my dad - though they are divorced - and my gran) were all very pro-bf and keen to encourage me to do it. I'd always assumed I would try, but took a couple of emergency cartons into hospital just in case it didn't work out. I don't remember being that bothered either way, really. Luckily, DS latched on beautifully from birth and I only had a tiny bit of soreness at the beginning.

By the 10-day check, DS had lost 8% of his birth weight and the MW made me feel really shit about it. I came home in tears and suddenly what had seemed so easy and natural became really hard and frustrating. By this point I was determined so I battled through the next week, with the reassurance from a bf peer supporter on my local LLL helpline and lots of research on MN. It was on here that I learned about 'catching down' (DS had dropped two centiles from his birth weight but stayed on that curve until he went onto solids) and that weight loss of up to 10% is normal. By the next appointment DS was slowly gaining weight and we were discharged by a nicer midwife who told us that his weight loss had been completely normal and nothing to worry about hmm

We're still going at nearly 9 months and DS has never had any formula. Having not been that bothered before he was born, I've become very pro-bf and am very interested in it politically (currently reading The Politics of Breastfeeding). DS was unsettled from birth and until very recently was an appalling sleeper, to the point that I suffered from PND. Many people advised me to stop bf so I could get some sleep, but I couldn't bring myself to. It felt like the only aspect of motherhood that had come easily and naturally, and I loved the fact that I could calm and relax my jittery, hectic baby by feeding him.

My biggest influence was a friend of mine, who was the first person I'd really seen breastfeed. She fed in front of us so nonchalantly and made it look so easy and natural. If it hadn't been for seeing her do it I probably wouldn't have felt so comfortable feeding in public.

Like others have said, I'm lazy, forgetful and disorganised, with an intense dislike of washing up, so ff was never going to be for me. As a matter of personal preference (and with no judgement on the decisions of others) I also try not to give DS anything I wouldn't want to eat myself - I've found most baby food I've tasted gross (as has DS) and it looks like poo, so I generally just give him normal food. In the same way, I prefer to eat fresh food and wouldn't choose to drink powdered, processed milk, so haven't expected DS to, either. However, if bf hadn't gone well, I would have been extremely grateful that I lived in a society where a viable substitute was easily available.

Feel free to quote me if any of this is useful.

lilham Thu 16-Jun-11 13:26:53

Happy to be quoted.

I think age and background has something to do with the decision to bf. I'm an older mum with a PFB at 35. It doesn't occur to me to do anything but bf as it's how human babies are supposed to be fed.

I'm also a scientist. I know ff isn't a very big problem in the UK (in that it's very safe to ff). But I took issue at how the big pharmaceutical advertise formula in the third world. Where parents struggle financially and they choose ff because they are led to believe ff is better for their babies and they want the best for their little ones. So morally, I'd choose not to help fatten their coffers if I could.

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