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Do we set new mums up for bf failure?

(116 Posts)
GreenMonkies Fri 21-Aug-09 11:04:01

Bear with me, I fear this may be as much a rant than a genuine question.

I see so many threads about tiny babies wanting to feed all the time, wanting to be held all the time, being "high needs" and velcro-babies or cling-ons. Yet this is perfectly natural baby behaviour!!

Why don't ante-natal classes actually tell mums what to really expect? Why do so many say in total shock "when I put little Johnny down he cries!!" and "s/he falls asleep in my arms but wakes when I put him/her down". Why do so many think they should be able to feed their tiny baby every three or four hours and then put them down and "get on with things" in between?

When are we going to give women the information they really need?

I was talking to a colleague this week ad she was telling me about her first 6-12 weeks of motherhood. A classic tale of constant feeding, crying when put in the moses basket/cot, being a "hungry baby" who wasn't "satisfied" by her milk alone and so on. We chatted and compared experiences and at one point I said to her "if your midwife/healthvisitor had said to you 'your baby will want to be held 24 hours a day and feed every hour or so for the first 6-12 weeks, it's totally normal' would you have worried so much about the way he was behaving?" And she said no, of course not.

And she then said "isn't it a shame that the first couple of months with our new babies were spoiled by so much stress when if we'd known what to really expect it could have been so much nicer"

It just seems to me that by giving new mums false expectations and not telling them the truth about normal, natural baby behaviour that we set them up for breastfeeding failure. Or am I just banging my head against a brick wall here?

BunnyLebowski Fri 21-Aug-09 11:52:27

Good post Greenie

I didn't go to ante-natal classes so have no experience of what information they give. And to be honest I took everything the midwives/health visitors said with a pinch of salt.

I have taken a common sense/instinctive approach to motherhood. When dd was born I didn't really know what to expect but I basically followed her cues and tried to meet her needs as they arose. I had no interest in sleep training, restricting her feeds or establishing any kind of routine. It just made sense to me that tiny babies need constant love and attention (and boob!).

So she breastfed on demand, slept when she wanted, spent lots of time in the sling and was pretty much constantly held by DP and I.

Dd is now 10 months and has found her own routine which thankfully involves sleeping through but still involves lots of boob!

I would take the same approach again.

In answer to your question then yes I do think new mothers should be given more honest information. But I don't think any new mother should take the word of the midwife/hv as gospel. It's up to us to talk to other mums, do a bit of reading and find out what really to expect. I found lots of brutally honest accounts of early motherhood this way!

fufflebum Fri 21-Aug-09 11:58:56

I think first time mums get so fixated on the birth very little gets discussed about once the baby is here. I was in shock after my DD was born. Although nothing can really prepare you we need more advice and Support after baby arrives....

Good post by the way!

ChairmumMiaow Fri 21-Aug-09 12:01:48

I completely agree with you GM, but like other people, I was so fixated on labour I couldn't really focus on the reality of having a baby to care for. What we did get told was nowhere near the truth for DS though

TheProvincialLady Fri 21-Aug-09 12:08:54

I totally agree. BUT when people rely on books instead of learning about actual real, live babies through meeting them (not always possible - I didn't know anyone with a baby when I had DS1), they are always going to get the idea that babies are machines who will do X if you do Y.

StayFrostyDMisaVileRag Fri 21-Aug-09 12:11:56

Good post, I agree. My mum bf'ed in the 70s when it was not the norm at all and there was far less encouragement and info about it; she thinks women today have unrealistic expectations of ourselves and of birth/new babies and that we psych ourselves out overthinking things.

DebsCee Fri 21-Aug-09 12:16:44

Great post. Totally agree, just not sure how much parents-to-be would absorb even if the info were given, so maybe it's info that can be given immediately post-birth.

kathyis6incheshigh Fri 21-Aug-09 12:19:04

I don't know, I think I got pretty good info from books.
It was MIL/mother who thought I was doing it wrong because I never put dd down! 'You seem to be feeding all the time, and your SIL was the same! In our day we only fed them every 4 hours'
At one point I lost it and pointed out that this method caused them both to fail with bf blush

cassell Fri 21-Aug-09 12:20:34

I agree the info in antenatal classes should be better, we were made to draw out a schedule in a "clock" to say what we would plan to do every hour and told to put in 30mins of feeding every two hours. My ds (like most babies!) wanted to feed constantly for the first few weeks, then it evened out a bit but he has never once done a full day of 30mins every 2 hrs - if I'd stuck to that I would have had a constantly screaming baby. TBH I took it all with a pitch of salt at the time so wasn't too concerned when he wanted to feed all the time but more info on what "normal" is would certainly have been helpful.

provinciallady - not sure I agree that books are always going to give you that impression - I have read some very helpful books which certainly don't suggest that babies are machines but help you to understand/respond to your individual baby's needs.

TheProvincialLady Fri 21-Aug-09 12:25:25

Which books did you read Kathy and cassell? I must admit I did temporarily own a copy of the Contented Little Robot Baby and have read The Baby Whisperer and the What to Expect book, and none of them matched how my babies behaved. The NCSS was the nearest, but even then....

CookieMonster2 Fri 21-Aug-09 12:26:25

I think there is a lot that first time parents don't get told. I went to the NHS antenatal classes and thought I was prepared. Sadly not.

I think there is a lot about labour that you don't get told, but maybe because thats because people don't want to scare you witless and people have very different birth experiences anyway. I remember a thread on here a while back about the things people don't tell you about labour in advance.

You certainly don't get told that you will spend the first few weeks constantly feeding, and I don't know why, it would make much more sense to prepare people in advance.

I know this will attract negative comments but mixed feeding is never discussed as an option. In the antenatal classes the options discussed are either breastfeeding or formula feeding so I think its no wonder that so many people just end up completely formula feeding. I prefer the line "every breastfeed counts" which I often see on here.

I think what is missing from the NHS classes (certainly ours, others may do this) is to invite people who have recently had a baby in to talk about their experiences. I would really enjoy doing something like that and I'm sure it would help a lot of people.

kathyis6incheshigh Fri 21-Aug-09 12:33:13

TPL - I had a good range. Top ones were:
The Womanly Art of BF (by the LLL League, full-on attachment), Contented Little Robot, How Not To Be A Perfect Mother (Libby Purves), and Dream Babies: Childcare Advice From Locke to Spock (Christina Hardyment, historical survey).

WreckOfTheHesperus Fri 21-Aug-09 12:43:53

*Cookie Monster*, I agree that mixed feeding could actually prolong breat-feeding, rather than hindering it. Doing one formula feed a day worked for me very well from 3 months until I stopped BF at nearly 7 months.

A friend of mine was in bits after the birth of her first DC; she had no help at all due to a parent's sudden serious illness, and wasn't producing much milk for the last feed of the day, and was worrying greatly about this.

She asked the HV if she could do formula feeding for this one feed, and was told no, absolutely not. It was only when she broke down in tears that the HV said, sotto voce, that she did had done one FF with her DCs, but that it wsn't official policy to say yes. shock

This "all or nothing" aproach surely can't be appropriate in such circumstances, and I would think sets many mothers up to fail.

duende Fri 21-Aug-09 13:27:30

GreenMonkies, great post - thank you. I am a first time mum of a 2 week old hungry boy. my baby feeds for hours on end. sometimes I don't manage to put him in his basket for 5 hours in the evening. the first two nights of his life were a nightmare to me - he fed for nearly 10 hours straight and I had no idea what I was doing wrong. I wish someone had told me it was normal and to be expected.

Chulita Fri 21-Aug-09 15:05:12

I was thinking the exact same thing the other day. I had a friend round who really wanted to bf but admitted that she had to put her DD on hungry baby formula at 4 weeks because she wanted to be fed all the time. She was really disappointed that she 'couldn't' bf - I told her that our DD fed umpteen times a day until about 4 months and that it was perfectly normal and she said that it couldn't be because now that her DD is on the hungry baby formula she sleeps longer and doesn't want feeding so much... I didn't realise just how often babies want to feed and that for the first few weeks you just don't get a moment's peace without them crying to be held/fed/cuddled but DH and I both really wanted to bf so I fed 9/10/11/12 times a night and all day too because that's what she wanted. 9 mths on we're still bfing and she's a really chubby little lovely one grin We definitely weren't prepared for the effort that bfing can be in the first months though! New mums do need much more info...

TheDMHatesMe Fri 21-Aug-09 15:19:40

They did actually tell us this at our NHS antenatal class, but I suppose it varies so much. I remember the HV (who was very pro-BF) telling us that they would basically feed ALL THE TIME and that the dads would need to step up and take on lots of household stuff.

On books: Penelope Leach is fantastic, and very much from the baby's POV.

DaisymooSteiner Fri 21-Aug-09 15:29:55

I'm not sure mentioning it at antenatal classes would necessarily prepare parents for the sheer overwhelming reality of having a baby who wants to feed or be held constantly, though it can't hurt!

I work on a postnatal ward and I make a point of telling mums whose babies who want to be held or feed frequently how normal it is and how, as long as baby is latched on correctly, that frequent feeds are a good thing.

In terms of mixed feeding being suggested as an option, I remember being told during my breastfeeding training that mums who offer formula early on are far more likely to end up exclusively formula feeding, so I would need to be convincing before I started suggesting it. Personally I think encouragement and practical help to keep breastfeeding exclusively is a better option.

BunnyLebowski Fri 21-Aug-09 15:49:51

I agree Daisy.

Have known a few people turn to formula after the first few weeks of pretty much constant feeding.

Tbh I don't think that knowing that this was normal baby behaviour would have made much of a difference.

People either choose to stick with it or choose to move to formula for an easier life.

diddl Fri 21-Aug-09 16:00:45

I can´t help thinking that some women today have no idea.

Do women really need telling that labour/childbirth hurts?
That newborns cry/feed/poo/sleep a lot.

When my newborn slept, I slept if I needed.
If not I did housework.
It´s hardly rocket science!

BertieBotts Fri 21-Aug-09 17:41:12

I'd never really known anyone with a baby and didn't have any idea at all what it was going to be like, but for the first few weeks I don't think I was away from DS for more than 20 minutes and he barely ever touched the ground/sofa/cot/etc - I just wanted to hold him constantly! I remember DP would get home from work and I'd realise I hadn't been to the toilet all day, and I wouldn't have noticed.

But then, I think, I'd been on a lot of websites talking about a "babymoon" and I wasn't used to doing loads of housework etc so I wasn't expecting to be a domestic goddess straight away. Also my mum had ME when I was growing up and if she was ever ill she had to be really careful and so I have always had this approach that if you are ill or recovering from something it doesn't make sense to push yourself because it will make recovery take a lot longer, I had a really long birth (was in labour 3 days) so I was really cautious and pretty much stayed in bed for the first week. I suspect our house was a tip but I don't remember that, I do remember sleepy newborn cuddles though

I remember we did NCT classes with a 2-evening bf workshop and the other couples all seemed really shocked by the sample day the bfc went through with us. DP point-blank refused to believe her!

moondog Fri 21-Aug-09 18:19:06

Wreck, re this comment

'A friend of mine was in bits after the birth of her first DC; she had no help at all due to a parent's sudden serious illness, and wasn't producing much milk for the last feed of the day, and was worrying greatly about this.

She asked the HV if she could do formula feeding for this one feed, and was told no, absolutely not. It was only when she broke down in tears that the HV said, sotto voce, that she did had done one FF with her DCs, but that it wsn't official policy to say yes. '

Are you absolutely sure the HV said this? [hm]

Secondly, if your friend really felt she wasn't producing much milk, the last thing she needed to do was replace a breastfeed with formula as that would reduce supply even more.

Breastfeeding is a supply and demand thing. The more you feed, the more yuo make. If you feel you haven't enough (which is rarey the case anyway) you just need to feed more.

Good points GM. We need to be told about how demanding it is in early days and this is hard for the modern women to accept, as she is used to having so much choice and control.

GYo Fri 21-Aug-09 18:30:54

Good thread.

At my NCT reunion at 6wks, I asked my NCT 'teacher' why they dont give you that information about how overwhelming/ hard work it is etc and specifically how much BFing is all about mother and baby and not the dad (my DH struggled with this a lot)

Her response was that it wouldnt help and that most women are so focused on the birth bit they dont recall anything else they are told until later.

Thinking about it was kind of true- I dont remember enough about the BF classes or like someone said, not sure I believed the typical day in the life of a new mum thing we did!

GreenMonkies Fri 21-Aug-09 18:38:19

See, we have the subconsciously absorbed expectation that babies only need feeding every 3-4 hours, so if ours want feeding before the clock says so we think our milk is "not enough". One bottle of formula and they sleep for 3 hours, and our worst fears are confirmed, our milk is weak and rubbish, and they are so much more "settled" on formula.....

We are told, by anyone from well meaning relatives to midwives and healthvisitors (and even strangers in the street!) that we shouldn't hold/carry our babies all the time, or pick them up when they squeak, because it will "spoil" them, and if we let them sleep next to us we are told that they will die of SIDS, that we are making a rod for our backs and that they'll never learn to sleep in their own bed. If we feed (or rock) them to sleep we are told they'll not learn to self-settle (another rod for our back...) and that we must "teach" them to go to sleep by themselves, and that all babies should sleep 12 hours a night by the time they are 3/4/5/6 months old.

And most of all, we must get our lives back and get back to normal.

All of this is total rubbish, and if we stopped telling new/expectant mothers these horrible lies they would not think they were somehow doing something wrong and turn to horrible baby training manuals, and so many tears would be saved. (mums and babies!) These expectations and myths destroy any confidence may mothers have, and as for most of us the first newborn we ever hold is our own, we go into it feeling less than sure of ourselves.

Everything sets us up to feel like we can't "do it". (not just bf, but being a mum in general) We are told we must deliver our baby in a set time on a set day, and of course we'll need lots of pain relief because we'll not be able to cope with labour on our own. We must have a Dr close by, because again we can't manage this, and we'll need him/her to save us from our body's inability to delivery our baby. Once we have been saved from our incompetence we are then sent home with a mewling creature that doesn't behave in any of the ways that we expect. It's a self-ful-filling prophecy, is it any wonder we have such low bf rates and such high PND rates??

(I did warn you this was a bit of a rant didn't I?!!)

GreenMonkies Fri 21-Aug-09 18:40:43

And at the bf sessions of our antenatal classes we are often told to make sure we have some formula in the house, just in case bf doesn't wok out for us. So we go into it with an expectation of failure too.

Head-Desk-Thud.....

mcflumpy Fri 21-Aug-09 18:41:13

I think there should be a definitely be a reality of breast feeding section to the ante natal classes. We did have a breast feeding section to our ante natal classes but it was about the process of what the body does i.e. milk not coming in immediately etc than what problems a new mum may face.
I now attend a new mums group run by my local authority, usually starting when baby is 6 weeks old and of 10 new mums, only 2 are bf. When we talked about why most had switched to formula, the reaosns were varied but all said they had no idea just how difficult it would be, some said no support in hospital, no support once home, sore nipples, not enough milk, and all said they just couldn't ever see it getting any easier.
My DD is now 10 weeks old and it hasn't been easy, why doesn't anyone ever mention the growth spurts?!! I have almost given up twice now and have had to resort to formula top ups during both growth spurts as I have been exhausted or in so much pain. I have short term bf goals, was 6 weeks at first, now 12 weeks and if we get to 12 weeks, we'll aim for 16, but whilst pregnant I honestly thought I'd be mother earth, no dummy breast feeding all the way, if only I knew how difficult bf could be, I would have been a bit less stressed about it.

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