how do we support formula-feeding mums through the NHS?

(4 Posts)
BabyMilkStudy Mon 18-Jul-11 16:51:39

I work for a research group at the University of Cambridge and Medical Research Council looking at how best to support bottle-feeding parents through the NHS.
We are testing our 'Programme for Health Growth and Nutrition' with babies who start receiving some formula-milk feeds before they are 3 months old. You can find out more about our study at or by calling 0800 7560878.
I'm really interested to hear from anybody who:
- has any thoughts on how best we can support formula-feeding parents through the NHS
- has experience in either running or taking part in such a study
- is interested in taking part themselves or
- would like to get involved to support recruitment.
Many thanks,

LabMonkey Wed 17-Aug-11 20:12:54

Honestly just making women who formula feed not feel like they're failures or evil would be a great start. My DD could not latch (yes really she couldn't just before the MN BF evangelists tell me she could if I'd tried harder) and we saw the specialists at The Rosie and at breastfeeding clinics and nobody could help they just said keep trying because they couldn't work out why she couldn't latch but as this meant my DD getting no food it wasn't an option. I tried to exclusively express but there is no support for this through the NHS and I honestly think if there was more women would take this option. The support in hospital was great and the midwives did make me feel that I wasn't a complete failure for not being able to breastfeed but since leaving hospital I felt completely abandoned and spent the first month of my DD's life crying. I had the feeling on the one occasion that I saw a midwife to talk about it afterwards that she wasn't allowed to support me in formula feeding. When I called the health visitor service for advice about reflux and sleeping I was told that this was all because my DD was formula fed and we wouldn't be having these problems if she was breastfed (yes they actually said this and now I'm glad that the health visitors here don't keep in touch because I don't need to be made to feel any worse that I already do!). I actually felt scared of admitting at our 6-8 week check that DD was formula fed as I thought the doctor would think I didn't love my DD.

I fully understand that breastmilk is best for babies but the NHS need to stop vilifying women who cannot breastfeed. I'm actually crying writing this nearly 4 months later and I don't think I'll ever forgive myself for not breastfeeding even though rationally I know it was formula or starvation. All I ever wanted was for a doctor or health visitor to tell me it was ok but I don't think they're allowed to. The baby group I go to is the only place I have received any support since the birth and that is run by volunteers from the local church who accept everyone as they are.

I'd be happy to help with the study although as you can see this is still a very emotive subject for me.

Cambgirl Thu 18-Aug-11 14:23:18

I have lots of opinions on this subject. I regularly see chubby babies who were exclusively breastfed. I have seen mothers breastfeed but then wean them on rubbish diets. I didn't breastfeed and my children have never had any issue with weight. Their appetites and food choices are so good I envy them. Maybe formula milk tasted so bad that cabbage, spinach and peas seemed like a godsend to my children.

I felt frustrated and even guilty about not being able to breastfeed but when I compare my children's diets with other children's diets now I have no regrets. I cannot believe I wasted my time even experiencing such negative emotions. Breastfeeding, although preferable, isn't the be all and end all - it's the following diet and lifestyle that will have the major impact on their development.

Annie, PM me if you want

breatheslowly Thu 18-Aug-11 23:22:34

I formula fed (after giving BF a shot). I didn't seem to experience any of the hang ups that many women do when they switch to FF. I had fully intended to EBF. The reasons that I can think of for not experiencing any issues with switching to FF are:

A friend who is a pediatrician said not to get too hung up on it if it doesn't work out as she has seen lots of parents giving themselves an unnecessarily hard time for FF or putting themselves and their DC through a massive ordeal trying to continue BF when it wasn't working. While not the first choice, this made me consider FF an acceptable alternative. I actively chose not to get hung up on BF and some might suggest that this was why we did end up FF, but I don't think this is the case (medical issues are the main reason).

Having scientific backgrounds my DH and I were able to read research and abstracts of research on the difference between BF and FF and draw our own conclusions about the quality of the evidence and the strength of any differences found. The oversimplistic information presented in pro-BF literature is only helpful when making the initial decision to BF. It is less helpful when things aren't going well and actually detrimental once you have switched over. We were also able to research "safe FF" and make an attempt to unpick the problems with formula and the problems of badly made up formula.

The support of my DH, family and friends. No one has ever said anything negative about the decision to move to formula and my mother has spoken of her relief as DD was beginning to become dehydrated. Similarly my GP was supportive and there is no reason for HCP not to be once you have started to FF as there is no going back.

So what could you do? I think the main thing is not to stigmatise FF, but to make it clear that FF well is much better than FF badly. The risks from making formula up incorrectly are really much more significant that people imagine and lots of people don't follow the instructions. Formula feeding is probably also associated with other behaviours that aren't idea (e.g. very early weaning). I would like to see leaflets about doing your best for your FF baby.

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