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UK Breastfeeding initatives - does it help or hinder new parents? What are the pros and cons?

(32 Posts)
Jester78 Wed 16-Mar-16 13:11:24

The UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative has a key focus on promoting the benefits of breastfeeding for mother and baby and actively encourages mothers to breastfeed and provides information to mothers on how to get ongoing support for the continuation of breastfeeding.

I’m interested to know if anyone has thought that this particular initiative has helped or hindered their experience of becoming parents?

NickyEds Wed 16-Mar-16 16:18:17

Are you a journalist?

Jester78 Wed 16-Mar-16 17:08:39

no I'm a student doing a higher certificate for NCT and for one of our assessments we need to understand how some social policies or initiatives may affect parents on the transition to parenthood. To explore what people find helpful or not.

Whatdoidohelp Wed 16-Mar-16 17:13:21

I think most women who want to breastfeed will do it regardless of what outside influence there is.

What midwifes and antenatal classes should be doing is preparing women. Telling us it is horrendous for the first few weeks, bleeding nips, exhaustion beyond comprehension, constant feeding etc. Don't just tell us the benefits. Tell us the realities.

NickyEds Wed 16-Mar-16 18:22:58

Sorry op, you sounded a bit like a journalist! I've never heard of this initiative and I've got a 2.3 year old and an 8 month oldl just had a quick Google and the bf section seemed useless tbh. Just pure bf promotion which isn't the problem really since the vast majority of women start bf. I also think a reality check would be useful, I think it's the gap between expectation and experience which is a major issue for women. Most women give up because it hurts and they think know they don't have enough milk. If you were better prepared it might make the start of bf much easier.

SweepTheHalls Wed 16-Mar-16 18:25:57

I think it is a positive initiative because our local hospital was do keen to gain baby friendly status that they made as particular effort to support breast feeding whilst not putting pressure on those who had already made a decision not to on the post natal ward.

Jester78 Fri 18-Mar-16 16:20:24

Hi thanks for your views that's really helpful. Yes, I have a 6 year old and a 4 year old and would agree that I knew very little personally, about this initiative until I started my training with NCT. I also didn't find much support when I was breastfeeding. Its a shame as I know that in some hospitals it does appear to be helpful but I suppose it depends on which hospital you go to in terms of the help and support they provide if a mother wishes to breastfeed.

In my experience the antenatal and Doula classes I attended did try their best to prepare parents (and me) for what may await them after they have their baby. Since I began studying with NCT i've discovered that there seems to be a fine line of not being too negative or too positive about the information we are meant to be giving to parents in the time allocated to discuss the particular subject. Plus its totally subjective person to person about how they feel about what they hear about a subject. One person might think they were not prepared enough on how hard breastfeeding may be while another person may feel that they were over prepared especially if they found the experience easy or chose not to do it at all. Its quite a task I imagine catering for everyone.

I do think however, talking about the realities of becoming a parent and feeding is very important as is sign posting people to sources of support and help for after the classes have ended.

Tilliebean Fri 18-Mar-16 22:32:45

I was determined to breastfeed and I expected it to be sore. What I didn't expect was my full term baby (born vaginally with no drugs) to be incapable of latching. I felt really let down by my antenatal classes (NHS ones) in this respect. I honestly didn't expect the problems I had. It took 12 weeks of pretty intensive support from local breastfeeding clinics (NHS again- brilliant help) to get her exclusively breastfed. I felt like a failure and I was stressed out for 3 months trying to do what was best for DD. Basically it is drilled into you that breast is best (which I believe), but there is really ZERO prep for what to do when it goes wrong. Then you feel guilty for even considering stopping, because it's best. My midwife told me 5-6 days post birth that she would have given up. If I had known what could go wrong ahead of time, I wouldn't have been so stressed and unhappy for those 3 months. It's just such an emotional and difficult time and I thrive on having as much prep as possible. Even the option of more in depth breastfeeding advice, pre birth, would have been amazing.

strawberrybubblegum Sat 19-Mar-16 08:22:03

I felt incredibly let down by the breastfeeding part of my NCT course, and I'm still angry about it now (3 years later).

All they did was ram down our throats how important it is and how natural (including that nonsense about a newborn crawling to it's mothers breast - even if that's true for the occasional baby, I don't see how it's helpful), with NO information about how to actually be SUCCESSFUL at it.

FFS, people who do NCT generally really, really want to breast feed. But for most people it's hard, and a significant minority have problems which need to be addressed. More than half our NCT group got the advice of a (paid) lactation consultant over problems with latch, tongue tie, or milk supply. NONE of these things had even been mentioned in our bloody useless NCT session.

The absolute basics which should be covered (and aren't) are:
1. It will hurt. Your nipples might well bleed, but you can still carry on. You can use lanisoh to ease it a bit. Improving the latch will make it hurt much less. It will get better. Nipple guards have their own problems
2. Your baby might not find it very easy. If possible, go to a breastfeeding cafe to see how it's done beforehand. These are the basic holds - if you are having trouble feeding try them out since some babies find one easier than another.
3. Good latch is crucially important. A bad latch will really hurt, and will also stop your baby from feeding properly (think clamping down on a straw as you drink). This is how you shape your breast into an oblong so it will fit in. Once the baby opens his mouth wide, shove it in as far as you can. They should have the inside of their mouths against your skin, not pinched lips. You can pull the babies lip back underneath to get a better latch. If your nipple comes out looking like a lipstick then the latch was bad, and it will hurt. If the latch is bad, it's OK to take them off and try again (slip your finger in their mouth to break the seal) - they'll get the milk much more easily if you help them get a better latch.
4. You absolutely must feed often in the first few days, even if your baby is too sleepy to want to. This will increase your supply. Often is at least every hour in the day, and every 3 hours or so at night. To encourage a sleepy baby to feed, strip him down, tickle him, and switch breasts often (it's fine to keep going from one side to another to keep them interested, especially in the early weeks when you're getting your supply going). If your baby is too sleepy to drink, not drinking enough will make him even sleepier and you could have problems.
5. The way your breasts work is that when the cells are emptied of milk, that stimulates milk production. If they are full of milk, the production stops. So if you have supply problems, the worst thing to do is to 'wait until your breasts fill up' since that will reduce your supply more. The thing to do is to keep feeding absolutely as often as possible. Your breasts don't need to feel full in order for your baby to drink. Do be a bit wary about exhausting your baby though if he's struggling - drinking is tiring.
6. Cluster feeding - where the baby keeps drinking on and off for several hours non-stop is normal in the early weeks. It doesn't mean they are just fussing and using the breast for comfort - they're increasing your supply. You should go with it, and just stay in bed feeding.
7. Tongue tie is common and often not spotted in hospitals. If you're having real problems with latch get it checked out.
8. Reflux is also common. The baby cries and pulls off during feeding. They may or may not be sick. If you suspect it, go to your gp. There are medicines which can help.
9. If you mix feed, you are likely to reduce your supply. It might still be the right thing to do as a temporary help to your baby. With a lot of effort you can get back to exclusive breastfeeding. The way to do it is to always breastfeed before giving the bottle, and breastfeed very often. If you don't, then you are likely to finish breastfeeding sooner than you would like. In any case, the main thing is that your baby gets fed.
10. The amount of milk you can pump doesn't actually show your supply - your baby can get more than that out. If pumping isn't working for you and is stressful then stop. Just put your baby to the breast more often to increase your supply instead. Every hour is not too much.
11. It is hard, but if you do manage to crack it you'll find that breastfeeding is really worth all the effort. Not just for your baby's health but because it's a wonderful, bonding experience and you will love it.

strawberrybubblegum Sat 19-Mar-16 08:31:22

Oh and also
12. Make sure that you have a full jug of water by your bedside, and meals made by someone else. You need the raw supplies to make the milk, and as much rest as is possible with a newborn.

ingenvillvetavardukoptdintroja Sat 19-Mar-16 08:52:39

I was prepared for difficulties because I read a lot on mumsnet and my friend had a tongue tie issue. Not from the hospital where baby was born and spent 4 weeks in special care, despite its breastfeeding status. The staff mostly just tried to shove my boob at him. I did see a lactation consultant there who was excellent but my health visitor sorted that and I was lucky that she was great. Other friends with worse issues were denied access to this by their hv who obviously didn't take the ir pain seriously.

graysor Sat 19-Mar-16 21:07:03

I totally agree with strawberry bubblegum.

After doing nct and the nhs antenatal classes I thought I was well prepared to breastfeeding. But I absolutely wasn't. The relentlessness of it in the early days, the excruciating pain of a poor latch ( describing it as 'sore nipples ' doesn't even come close!), what to do if you can't get a good latch ( all the advice just says make sure you get a good latch. I knew our latch was poor but didn't know what to do to improve it) are just a few of the things it would have been useful to know in advance.

katienana Sat 19-Mar-16 21:19:27

Brilliant advice from Strawberry bubblegum. The only thing I'd add to that is, it might not hurt and might be really straightforward. It was for me. I followed a few Facebook pages about breastfeeding so I had lots of information available,also my mum and sister had both do everything it so could help/advise. I attended an NHS information session with DH which was good, it explained about feeding often, holds, latch etc.
I think a big difference could be around getting partners and extended families on board. How often do you read on here about women pressured to formula feed so partners can bond or grandparents feed the baby?

PeppasNanna Sat 19-Mar-16 21:31:53

Like the advice from Strawberry... hcps need to be realistic when advising oarents on bf...

When i had my 6th dc, i make the meals, do the shopping etc. So i needed to feed myself or i didnt eat!

Its the reality that caring for your baby & family is exhausting & its normal to be exhausted with a young baby & family.

Tilliebean Sat 19-Mar-16 21:58:25

I think it's also important to explain that it is ok to supplement. I felt like shit because DD had to have formula, I hated the smell and I felt like a failure because she needed it. Reality was she only needed it for a little while. It was fine. I worked with support to increase the BF and my supply until she didn't need top ups. I think too often you get told a lot about establishing supply, etc etc. It is absolutely important but if you have issues and need to supplement it isn't the end of BF. I was so afraid it would be, so much needless anxiety and fear. That's why it is important to educate on what can go wrong and how to deal with it.

Moving15 Sat 19-Mar-16 22:15:20

What is needed is a campaign to teach society to take practical steps to support breastfeeding women in everyday life. For example, helping elderly neighbours with shopping, gardening and moving heavy objects are normal scenarios in films, adverts etc. We need an equivalent for breastfeeding where the mum lies on the sofa for weeks on end with her fed on demand baby and family and neighbours hoover, cook and hang up the washing for her while topping up her water glass and bringing her snacks.

When women are given the practical support they need to free them up to breastfeed without so much pressure then the success rate will grow. When society realises that we all play a part in helping mums to breastfeed, then more women will be able to spend the time learning this skill. It's not easy for every one and the responsibility isn't only with the mother.

I say that as someone who ebf two prem babies and really enjoyed it.

FloraTheTutor Sun 03-Jul-16 04:07:45

Really valuable advice, thank you everyone for sharing this.

OlennasWimple Sun 03-Jul-16 04:30:35

I agree about more societal support. My best bf experience was in a very trendy London bar where a young, make Polish waiter brought me a pint of water completely off his own bat as I was trying to feed DS at a work event (I had popped in to celebrate my team's amazing success while I was on mat leave)

Batteriesallgone Sun 03-Jul-16 04:38:48

Promoting the benefits of breastfeeding is the wrong way round. It sets up formula as a 'normal' baseline and breast as being 'extra benefits'.

What we ought to be told is the dangers and disadvantages of artificial feeding.

Mrspopper Sun 03-Jul-16 05:21:18

The dangers of artificial feeding??? Really batteries? Just what a mum struggling to breast fed needs to read!
As someone going through this at the moment I had found advice to be shockingly different between health professionals, NCT and LLL counsellors so much that it's hard to know what to do. The baby is expected by the NHS to fit a certain pattern and if they don't the immediate advice is to top up. My baby is almost three weeks now, not back to birth weight, had tongue tie (missed by NHS) if is incredibly stressful and thr support is not out there.

29redshoes Sun 03-Jul-16 05:55:22

batteries I completely disagree. That sounds like a great way to put even more pressure on women in the early weeks, which are stressful enough as it is. And it's completely over the top - yes breast is best, but formula is a completely safe and reasonable alternative.

OP, I think the vast majority of women already know the benefits of breastfeeding and want to do it. With this in mind, there was FAR too much emphasis on the advantages of breastfeeding at my NHS antenatal class, and nowhere near enough practical, honest advice.

A bit more pragmatism would be helpful. Nipple shields and the occasional bottle in the first few weeks may not be ideal, but if they allow the mother to keep on breastfeeding in the long term they're completely sensible.

Also agree with strawberry that more information on the possible issues would be useful, including things like jaundice and reflux.

One of the strangest things I've heard (and seen on MN a couple of times) is that the formula companies are responsible for low breastfeeding rates. The insinuation seems to be that women see the cute baby on the aptamil advert and get confused...and therefore need yet more breastfeeding propaganda shoved at them hmm.

celeryeater Sun 03-Jul-16 06:23:05

Love this thread! Completely agree there should be more information on problems that can arise. I have been pretty much ebf my 6 week old daughter from birth (apart from a small amount of formula in hospital because I had to have a scan that meant i wasn't allowed to breasfeed for 24hrs) and in that time I've had a nipple explode blood, bruising, blisters, thrush, and now mastitis! I went to the NHS and NCT class and tbh the NHS one was more helpful because at least they showed you a video with about 5 minutes of just footage of people latching on their babies. Again lots of information on the benefits of breastfeeding was given - which is stupid because I already knew that, hence why I attended the class to try to prepare! As for NCT I fantasise about going back in time and smacking the lady who gave our class! She was incredibly patronising and just talked about how natural breastfeeding is and that how most people can breastfeed but just give up when it gets hard (referring more to frequent feeding etc. - this was in response to someone asking 'if most women are able to breasfeed why do so many stop?' . She also went on about the videos of newborns crawling to the nipple and latching themselves! I know that happens but it isn't most people's experience and actually really isn't useful at all.
Later I complained to my hv about how some more information on possible complications would have been useful and she said 'do you really think if we told people all the negatives from the beginning they would still try to breasfeed?' but yes I do! And when they ran into complications breastfeeding they would be more prepared to deal with it and not think oh god I'm such a failure /bad mum

Oswin Sun 03-Jul-16 06:55:59

Your attitude is exactly the problem batteries.
What needs to happen is more support not just telling mothers how good breastfeeding is.
We know this, but it's hard and we need to stop midwifes lying to pressure you into breastfeeding.
I was struggling to feed dd on the ward she just wouldn't latch on.
She was screaming and screaming she hadn't had anything for 20 hours I managed to squeeze some drops in her mouth.
I was deaperate. Hadn't slept in days. The breastfeeding midwife was useless. She just kept saying you need to do it.
Like I didn't bloody know.
I could see a specialist in a few days. I begged the midwife for a bottle of formula and they refused to get it for me and I didn't know where it was.
I told an orderly this, sobbing, in the middle of the night and she got angry and went and got my baby some milk, fed dd for me and told me as long as she's fed everything's ok and to try and get some sleep.
When the midwife came round in the morning and seen the bottles she was so angry, she lied to me and said once your baby has a drop of formula they can't breastfeed at all.
I was only 18 I believed her, I didn't realise that a grown ass woman would be so spiteful to lie because I disobeyed her wishes.

From then on she ignored me. Horrible awful women.

This is what we need to crack down on.

JE678 Sun 03-Jul-16 07:05:32

I felt so let down. My baby had a TT and struggled to latch. It was diagnosed at birth but the first separation appointment was at 2 weeks. It took to 16 weeks for feeding to become pain free. The poor child had no food for 3 days as the hospital refused to help me formula feed and he was getting zero from me. He screamed non stop for those 3 days. In the end I discharged myself and gave him formula. We still mix feed at nearly 6 months but I found zero support for mix or formula feeding even when breastfeeding support didn't work and I saw several breastfeeding consultants and medical professionals.

Iamthegreatest1 Sun 03-Jul-16 07:08:28

MASTITIS! Mastitis anyone? Absolutely no one told me what this horrendous breat inflammation condition is. Not once was it mentioned at NCT classes. It would have so so helpful it we had been told:

How to prevent it,

I had it twice within 5 weeks. Breasts red and inflamed, nipplesso stretched and flat t was impossible for ds to latch. The pain was like nothing I've ever experienced and I screamed the house down. I didn't even know it was a thing. Had I known about this before hand, I wouldn't have been resting sideways on them when I napped in the afternoon and would have taken different steps to wards breastfeeding and ensuring I was emptying properly. Breast feed? I just wanted to slice them off!

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