By Naomi Saunders
Naomi is a school teacher from Cornwall, and Mum to 2 beautiful little girls. Following a difficult experience feeding her second baby Naomi has become an advocate of Combination Feeding and works with MAM to raise awareness of parents right to choose their own path when it comes to feeding.
Could we be doing a better job of supporting women with long term breastfeeding?
Gone are the days when we saw the majority of women spending the first years of their baby’s lives at home. Equality, the rise in single parents and the role of a woman have fast-forwarded to a much busier and quicker pace for many mums. But views of feeding have paused, although for many of us the reality is we are burning the candle both ends and then some, we are still expected to raise our children as though we don’t have to work.
With the fear of the bottle still shaping the majority of the advice women receive; it means many are being provided with short-sighted information about their options for feeding, and little practical advice on how to continue breastfeeding in the face of a full-time job. Why are we not doing more to support women who want to work and breastfeed? Breast may be Best, but it does not do enough to address the challenges of juggling returning to work and a baby. Let’s start being more realistic in the advice we provide; giving specific, relevant guidance based upon a woman’s long term plans. Rather than increasing the pressure and allowing expectations of society to overwhelm new mums, at their most vulnerable time.
By giving women the option of introducing a bottle into their routine alongside breastfeeding, we are not running the risk of veering them from the path of breastfeeding; we are supporting them in staying on it. We are opening up an opportunity to enable mums to breastfeed despite needing (or wanting) a bottle in their routine.
I have been privileged to spend the last year discussing feeding choices with mums and mums-to-be from all parts of the country, to have the opportunity to hear the thoughts on one of the biggest decisions made or forced upon us in parent-hood has shown me more than ever that still, there is a lack of information available for mums which entertains anything other than exclusively breastfeeding.
It is frustrating that women are still not being taught how to use a breast pump or how to prepare a bottle, store milk, prep formula. Whilst I entirely support breastfeeding and its benefits (after all I am a breastfeeding mum) it is not necessary it comes at all costs. Post-natal mental health and knowledgeable parents are equally as important.
I combination fed for 12 months, 12 months of breastmilk my baby would never have had if I had not been able to feed her through a bottle. If I had been forced to pick one or the other it would have been bottle-feeding, after all when you are 6 months old with a childminder and your mum is at work 5 miles down the road, the only option is milk through a bottle and it really is as simple as that- no matter what your view is on breastfeeding, mums would need to surpass the realms of reality to exist in two places at one time and despite the fact we will always do our best, we are not superheroes we are human beings (who need to pay the bills).
We must be sure parents are given all the information they need to make an informed decision about how their baby will be fed, based on their lifestyle and plans once their baby is born. We shouldn’t be afraid to tell mums they could add a bottle into their feeding routine – because if they are anything like myself the help of bottle will help them breastfeed for longer. I wholly support breastfeeding, but I hope to see campaigns take a different perspective- one which provides support rather than pressure.