“End of the breastfeeding shaming: Midwives ordered not to judge new mothers who choose to bottle feed” (Daily Mail June 2018). Wow, that’s one way for the Daily Mail to have a grabbing headline and epitomise what is so wrong with society’s view on breastfeeding. So basically, if new mothers choose to bottle feed, they will be judged by their midwives. They will feel guilty. I think I’m pretty confident in knowing that as healthcare professionals, midwives would be some of the least judgemental of them all? They are faced with parents making all sorts of decisions day in and day out. Professional, medical judgement must be made, but not judgement to lead to new mums feeling guilty. I was absolutely shocked by this news headline. It is the midwives’ role, always has been, to support a mother, a family, through the decisions they make. If a mother chooses to breastfeed, she should be supported. If a mother chooses to formula feed, she should be supported.
What is happening a lot for new mums is that the support to breastfeed is not there. Midwives are stretched. They don’t have the time. Women may also find that their partner, family and friends do not know how to support them. Therefore many new mums are forced into formula feeding due to lack of support, not because they wanted to. This can have deep psychological consequences due to their own preconceptions of motherhood and their idealistic expectations of what it should be like (Borra 2015). Inevitably, these circumstances may lead some women to develop postnatal depression. This is sad. A sad state that our society has put them in.
Fundamentally, breastfeeding has huge benefits for mums. Those who do not breastfeed have been shown to be at higher risk of breast and ovarian cancer, and type 2 diabetes. There is an increased risk of postpartum depression with shorter duration of breastfeeding (Chowdhury 2015) and Borra (2015) highlights the complexity of the association with postnatal depression. It’s often an urban myth that breastfed children don’t sleep as well as formula-fed children and therefore breastfeeding mums are exhausted, which could contribute to postpartum depression. Research shows that formula-fed babies sleep deeper and for longer bouts earlier than breastfed babies, although the total amount of sleep is the same (ISIS 2015). In fact, many breastfeeding mums get more sleep as to settle a waking baby can often be quicker with a breastfeed than having to make up a bottle.
Feature photo credit: Sally Etheridge, Leicester Mammas CIC
Kate Butler is a Secondary School Biology teacher by day and mother to two boys (aged 2 and 4) day and night. She trained as a breastfeeding peer supporter in 2013 and since then has set up local peer support meetings in her local area and joined the committee of West Herts Breastfeeders to support with fundraising and event management. West Herts Breastfeeders is a community based mum to mum peer support group that supports breastfeeding families with their breastfeeding journeys in the community and within West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust.
Borra C, Iacovou M and Sevilla A. New evidence on breastfeeding and postpartum depression: The importance of understanding women’s intentions. Maternal and Child Health Journal 2015; 19(4): 897–907.
Chowdhury R, Sinha B, Sankar MJ et al. Breastfeeding and maternal health outcomes: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Acta Paediatrica 2015; 104(Suppl. 467): 96–113.
ISIS 2015 [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.dur.ac.uk/resources/isis.online/ISIS_normal_2015.pdf [Accessed 26/07/2018]