Breastfeeding and bottle feeding are topics often debated. Breastfeeding rates in the UK are some of the lowest in the world. However, only 1-2% of women are physiologically unable to breastfeed, so why do such a high percentage of parents bottle feed in the UK?
In the past breastfeeding has been viewed as a low-class practice and western cultures saw formula as the superior alternative. If we look at parts of the world where breastfeeding is the highest like Rwanda, experts explain this is due to African nation’s maternity leave policies, government backing, and less accessibility to bottle feeding. More recently in the UK, there is a large-scale problem with social pressure and lack of support in social groups and wider society. It has become normal to not breastfeed, I, certainly for one have been reminded by multiple midwives that I am in the minority for breastfeeding my baby in England 2022. Lifestyles have changed, and it is more convenient for adults to have babies dependent on bottles for reasons like placing them in others’ care. On the other hand, some mothers desperately want to breastfeed and after weeks of trying with not enough support around them, they are forced to stop from pain and exhaustion.
I remember learning to feed my firstborn, After the exertion of childbirth, I just needed to sleep, I didn’t even feel that instant connection to my baby. But at the same time, my instincts took over and I was determined to breastfeed. Any breastfeeding mamas will know that in those first few days baby feeds all.the.time; till their rich full milk comes to save the day and lull them into a much-needed longer sleep (for mamas and papas too).
It Doesn’t Benefit Anyone Else
Breastfeeding only benefits the baby and the family. No one else gains anything from you breastfeeding, therefore formula milk companies know they need to spend a lot of money on advertising to get straight to the heart of potential buyers. Parents of newborns are particularly in need, and these companies are aware of this and they use it to their advantage.
A newborn baby has the challenge of learning to suckle, breathe then swallow. An inbuilt instinct that depends on our hand-in-hand persistence with our baby and unconditional patience.
If I had not had the support of my mother who I was staying with and who had breastfed 4 of her own babies. As well as my sister, who is also a breastfeeding mama. Then I don’t know how I would have gotten through it. She’d rock my son to sleep between feeds so that I could sleep, and she’d make my meals because I simply hadn’t the energy for anything other than to feed my baby and sleep. My heart really wishes every new Mother had the same kind of support surrounding her. Not to mention that with both of my babies, I have felt the need to blend into the background a little in order to be able to exclusively breastfeed on demand the way mother nature beautifully designed our bodies to, without judgment. Because If you look around, you can see that most people are bottle feeding, and as humans, we often conform to fit into our environment-
which is why I am grateful that my instincts were more powerful than social influence.
I want to add here that we are blessed to be in a part of the world where there are options available when we really need them. There are premature babies who would not be with us without the expertise of formula-based milk and bottles, and mums whose health depends on it too. There are parents who weren’t breastfed themselves, therefore bottle feeding is something that feels normal to them. There are parents who simply don’t want to, they are happier bottle-feeding. In these cases, bottle feeding is their choice and it is important for the baby to have a happy mother, not a mother who is unhappy breastfeeding. It is important to note that with bottle feeding you can still meet your baby’s emotional needs and bond with your baby by close body contact and eye contact.
Let’s look at why advocates for breastfeeding are so passionate about it:
- breastmilk adapts with your baby to meet their changing needs
- breastmilk changes in its taste depending on what the mother had eaten, preparing the baby for solids
- breastmilk is easy for babies to digest and contains antibodies that reduce the risk of gastroenteritis, respiratory tract infections, childhood obesity, childhood diabetes, etc.
- supports brain development
good for eyesight, speech, jaw and mouth movement
- encourages bonding and creates a secure feeling baby
- Interesting fact: Kissing your baby will change your milk, this sends messages from babies body to the mother’s body to produce antibodies to any bugs present which will produce milk with the antibodies needed
- baby can control the kind of milk they need by how they suckle and for how long.
- lowers the risk of SIDS
Some immune factors become stronger into the second year of breastfeeding as your baby is more active and picking up more gerns!
- Your breastmilk at night contains proteins that stimulate melatonin and a sleep-inducing neurotransmitter to help with sleep cycles.
- Breast milk is different for each baby you have depending on their needs.
- The list goes on…………
Mamas who want to breastfeed shouldn’t have to compromise on that in order to function in society. We need to be more valuing and supportive of parents and babies and this, in turn, would allow for breastfeeding rates to increase.