After having a baby, I struggled to get going with breastfeeding. My milk didn’t come in fast enough and after only a few days at home snuggled on the sofa with my new baby, I found myself back in hospital with a bottle of formula thrust in my hand and the instruction to feed her immediately before she got any sicker or more dehydrated.
I’ve got no problem with giving my child formula, to my mind one of its great benefits is that it can step in in these critical moments. But I had been expressly told at breastfeeding classes, run by a major childbirth charity, that giving formula or bottle feeding in the first few weeks is forbidden if you want to breastfeed.
However, the reality for me was that topping up breast feeds with formula in those early weeks was a literal lifesaver. And it didn’t stop me breastfeeding in the long run either. I was able to breastfeed exclusively from a month onwards and keep going for a further six months before gradually switching to formula.
So, a happy ending for me. Great. But I couldn’t quite believe that my experience was so at odds with what i had been instructed pre-birth. And then more and more friends began to have babies and I heard the same stories over and over again, saw the same patterns of mothers struggling or ending up at a dead end with breastfeeding in those early weeks and reflecting in hindsight that the advice they were given pre-baby did not relate to they actually needed to do. Equally, for those who breastfed, it was often the intervention of brilliant health professionals and peer supporters that helped them to get there.
Aware that the UK has the lowest rate of breastfeeding in the world, I was interested to find out more about what’s getting in between babies and the boobs they innately crave. Does a bad start with breastfeeding zap confidence or make the whole experience too unpleasant? Is there too much conflicting information out there? Is there not enough? How big a role do friends and family play in influencing our choices or the pressures of work and family life?
As someone who has breast and formula fed, I can clearly see the benefits of both. What I passionately dislike is people having their choices removed through lack of support, poor information, peer pressure or negative attitudes. I hope this site will be a place for people to openly share their views and experiences on breastfeeding and shed more light onto what can be done to support mothers further, particularly in those crucial early weeks.