‘Baby formula milk should have cigarette style health warnings telling mothers breast is best, says top charity’
Save the Children say that they want large cigarette style warnings, big enough to cover at least a third of the packaging with the message that breast is best. Why am I so shocked by this? As a charity, surely putting more pressure on women to breastfeed can’t be a good thing. For starters, I’m sure a lot of mums really want to breastfeed their babies. However, this isn’t always possible. I’ll share my experience with you and you can make your own mind up.
Before our twins were born I decided that I wanted to breastfeed them. My husband was very supportive and I guess naively I assumed breastfeeding would be the easiest, most natural thing in the world to do. After all, there are lots of adverts, programmes and stories on the TV, in magazines and newspapers telling us how wonderful and easy it is. The fact of the matter is, that this isn’t the case. Now, I’m not saying that every mum finds it difficult to breastfeed. I know a few mums who, minutes after delivering their baby have got off to a great start at breastfeeding and have had no problems at all. These women are still breastfeeding their babies now many months down the line. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case in every situation. Our twins were born 6 weeks early by planned C-section because one of our girls stopped growing. This meant that I was unable to breastfeed them because they were in incubators being ventilated and put under jaundice lights and all sorts of tubes and alarms surrounded them. Even though I was unable to physically breastfeed them I still wanted them to have my breast milk. Whilst I was in recovery, a lovely nurse helped me express some colostrum (first milk) which would be tube fed to our twins. Although, the amount was miniscule the nurse reassured me that every little drop was vital in helping our girls. As the days passed by and our girls grew stronger I would express every 3 hours using a double pump and my milk would again be tube fed to both our girls.
Undeterred by the fact that I wasn’t able to breastfeed our twins from the moment they were born, when they were strong enough for us to hold them, I was encouraged to try breastfeeding. I thought it would be easy but at 2lb11, our beautiful daughter lacked the strength to latch on. As soon as she felt the warmth of my skin against hers, she would simply fall asleep. This is the same for our other beautiful daughter (4lb3), who we held for the first time a few days later. Try as I might, every time I thought we were making progress, it simply wasn’t meant to be. They eventually managed to latch on but after a few sucks they would be fast asleep in seconds. I was producing enough milk for them both as I was expressing every 3 hours and the NICU staff had a fridge and freezer full of my milk ready to be tube fed to our girls. To say I was disheartened and disappointed is an understatement. I tried for 3 weeks to breastfeed our twins. Some people will say I didn’t try hard enough, that I should have persevered more and eventually it would all work out ok, but I know I tried as hard as I could.
Eventually, we decided that we would bottle feed them. When I say bottle feed, most people assume that if a baby is drinking from a bottle they must be drinking formula. This is not the case! Over the 3 weeks following our twins birth, I managed to build up a large stock of breast milk. At first this was tube fed to our daughters then we were able to feed it to our girls from a bottle. Our twins spent 27 days in special care and they had almost 2 months worth of my breast milk. I made the decision before they left hospital that I would stop expressing. The reason for this is because expressing every 3 hours and looking after twins at the same time is hard work and I admire anyone who manages to do it. For me, it was a personal choice and one that I do not regret because I know that me and my husband have done everything in the world for our children. Does not breastfeeding them make me a bad person? No. Does it make me any less of a mother compared to breastfeeding mums? No. Did I feel guilty for not breastfeeding? No, because I tried damn bloody hard to.
Why do so many people criticise women who choose not to breastfeed or those who try and decide it’s not for them? Surely, Save the Children can see that by adding to the already mounting pressure on mums to breastfeed it’s not going to do them any favours?
I know that breast milk is best for babies and therefore breastfeeding is important, however, women should have the choice and not be made to feel guilty because they decide not to breastfeed. There are many reasons why a woman may decide not to breastfeed. Some may not produce enough milk, some may not like the idea of breastfeeding and some may just prefer to give their babies formula. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day it is a personal choice and women should not feel pressurised or guilty about their choice.
Whilst our babies were in special care, there was one female consultant in particular who was very much for breastfeeding. I think she took the fact that I had decided not to continue to try and breastfeed as a sign that I just didn’t care about what I fed our twins. This was simply not true. The consultant would constantly tell me that she breastfed her children and it was the best thing she could have ever done for them, making me feel guilty for my inadequacy. It wasn’t through lack of trying. The simple fact of the matter is that after 3 weeks of trying, expressing and a lot of tears I wanted our children home. In the end, we turned to bottles because our twins had to establish feeding before we could bring them home. If I continued trying to breastfeed, it could have been another month before we were able to bring our twins home and even though I didn’t breastfeed I did give them my milk in a bottle instead of directly from my breast.
I’m sure all women are more than aware of the benefits breastfeeding provides but that doesn’t mean every woman will want to breastfeed. Surely by providing more support for women whether that be one on one support, in a group or simply by providing more information readily available in chemists, supermarkets, doctors surgeries etc would be more beneficial instead of adding on the guilt.
I would love to hear your thoughts.