Breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world. So, surely it should be easy…right? Wrong! Breastfeeding is an incredible thing but it comes with a whole host of challenges and hurdles for many women and babies, which is why breastfeeding support is so important!
Benefits of Breastfeeding For Babies and Mothers
Breastfeeding provides your baby with a whole host of benefits, from nutrition and comfort to fighting illness in real time. Not only that, but it protects against breast cancer in mums and has even been shown to protect against post natal depression.
Breastfed babies are also less at risk of SIDS, which is just one of the reasons that the WHO recommends that children are breastfed until at least two years old!
The benefit of Breastfeeding goes far beyond simple nutrition for babies and the natural age for a human child to wean themselves is between two and seven years old – long after they are on solid food. Something which may seem odd in western culture, but is totally normal in many parts of the world.
Whether you’re planning on breastfeeding for six months or six years, the fact is that it is very unlikely to be a smooth ride and at some point you will need to reach out for the breastfeeding support available in the UK.
Why Is Breastfeeding Support Needed?
When a baby is born and a new mum tries to breastfeed, it is an entirely new experience for both of them. Even if the mum has breastfed other children in the past, no child is the same and each breastfeeding journey comes with its own set of challenges.
Breastfeeding support is there to help mothers and babies overcome the various struggles that breastfeeding can bring. Whether that be medical issues such as blocked ducts, mastitis, tongue tie or low supply, or emotional struggles caused by lack of sleep or fussy babies.
A bad latch can lead to so many problems, and can be caused by so many things, so without proper Breastfeeding support it can feel like an impossible task.
This can be incredibly difficult for new mums who want to breastfeed and the lack of support that so many people get is, I’m sure, one reason that many mums decide that breastfeeding isn’t right for them. After all, it incredibly important to look after your own mental health after giving birth.
This is not in any way designed to be an article against formula, whether it is used to supplement or feed exclusively. If it’s a mother’s choice to use formula then I believe fully that she should be supported in that choice. However, if someone feels pressured or forced into making a switch that they didn’t want to make, when breastfeeding support could have helped, I find that incredibly sad.
Women should be supported in the choices they make for themselves and their children and if that is not happening then something needs to change!
How Breastfeeding Support Helped Me
So far, in my short time breastfeeding I have relied heavily on the support available in my area. From the birth centre where I gave birth to B, to my local Baby Cafe and NCT group, there hasn’t been a single week where I haven’t reached out for some kind of help – be that emotional or physical.
When B was born we really struggled to get him latching and the midwives and maternity care assistants worked tirelessly with me to find different positions that might work. B would latch well for a few seconds, or sometimes even a minute, but then pull off in distress. This was emotionally and physically exhausting for both of us but we were supported tirelessly through it.
On day two we discovered that B had a chest infection which explained why he wasn’t staying on the boob (it’s hard to drink when you can’t breath!) And we transferred to hospital. However, all of the help and advice went with us and I continued working with my new baby to teach him how to latch!
The next issue we faced was that the stress of having a sick baby meant my milk was delayed coming in. This was when my next leg of support came into play, with the hospital guiding me through pumping until my milk came in. In the meantime B was put on donor breast milk, as well as trying to feed at the breast, which both helped to protect my supply as it came in and meant I knew he was getting the best possible food until it did.
Since coming home with a well baby, I have leant on my local Baby Cafe for almost weekly support. From helping to improve B’s latch, to simply having a chat!
I’ve also leant heavily on the other women from my NCT group, and the NCT itself to help me through the highs and lows of breastfeeding.
In short, I can say with absolute certainty that I would not be so confident feeding without the endless breastfeeding support that I have received. There is even a chance I wouldn’t have been able to continue, or even get started without it.
Why Aren’t More Women Getting Breastfeeding Support?
What has truly shocked me since embarking on this journey, is just how many women I meet or talk to online that wanted to continue breastfeeding but didn’t receive or weren’t aware of the support they deserved.
I truly don’t think that we talk about how hard breastfeeding can be. It is the most rewarding and empowering thing I’ve ever done but it hasn’t been without some seriously low moments! The fact that we don’t discuss it means that there is a perceived shame in asking for help. I think many women feel that they will be judged for finding this oh so natural thing difficult, but the truth is that we all struggle and if more people knew that then perhaps they would seek out the help.
What’s more, if women don’t know that it isn’t necessarily something that just happens straight away, then they may assume that if their baby doesn’t take the breast immediately then they can’t breastfeed. Or if they have a lower supply initially that they will be starving their baby! Whilst low supply should always be addressed, the solution doesn’t need to be that you stop breastfeeding all together.
However, just because you want help doesn’t mean it is easy to find. Breastfeeding support should be something discussed at every stage after birth, and in my view it should be offered even if it has been previously turned down. After all, a woman who was finding breastfeeding easy one week can encounter huge issues the next.
UK Breastfeeding Organisations
To try and make it a bit more simple for you to find the Breastfeeding support that you’re looking for, I’ve collated all of the different support networks and resources that I know about here.
If you have received support from any of these or know of any other resources (national or local) then comment below with your experiences or suggestions and I will update the list accordingly!
Our mission is to support parents through the first 1,000 days, to have the best possible experience of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood.
Tel: 0300 330 0700
Option 1: NCT infant feeding line
La Leche League
We believe in the immeasurable value of mothering through breastfeeding. We are here to support you in your breastfeeding relationship and in providing human milk to your baby.
Find your local leader or call their national helpline on: 0345 1202918
National Breastfeeding Helpline
Independent, confidential, mother-centered, non-judgmental breastfeeding support and information
Call 0300 100 0212 or use their dedicated web chat service.
The Baby Cafe
Baby Café is a network of breastfeeding drop-ins. They aim to offer help and support to breastfeeding mothers at any stage in their breastfeeding journey, regardless of the age of the baby or child and no matter how much breastmilk you are giving.
Find your local Baby Cafe here.
Association of Breastfeeding Mothers
The Association of Breastfeeding Mothers (ABM) is a voluntary organisation founded in 1979 by mothers already experienced in breastfeeding counselling.
The ABM Breastfeeding Helpline number is 0300 330 5453 (9.30am -10.30pm) or use their map to find a local breastfeeding support group here.
The Breastfeeding Network
The Breastfeeding Network (BfN) aims to be an independent source of support and information for breastfeeding women and others.
National Breastfeeding Helpline: 0300 100 0212 or use the National Breastfeeding Live Chat service.
Lactation Consultants of Great Britain
Lactation Consultants of Great Britain (LCGB) is the professional association for International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) in the UK, a professional voice for breastfeeding.
Contact them by their online form here.
UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative
The Baby Friendly Initiative is revolutionising healthcare for babies, their mothers and families in the UK, as part of a wider global partnership between the World Health Organization (WHO) and Unicef.
Find out more about the UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative here.