Hello dear Blog reader
Today I thought I would share some thoughts on breastfeeding and bottle feeding, after listening to a very interesting programme on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour this morning.
The programme talked about women's experiences of feeding their babies, following the results of a poll commissioned by BBC Radio 4 Woman's Hour and BBC Radio Sheffield revealed that over a third of mothers felt ashamed for giving their child formula. These results are similar to another survey from researchers at Liverpool University, who studied the experiences of more than 1,600 new mums in 2016. Among the 890 who did formula feeding, 67% reported feeling guilty, 68% felt stigmatised and 76% felt the need to defend their feeding choice.
As a newborn and baby photographer, I meet lots of new mums. I am always very interested to hear about their experiences of feeding their new baby. I have two daughters, now age 6 and 7. I was determined to breastfeed my girls, as I believed it was the best thing for them and was told that it was the most natural thing in the world. After all, the World Health Organisation recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months, and continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond. I breast fed both until they were about 6 months old. Looking back, I was quite naive and I even consider myself stupid for having carried on this long. Don't get me wrong, I acknowledge that breast milk is better for babies than formula, but I wish someone had said to me that it is not some holy elixir. I was in agony breastfeeding both girls for a long time (not for the whole six months, but certainly for at least six weeks). I used to dread feeding times because it bloody hurt. I consulted midwives, visited NCT breastfeeding support classes, visited my GP, even had some advice from international breastfeeding guru, Dr. Suzanne Colson of Biological Nurturing, but nothing seemed to stop the pain. I ended up doggedly continuing and taking paracetamol to ease the pain on the advice of my GP (although I am not recommending that anyone takes any medication without the advice of a doctor). I didn't stop because I felt guilty. I felt that I would be depriving my daughters of something vital.
When breastfeeding mothers (new or old!) come to my studio for a newborn photo session, I try to find out whether they are struggling. I have yet to meet a mother who says they are loving breastfeeding - most speak of how difficult it is, whether that's because they are experiencing pain or difficulty feeding and of course all find it exhausting. I try to offer some consolation and tell them about my story and how I wish someone had said to me, "stop" and concentrate on my well being, as well as that of my daughters. I experienced post natal depression with both and I'm sure that was largely due to the pain I experienced breastfeeding. All I heard from the experts was to keep trying and that it would come with time, but it took far too long, looking back, and I wonder whether I would have had a different experience as a new mother if I had switched to the bottle. I didn't want to leave the house because I didn't want to have to feed in public and found it difficult to see other mothers seemingly getting on fine with feeding their babies (although I now know a lot of these mums were putting on a very brave face).
I was delighted to discover, this morning, whilst listening to Woman's Hour, that in June 2018 the Royal College of Midwives guidance published new guidance for mothers, saying the decision to breastfeed - or not - "is a woman's choice and must be respected". It said that while it deemed the exclusive use of breast milk the "most appropriate method of infant feeding" for the first six months, what was most important was that parents made an informed decision.
The advice given at the end of the radio programme was overwhelmingly, "Fed Is Best", breast is a little bit better but it is far more important to look after yourself and your baby and to seek support if you are struggling. I thoroughly recommend that you listen back to the programme on BBC Radio 4 and if you are currently struggling, please do consider all the options and do not dismiss your own well being, which itself is vitally important in the development of your child.
I absolutely love my job and especially enjoy creating newborn baby photos, as babies grow so quickly and change so fast. I didn't have a newborn photo shoot with either of my daughters, probably because it was the last thing on my mind, but I do wish I had some photos of their tiny creases, hairy shoulders and just their gorgeous newness to remember how amazing they were at that very young age. Perhaps if I had switched to the bottle, I would have felt more inspired to take my camera out and I'd have those images and better memories to look back on today.
For further information on these studies, visit: