Breastfeeding: natural, but not necessarily easy

cartoon picture of familyBreastfeeding is the easiest, cheapest and most convenient way of feeding your baby. Or at least it can be. Eventually. The reality is that while most women start off breastfeeding their newborn, the majority have switched to formula by six weeks1.

One potential reason for this exodus may be the lack of accurate information provided to new mothers about the realities of breastfeeding. It’s absolutely possible for breastfeeding to be comfortable – even enjoyable – but achieving this frequently involves overcoming some significant obstacles.

Very few of these difficulties are ever really mentioned in the copious pro-breastfeeding books and leaflets given to new mothers because, in the words of one health visitor, ‘we don’t want to put them off.’ Though this approach is understandable, when women do start experiencing problems, they may think that breastfeeding is something that they can’t do properly and, often, they give up.

When I started to have trouble with breastfeeding I ended up in a pretty desperate state. My saving grace was having a background as a research scientist, which led me to look at what real medical research says about breastfeeding, rather than just blindly accepting the breastfeeding propaganda I received shortly before and after the birth.

Pregnancy and childbirth aren’t necessarily easy, so why should breastfeeding be? This site is strongly pro-breastfeeding (there’s no doubt it’s the best way to feed your child) but it’s also realistic.  It aims to dispel some of the myths surrounding breastfeeding, document the experiences of real women, and offer analysis and advice based on actual scientific research, which frequently reveals a different picture to the one painted by public health literature!

  1. Infant Feeding Survey 2005

16 Responses to “Breastfeeding: natural, but not necessarily easy”

  1. RaiulBaztepo Says:

    Hello!
    Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
    PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language ;)
    See you!
    Your, Raiul Baztepo

  2. Deb Says:

    Hi,

    I found this site through Mumsnet and just wanted to say how much I have enjoyed reading it over the last few weeks. There is some very useful information here and the blogs about feeding are refreshingly honest!

    Lots of pro-breastfeeding websites celebrate breastfeeding without mentioning any of the down sides, which only serves to alienate those of us (all of us?) who struggle at some point. I agree that is a lack of understanding of the realities of breastfeeding that causes so many women to give up so soon – they expect a wonderful easy experience and – suprise, suprise – don’t get it so turn to formula.

    I look forward to reading more of your posts. Thanks for reating such a fantastic resource.

    Deb

    • Elizabeth Jay Says:

      Hi Deb – It’s so good to hear that people find this a useful resource, because I’m conscious that I’m a bit ‘off-message’ as far as the pro-breastfeeding lobby is concerned. I’m all in favour of promoting breastfeeding, but as far as the practicalities go, I think it’s much more useful to talk about evidence-based research than simply spout propaganda.

  3. Sharon Says:

    Hi,

    Wow, what an inspiration your website has been. I’m writing from Australia and have just started my own breastfeeding blog called Breast Efforts.com

    Searching for other people out there who may have a similar story, I stumbled across your blog and I love the fact that you are a real mum, telling it like it is. And you are so right, it isn’t at all like the picture is painted for us through all of the health information out there for breastfeeding or expecting to breastfeed mothers. I also love the fact that you are providing information from a scientific background and I particularly found the ‘strong suck’ article very interesting.

    My baby to this day (at 13 months of age) has an incredible suck and was like this from day one. I struggled for weeks and it seems I was on my own even with the help of several midwives and two lactation consultants – everyone could commiserate but no-one could help me. Two months in I gave it all up and went to bottle feeding and formula, but after a month I was severely depressed and felt myself becoming very unwell. So with the help of my GP and a private lactation consultant, I relactated and re-established a milk supply and after months of hard work and determination successfully breastfed my baby without the need for formula.

    I have added your site to mine under links and hope that expectant and new mothers find our sites helpful in their breastfeeding journeys, because as we both know – it isn’t easy!

    • Elizabeth Jay Says:

      Thanks for your comment Sharon – it’s good to hear you’ve finally managed to establish trouble-free breastfeeding (as much as that’s possible!) Your site looks great by the way. It’s so important for women to talk openly about their experiences – please keep writing!

  4. Tina Says:

    Hi there,

    I’ve been having issues breastfeeding since my son was born 4 weeks ago and your website has been a real help since no one really told me how difficult if could be for some mothers and babies. I have been on the verge of giving up and felt quite down about myself and my abilities as a mother. I’ve seen four breast feeding counsellors and had help and advice from various midwives and a health visitor. My son has had his tongue tie cut and has been for cranial osteopathy – both have improved the sucking aspect but we remain far from perfect with the occasional expressed bottle given when either too frustrated to carry on trying to latch on properly, or when I’ve let him carry on sucking even though it’s very painful. I now have repetitive strain injury in my wrists from trying to latch on. So yes, it’s great hearing that breast is best, but it’s not easy for many women. It makes one feel less inadequate.

    • Elizabeth Jay Says:

      Hi Tina,

      I’m sorry to hear you’ve been having a difficult time. I completely agree with what you say about breast being best, but not always easy. I would have loved to hear someone say that to me when I was struggling! Hopefully soon you’ll start to find things a bit easier.

  5. Greer Harper Says:

    Hi there!

    Oh my goodness – I have just read your blogs from 09 through your nipple nightmares and I feel like I have just read about me right now! I’m a month in and have terrible fissures – I am using hydrogel pads in between which seem to help at least so I can get dressed every day!
    I’m determined to continue and have also been to see 2 lactation specialists who gave me slightly better things to try…
    I’m curious to know when your fissures finally healed and were you still breast feeding at this stage? Please say you were…..
    Anyway, just good to read about someone that has experienced what I have – reassuring :)

    • Elizabeth Jay Says:

      Hi Greer – thanks for your comment. It took about 6-8 weeks for my fissures to heal (once they’re there, they take a while to go), but after this point breastfeeding became MUCH easier, and I went on to feed C until she was about 21 months. I’m now breastfeeding my second daughter, and I’m pleased to say that I haven’t experienced any major problems this time. Hang in there!

  6. Kerry Says:

    As both a healthcare professional, interested in applying evidence-based medicine to the individual; and a new mum who struggled with breastfeeding (still going at 9 months though!) I have to say what a useful, refreshing and motivating read your site is!

    Many thanks, and keep up the good work!

    • Elizabeth Jay Says:

      Thanks Kerry – it’s great to have feedback from a healthcare professional about the site. I’m glad you’re finding it useful!

  7. Sarah Says:

    As a scientist and mother (attempting breast feeding and not liking it) I appreciate the scientific approach! Thanks!

  8. Trusting the Baby Formula Companies « The Motherhood Project Says:

    [...] thing is, nothing about becoming a mother is easy. In fact, once you conceive (for many, even before this), it is no longer about you. It’s [...]

  9. Aurora T. Agee Says:

    Well, I guess I was one of the lucky ones because breastfeeding was not a problem for me. I don’t know what stores some of these women shop at, but I didn’t have to spend “a thousand dollars” or even close to it for breastfeeding “accessories”! A rocking chair, a pillow, an inexpensive breast pump (yes they have them!) and that was about it. Sorry, but it sounds like too much overanalyzing and whining to me!

    • Elizabeth Jay Says:

      I too found feeding very easy the second time round. Lots of women find it easy full stop. But that is not the experience of many others.


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