Sunday 23 June 2013

Keep Britain Breastfeeding 2013: Why I Continue to Breastfeed

As I sat down to write this, daddy and toddler had a bit of an accident. They were tearing around the house, pretending to be lions, and B tripped and fell. She landed on her face, cutting both her lips. Blood and tears and snot were pouring down her face; her wails filled the room. But, within 30 seconds, she was sat on my lap having some mummy-milk, or "be-boos" as she calls it. The tears stopped, the sobbing quietened and she was fine before 5 minutes were up. It is situations like this that make me so glad that after all our feeding troubles, and the need to supplement B with formula because of my IGT, I chose to continue breastfeeding. 1

Last year, for the Scavenger Hunt, I wrote about Why I Breastfeed. And you can read about our first year here. This year I've decided to focus on why I, and others, continue(d) to breastfeed, and what we look back on as the top benefits of breastfeeding.

The results of the 2010 Infant Feeding Survey show that 81% of women in the UK start out breastfeeding, but that by 6-8 weeks after birth, only 45% of those had continued to breastfeed, and only 17% were exclusively breastfeeding at 3 months post-partum.2 Clearly something has been getting in the way of women continuing to breastfeed. An NCT spokeswoman, quoted in this article, revealed that 90% of women who stopped, didn't want to. So, apart from the lack of support out there, there must be benefits of breastfeeding that mothers just aren't aware of, while those they do know don't appear to outweigh the benefits they see in giving up. Nor are any of these known benefits enough to fuel a desire to overcome any difficulties they are encountering. Formula companies have been very successful in making breastfeeding look like something that is to be strived for, but is better than normal, rather than being the normal way for humans babies to feed. Who needs better when normal - formula feeding - will do? That's why talking about benefits of breastfeeding doesn't sit particularly comfortably with me - there aren't really benefits of breastfeeding; there are disadvantages of formula feeding. 3 However, for the sake of simplicity, I will go with benefits here!

There are many scientific reasons to start and continue breastfeeding, and these are often focused on by those trying to encourage mothers to breastfeed their babies, but, in my experience, it's not the science that has the greatest influence on decision making - it's the everyday, personal reasons from one woman to another that are most effective.

In these days of recession - when the cost of living is rising faster than salaries; when women are having to decide whether they can afford to stay off work and live on just one wage; when we look ahead and see how much children cost to bring up 4 - saving money and/or getting something for free is nigh on a miracle! Did you know that formula feeding costs a family upwards of £450 a year? And that's just the formula, without including the costs of bottles, teats, sterilisers, electricity, water, etc. And the price keeps rising to cover the companies' aggressive advertising costs. Just think what you could do with that extra £450, £550, £600...

With such easy access to media and social networking, we are constantly bombarded with pictures of celebrities who are back in their bikinis just weeks after giving birth, so it's fantastic to have something that can so easily help us to bounce back more quickly to our pre-pregnancy weights too. Breastfeeding uses up 500 calories a day, so combined with eating normally and doing a bit of exercising, it's much easier to lose weight. I was back in my pre-pregnancy jeans 2 weeks after giving birth, and by the time I got pregnant this time round, I weighed less than I did before getting pregnant with B. And since I'm breastfeeding during pregnancy, I've lost weight already. Don't worry - my midwife isn't worried, and I've got plenty of stores to lose!

And every mother worries about their child getting ill, so to know there is a way to prevent and lessen the suffering from many illnesses is priceless. Just a few illnesses that breastfeeding protects against or decreases the risk of: ear infections; asthma; sickness and diarrhoea; allergies; diabetes; childhood cancers; meningitis; pneumonia; breast and ovarian cancer (mum and baby!); UTIs; SIDS. (You could equally say that breastfeeding doesn't prevent these, but that formula increases the risk of getting them.)

There have been links discovered between stopping breastfeeding and developing depression, and research shows that breastfeeding can protect against post-natal depression. 5  I think it's amazing how the body knows what to do and looks after itself so well. Not breastfeeding makes your body go into a form of grief, as it doesn't realise you still have a baby. Breastfeeding lowers stress hormones, because it causes a release of oxytocin - the love hormone also released during orgasm! And breastfeeding also helps you sleep longer, allowing mothers with, or at risk of, post-natal depression to get more rest: 
"a study of 133 new mothers and fathers at three months postpartum found that exclusively breastfeeding mothers slept 40 minutes longer than mixed- or formula-feeding mothers (Doan, Gardiner, Gay, & Lee, 2007)"6 
Add to that, the opportunity to feed baby whilst both lying down, so mum can go back to sleep while baby feeds, and the lack of having to go to the kitchen to prepare a bottle, it's easy for me to see which is the easiest and less stressful option. When we were having to supplement B in the night, my husband gave her the bottles at first, but we gave up on that, because I was waking up when she was anyway, so it made sense for me to do the feeds.

For me, the primary choice to breastfeed was based on it being normal for a mammal to breastfeed its young. Like I've said before, I had no plan B. When I struck all our difficulties, I had support, but I also had a determination based upon my reasons to continue. I wanted to ensure my daughter had a better chance of not being obese in the future. Formula feeding increases the likelihood of obesity, and, having grown up with weight and hormone problems of my own, I wanted to give her the greatest protection I could from suffering the way I have. We have made the decision to allow B to breastfeed for as long as she chooses, though when baby 2 arrives in November, I will have to be careful with how much time B is allowed at the breast, knowing that my supply will be low. We've made this choice, partly because the WHO guidelines recommend feeding up to and beyond 2 years old, but also because of the benefits I see in our daily lives together.

As I wrote above, breastfeeding is our perfect way to kill pain and distress after a fall or a bump. Regardless of the science which says that breastmilk is a perfect painkiller, 7 my experience shows this is true. We've fed through injections and blood tests, and never had a tear. And teething pain has been helped by a great deal of comfort nursing. I maintain that breastfeeding is my ultimate, and sometimes only, parenting tool! It solves boredom, hurts, illnesses, overstimulation. It's a wonderful distraction and fantastic for getting a tired, grumpy toddler to go to sleep. I'm not entirely sure how I will deal with these situations when B chooses to wean, but can only hope that the closeness and trust of our relationship nurtured through breastfeeding will enable me to help her in other ways. Breastfeeding mums don't have to make space for sterilisers and bottles in the kitchen, and going out is a breeze - you always have what you need to feed the baby. And when I discover B licking her Nannie's dustbin or putting unidentifiable items in her mouth, I am comforted to remember that breastmilk kills many bacteria, including E.Coli and salmonella! 8 From others' experience too, I am looking forward to the positive relationship that tandem nursing will nourish between B and her new sibling, as she will not have to give up her be-boos when a new baby arrives.

So, to summarise, breastfeeding saves you money, energy and space; helps with weight loss; and protects your child from many illnesses and diseases. It also protects against mums suffering depression. It's an awesome parenting tool and creates a lasting bond between mum and child.

Enter the Scavenger Hunt Competition below, and then check out some of the responses I received when I asked Facebook friends about why they continued to breastfeed.

It's also worth checking out some of the other blogs taking part in the Scavenger Hunt, for more info and more opportunities to win:
RespectableBreast Spectacle - I am a married mum of two. I have a gorgeous little boy of 2 and a scrumptious baby girl of only a few weeks. I breastfed my son for 15 months and have now embarked on my second breastfeeding experience with my baby girl. Shocked about how emotive the subject of breastfeeding is I have felt the need to 'do something'. Here is one of those somethings.
Diary of A First Child - a blog about one mama’s experience of attached parenthood. Luschka shares what she learns along the way, first with her toddler and now with a newborn too, from the first day nursing in public to tandem nursing a toddler and newborn and everything in between. 
NaturalMamas - We are a natural parenting forum with an emphasis on babywearing.  A Natural Mama is a mama that listens to her instincts.  A Natural Mama is more likely to cosleep, breastfeed, babywear, use gentle discipline, home educate, use complimentary medicine, follow baby-led weaning.  BUT you do not need to be doing all (or any) of them.
Secret Life of Kate - My blog is about my life and my life is mostly about my child: 21 month old "baby" M.  I am an attachment style mama who works full time. My life is full of contradictions and confusion.

Faded Seaside Mama - Late 30's Mum to two young girls and our life in an English seaside town in words and pictures. 

Also, check out Mama Jewels, where you can buy gorgeous jewellery your children won't break. They're offering a prize for the Scavenger Hunt too.


- Why did you decide to breastfeed?
  • Best for baby and best for mum.
  • I never really considered not breastfeeding - it was how my mum fed me, and I knew it was best for baby.
  • Because I knew it was the best for them.
  • I was breastfed, as were my brother and husband, and I just remember the slogan 'breast is best' from biology lessons in school (!) and case studies about formula companies misguiding women in developing countries from my geography lessons (?!) and subconsciously I think they influenced my decision. 
  • It's the normal way to feed a baby.
  • I didn't really make the choice it was just automatic: baby gets boob!! 
  • Not breastfeeding didn't really occur to me. My husband and I were both breastfed, and we knew it was best for D, although it's hard to remember how many benefits I knew of at the time, and how much I've learnt since then. 
  • I'm overweight and I wanted to give my children the best start in the hope of preventing them from having weight problems too.
  • I always knew I would breastfeed, largely because my Mum did, so I thought 'why not, if she can do it then so can I!'
  • I didn't understand why anyone wouldn't when you have boobs that make milk?! Like, why pay for powered milk, PAY for it... When you can have it for free?!! To be completely honest I didn't even realise just what ALL the benefits of breastfeeding were until I did a 'Preparing to Breastfeed' course and also read up on it a bit more... I knew 'breast was best' for baby but that was about as far as my knowledge went... Although I did know a few facts, I can't now remember which I knew before and which I have learnt in the build up to becoming a Mum. I certainly didn't know how clever it was at adjusting and changing to suit the weather, illness, growth spurts, etc.. 
  • I knew I would be preparing my baby in the best possible way for life - less chance of allergies and building up a better immune system.
  • It's free. It protects baby from so many illnesses and is a great preventative against cancer and diabetes, etc. And I'd heard that breastfeeding can help you lose weight after birth!

- Why did you choose to continue to breastfeed?
  • Once established it was much easier than preparing and giving bottles in the night.
  • I loved the connection it gave us (gives us, as I'm still bf my youngest), and I could see the benefits first hand.
  • At first I didn't plan to BF for as long as I did ( I never knew much about it) , but once I informed myself of all the benefits I chose to BF for as long as my son wanted to. I wanted to keep on BF but he was the one who told me at 21 months : no more milky milky mummy…I kept offering him but he was done! Now I'm BF our second baby, and I will do it until she is done!
  • I loved feeding all my children - it was a lovely close bond and I loved that no one else could do it but me, but also it made life so much easier in a lot of ways - no sterilizing bottles, no having to make them, no getting up in the night
  • In the early days with my first I found it incredibly hard, painful and upsetting, but I'm so glad I stuck with it, as it's helped me bond so brilliantly with my children.
  • I made the choice not to give formula even when I was in hospital with mastitis for the 2nd time!! But I am super stubborn, and by then I was confident that bf was the best thing for F and I couldn't imagine giving her anything else when she was so small.  
  • Once I'd got over the initial discomfort, I found that I really enjoyed it. Others were v. supportive, especially my Dad, who told me how proud he was. I'm afraid to say I think there was an element of personal pride in there too - being able to say that we'd succeeded. 
  • I am determined/stubborn and refused to let it 'beat' me... And I am so glad I did because I have learnt more about it and my body, and baby... 

- Looking back, what was/is the best benefit of breastfeeding that you have encountered?
  • We both continue to enjoy (99% of the time) a great bf relationship. It doesn't just provide food but an excellent source of comfort. Best bit is that connection and making time to sit and cuddle. Also it soothes lots of problems and I don't have to get out of bed at night when he wakes.
  • How much it pulled my tummy in and got me my figure back.
  • Brilliant parenting tool - bored? Boob! Tired? Boob! Shy? Boob! Hurt? Boob! Want that toy another kid has? Boob!
  • Not having to carry utensils around. 
  • My children hardly ever got ill as babies and when they did, it was much milder compared to friends' bottle fed babies. My youngest has a heart condition and is supposed to be more vulnerable to infection - her cardiologist attributes the fact that she's never had a single infection in her first year to the fact that she is breastfed.
  • For me: how quickly I lost baby weight and got back into my pre-pregnancy clothes. And how it was free! For baby: rarely ill and any illnesses she did get were mild and gone quickly.
  • For those 21 months, my son was never sick!! He only had a little cough once, I BF more often, by the end of the day it was gone. Amazing! It was an incredible way of comfort if he fell down, or was upset, it was always handy of course! I love those memories of closeness with him, they are precious moments.
  • When my daughter is ill I rest easy in the knowledge that my body will make the milk she needs; same for when she is thirsty, hungry, poorly, tired, needs comfort... Which in turn makes me worry a little less knowing that I am giving her everything that I can, and I don't even have to try hard (anymore)! I think if I gave her formula I would worry about constipation, illness, dehydration, chemicals, her tiny tummy.... Amongst other things. 
  • I enjoy not having to get out of bed to make up a bottle in the middle of the night.
  • I was amazed that my daughter attended nursery for 1.5-2 days per week from the age of 1 year and only started to pick up germs once she stopped breastfeeding. That said she's rarely ill still. Now if that isn't a benefit I don't know what is. 
  • Knowing my baby is at less risk of asthma and eczema and has better immunity
  • I wish I could say that Florence has benefited by not being ill but it seems she gets every cold/temp/cough going! Although, so far, she has not had a stomach bug. (touch wood!) A big benefit for me is being able to go anywhere and not have to worry about bottles, etc. and it has allowed me to be pretty lazy at night: boob = sleep very quickly!! 
  • Going back to bed with the baby in the morning, and having a lie-in!
  • I don't know how much breastfeeding has contributed to D's relatively good health, but he does seem to have avoided the chicken pox that was going round at nursery. One major benefit for me was convenience/flexibility- no problem if I needed to stay out longer than planned, mo worrying about what to do when on holiday. And also no problem if I thought he was hungry and it turned out he wasn't- it's not as if I'd wasted a bottle. 
  • How convenient and cheap it was! No hassle of bottles and sterilising etc....  
  • I will continue to breastfeed... There are still days when I just wish I wasn't as I'm exhausted from constant night feeding... Which, oddly, I am also grateful for as I worry a little less (not completely) about SIDS. I now know it's the best thing for her and I'm so pleased I continued. 
  • I'm super lazy, so the thought of getting up in the middle of the night, sterilising, boiling kettles, waiting for them to cool, etc. before feeding a screaming baby really didn't appeal to me!! and finally... It's milk on the go... Anywhere, anytime, any day!!! - I even fed her in the middle of Tesco milk aisle yesterday as she was super sleepy/drowsy, and hot, and I was worried about her so just fed her, and she latched on straight away, and perked up immediately after feeding... Not convinced I would have had the same response from her had I given her a bottle... And I certainly couldn't have just produced a fresh bottle immediately!! :))










  1. I love how easy it is and all the health benefits

  2. I love the closeness it has given me and my boy, as you say, being able to comfort him instantly when he's hurt is so special.

  3. Best benefit for us is after my babies major op I will be able to comfort her while she cant see for a few days.

  4. My favourite breastfeeding benefit is that my breastmilk is protecting and decreasing the risk of illnesses for my little guy.
    This is my 3rd breastfeeding journey, I know each journey was the best decision.

  5. Totally agree with the phrasing issue (i.e. so-called "benefits" of breastfeeding), more explanation here:

  6. My best breastfeeding conveniences (I couldn't choose just one) are ultra convenience, low cost, lots of mummy snuggles and knowing that when its hard going im protecting my babies and my own health.

  7. All of those mentioned above and in your post. BF is awesome, wouldn't want any different!

  8. vikki Edmondson23 June 2013 at 20:49

    I like the fact that i am givng baby best start in life.

  9. the closeness and the convenience!

  10. Its free and you don't have to panic about running out of formula

  11. I think for me the biggest benefit is the money we've saved and can spend on other things, we've had big period of unemployment and being able to feed the baby and not worry about whether we can afford to has been very reassuring

  12. My favorite benefit of breastfeeding is just the convenience of it! So easy going out & about.

  13. breastfeeding is natural and convenient and a lovely bonding experience, providing mum with the best view of baby ever and lots of chill time. where possible i believe everyone should at least try and breastfeed. i overcame tongue tie difficulties with my first born but we got there in the end, this time round i am dealing with a severely cracked nipple and a preference for one side! o the joys....we're getting there now. so even through the hardness, i cannot imagine not breastfeeding!

  14. the health benefits and just how lovely the whole feeding process is. its just so convenient.
    lovely blog

  15. I love the convenience and that it is free! It's also by far the best way to soothe a grumpy baby.

  16. I love how easy and less stressful feeding is! Also the bonding and cuddles i have while feeding is amazing every time :)

  17. I suffer from a lot of allergies along with asthma and eczema, so I love the fact that by breastfeeding my little girl I can hopefully protect her from suffering the same.

  18. Health Benefits and the fact it's free :)

  19. i love the bond we've created

  20. It's great for my baby and it's so convenient

  21. Favourite benefit: Always available, right temperature and no sterilising!

  22. It's definitely the fact that even if milk isn;t the problem, it's almost always a solution!

  23. Loosing weight and not having to carry bottles around!