Six months. That’s how long the NHS recommends exclusive breastfeeding for, and it looks like we might have made it.
Next week Littlest B will turn six months old, and it dawned on me that she’s had absolutely nothing but breastmilk since the day she was born.
BB and Little B were also exclusively breastfed and also had nothing but breastmilk until they started eating food, but I didn’t really think anything of it at the time. I had been so determined to breastfeed I just did it – it seemed normal.
But when you look at the current UK breastfeeding rates breastfeeding a baby exclusively for the first six months of their life is anything but normal.
According to a study in the Lancet 81% of UK mothers try breastfeeding at some point, but by six months only 34% are still breastfeeding and by the time a baby is 12 months old that figure drops to 0.5% – or one in 200 women.
Of course there are a whole host of reasons for these statistics – many absolutely nothing to do with the parents in question – but that isn’t what this post is about.
It’s about the fact you don’t tend to see many positive breastfeeding stories.
I’m proud that I’ve managed to exclusively breastfeed all of my babies, but I often feel it’s not something I ought to shout about because I know I’m in the minority.
Breastfeeding came easily to me and I’ve loved it, but I don’t want to sound boastful or gloaty when I know it doesn’t come easily for so many mums and many mums don’t love it.
Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t all been a walk in the park – there was Little B’s tongue tie to contend with, I gave up my dream job for the simple reason I couldn’t hack sitting on a closed toilet seat pumping milk all day and of course there’s the crippling tiredness – but on the whole the benefits have outweighed the costs.
I know I can’t be the only one who feels this way because I’m one of the 34% of mums who are still feeding at six months – so why don’t we hear more about their stories?
To mark World Breastfeeding Week – which is all about raising awareness of all aspects of breastfeeding – I thought I’d share a little more about my story, and 6 things I’ve learnt in six months of exclusive breastfeeding.
6 things I’ve learnt in six months of exclusive breastfeeding
1. You’re quite literally eating for two. Not only have you grown a human being, you’re now keeping their body as well as your own functioning. Which means you need lots of fuel – so make the most of it!
2. Ignore anyone who tells you not to feed your baby to sleep. In my experience this is in fact the best way to get them to sleep.
3. Never underestimate the power of good nursing wear. Nursing clothes have come a loooong way since I first started breastfeeding BB in 2011, and it’s no longer a case of only being able to find boring snoring comfort-over-style kind of garb. My latest find is organic cotton brand Frugi who have launched a brand new collection of nursing clothes to coincide with World Breastfeeding Week.
They very kindly sent me this bandeau dress (£60) to try out and I love it! With a meadow print design featuring toadstools the dress has a panel at the front to lift up for boob access, while skimming nicely over my three-times-mum-tum thanks to a nifty bit of pleating, making it stylish yet practical at the same time.
4. Invest in a good breast pump – it’s worth it. There are all sorts out there, at all sorts of prices and with all sorts of results. Medela’s double swing pump (£239.99) is one of the pricier options on the market but it’s worth every single penny – it’s so gentle, so efficient and the best electric pump I’ve come across (and I’m not just saying that because I’m a #Medela Mum!) Watch this space for a full review coming later this month…
5. Don’t be afraid to whip them out in public. The media might be filled with negative stories about mums breastfeeding in public but in the UK it’s against the law to prevent a nursing mum from feeding her baby in a public place. And the majority of the great British public will support you, as was proved when I went on This Morning to talk about why I’m proud to feed my baby in the pub.
6. Buy the biggest muslins you can get your hands on. A big muslin is among my top newborn essentials because the bigger the muslin the more versatile it is, and perfect for breastfeeding in public. My current faves are from Mama Rules (£24-£25) because of the gorgeous patterns, and in honour of World Breastfeeding Week they’ve given me a discount code so you can get one too! For 15% off any of Mama Rules muslins just enter the code CRUMMY at the checkout. Isn’t this flamingo print absolutely gorgeous?
Did you breastfeed your baby in the first six months of their life? How did you find it and what did you learn?
Big thanks to Frugi for sending me one of their gorgeous nursing dresses, and to Mama Rules for offering a very generous discount code for their muslins. As always all opinions are my own and based on my own honest experience, and I would never recommend products I don’t truly believe in.