So yesterday was fun. ..
…if you like getting into heated debates with a lot of understandably overheated mothers about exclusive breastfeeding, or not exclusive breastfeeding, or whatever it is they’re ‘supposed’ or not ‘supposed’ to be doing…and for how long exactly….which Top Scientists and Advisers don’t seem to be able to agree on for more than a nanosecond, leaving the rest of us (the overheated mothers) as confused as a ravenous vegetarian near a hog roast.
So, you know. Sort of confused, heated debate fun.
In case you happened to drop off the planet for the whole of Friday, here’s the story that crashed onto the headlines, and got many a mother rather hot under the collar:
researchers at the Institute of Child Health published a paper in the British Medical Journal ( http://www.ucl.ac.uk/ich/ich-news/Article12) that questioned the advice currently given to new mothers, that they should EXCLUSIVELY breastfeed their baby for the first SIX MONTHS. The new research raised concerns that not introducing other foods before this time may not always be in the child’s best interests after all.
Which leaves thousands of exhausted, confused mums up and down the country rolling their eyes to the heavens and crying out ‘OH, WOULD YOU MAKE YOUR BLOODY MINDS UP???!!’
It also left my phone ringing off the hook with interview requests.
Things kicked off with a trip to the ITV studios at 5am, for an interview for Daybreak. This was a stupendous start to the day, not only because I managed a quick mwah-mwah with the delightful (and now very full-bearded) Hugh Bonneville in the corridor – actually in the door to the gents. I like to pick my moments – but I also managed to nab two danish pastries before they all disappeared.
That’s a bit of result, right there.
Here’s the edited Daybreak interview. I’ve chopped Dr Hilary, which is very mean, but it also makes the upoad faster. Cheeky, but quicker.
After that it was a quick dash across the river to the BBC’s Millbank studios (above, with Radio Face on), to do two interviews on the same subject, one for BBC 5Live, one for the fantabulous BBC World Service and another for BBC Northern Ireland.
Here are links to two of them, should you wish to spend 3 minutes of your life listening to me rabitting on a bit:
5Live: http://bbc.in/hG92hZ (I come in at 2 hrs 47 mins)
BBC World Service: http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/worldupmc (I come in at 9 mins 47 secs) Click 14th Jan programme, then download. It takes 3 secs…
Honestly, in all the years I’ve been doing parenting interviews I don’t think I’ve EVER had such a response to a story. The subject of feeding babies, and how long you should breastfeed them before introducing solids and other forms of milk is one that not only polarises but also evokes extremely strong emotions.
And understandably too.
New mums are bombarded with so much conflicting and constantly changing information and advice that it’s almost impossible for them to know what’s ‘right’ and what’s ‘wrong’ for their baby.
The only thing they are certain about is that they want to do their best to make their baby healthy and happy, and they’d quite like it if they could get more than 3 hours sleep in one go, thanks very much.
Nobody is suggesting for a moment that breastmilk is not the best thing for new babies. It IS. Period.
BUT, far too many mums are having the first few weeks and months of their lives with their babies RUINED by the enormous pressure they feel put under by well-meaning but occasionally somewhat over-zealous midwives and health visitors to breastfeed not just for the first couple of months, but for as long as possible.
And without giving any extra supplementary food at all. Even if the baby is very big (like mine were), seems to be very hungry (ditto) and is demanding feeds every couple of hours, 24/7, leaving mum looking and feeling like the living dead (ditto.)
Unsurprisingly I got emails, tweets and calls from LOTS of exhausted, angry mothers yesterday who said they’d been made to feel like ‘failures’, or felt ‘bullied’ into breastfeeding for longer than they thought their baby needed, by ‘militant’ midwives.
Several said the pressure to resist giving formula milk or solids as a top-up to breastmilk made them so exhausted and their relationship with their baby to be so fraught, it caused them to develop post-natal depression.
What a TERRIBLE way to start the journey into motherhood!! The poor, poor things. I feel enormously sorry for anyone who has had this dreadful experience, and all I can suggest is this:
‘Official’ advice will change as often as you change your baby’s nappy. Trying to follow all the advice you’re given will make you go completely mad, and probably feel like a failure as a mother, and as a woman. Great.
But this here is good advice, so listen up:
The best thing YOU can do is try to breastfeed from the start (and if you can’t for whatever reason, then it’s OK ! Don’t worry!) and keep it going as long as you feel able to, and as long as you sense that your baby is satisfied with this. If you have a very big baby who quite clearly seems to be wanting more food than you are providing from your bazongas after a few months, then by all means offer it some bottled milk and some baby rice in-between breastmilk feeds.
If you’re completely exhausted and feel you need to top-up your milk with formula: do it! Heavens, it’s not the worst thing on Earth, and you’ll get the break that you desperately need. You’ll be a much better mother if you’re not walking around like a zombie, craving sleep and bursting into tears every five minutes. And your baby will be much happier having a good, filling feed, and trying new flavours and textures of sloppy food.
So that’s that. A little more common sense, please, and a lot less pressure on mums to breastfeed feed their children until they walk through the school gates.
That’s all for now, but there will be exciting NEW BOOK news very soon….so watch this space!!