The best authority on breastfeeding is you
How can a new, first-time parent feel any sort of confidence? Seriously, after being told time and time again that exclusive breastfeeding until six months of age is the best thing for our babies’ health, we now hear that maybe those recommendations are putting children at risk of other health worries. Just maybe. If you’ve recently had a baby, you know the pressure to breastfeed.
The stress placed on new mums to get their babies on the boob, and keep them there until they are at least six months of age, can be pretty overwhelming in those first few months. Especially if breastfeeding is not going so well for you. In fact, the pressure is so great that most new mums either persevere, or give up and are wracked with guilt.
So when stories like these are released questioning the advice we are given in those early weeks of parenthood, we’re left wondering who and what are we meant to listen to? Especially when the official government response is they will review the national breastfeeding guidelines later this year. Great! What if your baby is past that stage by then? What if you have a seemingly hungry four-month-old baby now, and want to know what to do?
No wonder so many of us simply turn to those we trust and follow our own instincts. Just a few minutes on Google and you can end up feeling totally overwhelmed and confused. Or, even worse, end up following advice that is unsafe.
Unless you are a very confident new mother with a wonderful support network around you, those first few months of “what ifs” can be crushing. It was for me – and I think I am a well-educated, capable person.
But put me with a newborn baby that wouldn’t breastfeed, wasn’t putting on enough weight, and wouldn’t sleep, and I unravelled. I went from one breastfeeding clinic to another, and every single one of them told me something different. And none of it worked.
I kept hoping that I would stumble upon the magic formula to get my baby to feed – that my Fairy Godmother would suddenly fly in and show me a mysterious, ancient way of holding Scarlett that no-one else had shown me, and suddenly all my worries would disappear.
Instead, we struggled through with nipple-shields, reflux and no sleep until I finally gave in and started solids at four months of age. What a difference! My uncomfortable and hungry little baby began to be happy and content… as did her mother.
The grief and judgement I received from the various lactation and health nurses for starting solids early though made me again question whether I was actually harming my little girl.
Looking back, I wish I had blocked out all their voices and just listened to my own. I wish I’d just stopped going to all those breastfeeding clinics and stayed at home with my daughter and figured it out myself. But I don’t know too many first-time mothers who could do that.
In reality, even the most independent of us crumble when confronted with a newborn baby that isn’t ticking all the boxes when it comes to development and growth. We doubt ourselves, and we follow any nurse or doctor’s advice above our own mother-instincts.
So to all you new mums out there that hear of this new study that exclusive breastfeeding until six months might actually be exposing your little one to allergies and coeliac disease – don’t panic.
If your baby is happy, and you are happy, keep doing what you are doing. And if they’re not, follow your own instincts. Ask lots of questions of the right people, but in the end – listen to your own voice.
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