Can I firstly say I have had some great midwives, health visitors and maternity support workers across my 3 pregnancies and breastfeeding my babies. This post is not intended to disrespect any hard working professional, it is merely an observation on some experiences I have either had directly or from talking to other women. I appreciate the immensely difficult job these people do and that in the most part everyone is just trying to do the best they can with the advice, experience and knowledge they have.
That being said, midwives and health visitors sometimes give very bad breastfeeding advice. They might just grab a statement from thin air or may just not have had the most recent and up to date training on breastfeeding support. When this happens, it can cause so much damage, especially when this information is passed on from Mother to unsuspecting Mother in a chain letter type manner.
Imagine, you’ve just got home from hospital with your first baby. You want to breastfeed, but it hurts. You need some answers. The midwife turns up and the first thing she say’s is ‘It shouldn’t hurt’. You are hanging on her every word, and as she is the professional, you take her words literally. Breastfeeding then becomes very black and white, and you hold out for it not hurting at the next feed. You take this innocent statement and repeat it at every baby group you attend. Every Mother who hears you starts to experience the failure you feel when breastfeeding hurts. Suddenly the tweet has been retweeted times 10 or more times and word has spread like wildfire.
I agree that breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt, but a statement like this made without context is next to useless, and becomes even damaging to the efforts made to raise breastfeeding figures. It might hurt while you and baby are learning how to breastfeed, but it will stop when you’ve both got the hang of it (or if an underlying issue has been fixed).
Breastfeeding after 6 months rots baby teeth. I have read this on Facebook a few times as advice given by some health care professionals. There are some breastfeeding mothers who might accept this and repeat it. Others will question it, knowing instinctively it can’t possibly be right.
A HV visitor said to me when Indie was having breastfeeding issues that ‘perhaps she wasn’t gaining weight as she was flailing around so much’. I must have given her the look. I knew something wasn’t right, but that clearly wasn’t a logical or acceptable answer. A new Mum maybe tired, emotional and even struggling a little with the demands of a newborn but it doesn’t make her incapable of hearing the truth. If she doesn’t know the truth, or what is wrong how can she possibly fix it.
These midwives tales clearly fall into 2 categories. One where they are trying to soften the blow and not make you feel bad, or quite simply, very bad breastfeeding advice. Let baby cry until he really wants feeding! How stressful is that going to be for everyone, and how hungry will the little squidge be by that time I ask you, very I reckon. This clearly falls into the category of very bad advice.
Training in breastfeeding and lactation seems far from consistent which I think leads to all these inaccurate breastfeeding statements. Advisor’s are out there being asked questions that they simply aren’t equipped to answer. Faced with a desperate mother, saying ‘I don’t know, is it OK for me to come back to you’ just isn’t going to cut it, so all sorts of advice and solutions are offered instead.
This is such a dangerous position for our breastfeeding support and training to be in. We rely on our midwives and health visitors to be experts, they are in a position of trust, we expect them to know the subjects they advise on inside and out. A lot of women will take their words literally and without question, and go on to repeat them, and more women will believe them, without question. It’s a tried and tested method of how we humans pass information on, and often without testing if it’s accurate information or not.
With the pressure on to increase the breastfeeding rates to help improve some of the burden on the NHS, this needs to be fixed. More training is needed to improve the advice given so that the word that is spread about breastfeeding is an accurate one. If you are given advice, and it doesn’t sound right to you, question it, research it, and find out what is best for you and your baby. Use your instincts, you’ve got them for a reason!
Have you ever heard breastfeeding advice from a professional that was more than questionable about breastfeeding. Please share it in the comments below so that more women learn what good breastfeeding advice should look like.