Breastmilk push is stressing mums
By Kate Sikora
The Daily Telegraph
November 28, 2009
FIRST-TIME mothers feel they are leaving hospitals as failures because they are being pressured to breastfeed at all costs, with many saying breastfeeding was harder than giving birth.
In an exclusive The Daily Telegraph online survey, more than 500 new mothers shared their experiences and experts said the striking findings show how a fragmented and biased system is letting down NSW families.
One in two mums said they felt pressured to breastfeed, while 42 per cent said they were given no information about alternatives and 65 per cent of women said they were given contradictory advice by midwives.
Nearly one in two mums reported they hated breastfeeding and said they found it tougher than the actual labour, while a third of mothers surveyed said they moved to using formula after eight weeks.
The World Health Organisation recommends babies should be breastfed for at least 12 months.
The results came as no surprise to midwives and motherhood experts who say the system is “fundamentally” failing women and blame short stays in hospital and little post-natal care for creating the culture of failure surrounding new mothers.
University of Technology midwife lecturer Associate Professor Jennifer Fenwik said research showed one in every three mothers go into hospital feeling normal but leave troubled and emotionally fraught.
“Hospitals have become so driven on breastfeeding, they are ignoring the needs of mothers who may not be able to cope,” she said.
“Midwives should be discussing alternatives with mothers.
“You used to be able to store a tin of formula under the (hospital) cupboard but not any more.
“You have to ask what is wrong when women are entering hospital normal, but walk out with emotional distress. Our hospital system is so fragmented and it is not supporting mothers. It is focused on the birth.”
One new mother responded to The Daily Telegraph survey saying she was not prepared for how arduous breastfeeding would be and called for better education for mums-to-be.
“Breastfeeding is one of the most difficult experiences of my life, made more difficult by the fact that I was wildly ignorant as to how truly challenging it could be.
“More women would stick it out through these challenges if they were made aware, prior to birth, just how hard it can be.”
What Women Want founder and mother-of-seven Justine Caines said the current model of care was not supportive of mothers.
“The system is not about women but about clinicians and what they want,” she said.
“If women feel like a failure, I don’t see that as a good sign. Our system is absolutely failing women.”