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Did you know that the World Health Organisation recommends:
Although there are some circumstances where some babies are unable to be breastfed, human donor breastmilk and infant formula remain the safest alternative nutritional options for babies who are unable to be breastfed.
Over the last 20 years of my professional career, there have been enormous changes in our breastfeeding rates. When it was once identified that a huge drop in the number of breastfed infants was due to mum returning to work, now it is actually unclear as to why so many babies are not breastfed at the age of 6 months.
Did you know that only 14% of Australian infants are being breastfed at 6 months of age?
This is a significant health issue for our society as it is well known that there are negative risks associated with not being breastfed - namely our number one health killers obesity, diabetes, heart disease and some cancers!
Unfortunately breastfeeding and breastmilk don't make a lot of money, if it did, it would be marketed as the most powerful drug in the world for its many proven health remedies. Considering only 14% of our babies are being breastfed at 6 months of age, I am at a loss as to why more resources aren't pooled into protecting and supporting breastfeeding since it is one of our most powerful remedy in arresting chronic medical health issues which unfortunately are all too common these days.
The biggest victims in this health epidemic, are all of us. We are at a point now where breastfeeding is no longer considered the biologically normal way of feeding our young when it comes to the attitudes of most in our society today. I am often told of stories where women are vilified for breastfeeding their babies as much as women those who formula feed, feel as though as they are being judged for not breastfeeding their babies. The flow on effect of this, is that there aren't many of us around that actually know what breastfeeding is all about. Its all about ensuring that babies feed X number of times in a day and that babies sleep X number of times in a day - all to fit the schedules that our society pressures mums into being a part of. The flow on effect of this is, I am very confident in putting it out there, that most professionals supporting young families, have forgotten what breastfeeding is really all about. For all the mums that I support and for all the advice that they have advised me of, I am very disappointed for all of us, that young families are receiving the wrong messages about breastfeeding and parenting not only by health professionals, but their peers and family members as well. This is not anyone's fault really, its just that breastfeeding and providing babies with breastmilk, is no longer on our radar due to the pressures and attitudes of our society today.
The messages that parents are receiving about feeding their babies goes completely against biological norms.
When we go to the zoo, we will always see baby animals being held and protected by their mother or another family member. We never see the baby animals being put in a cot to be left to sleep alone at the risk of being attacked by a predator. We never see animals looking at their clock or watch to decide whether baby is hungry or not. We don't see mama animals fretting about cleaning their home or burning the candle at both ends with her day to day life....she simply does what nature intended, which is to protect and feed her baby, whenever, however often her baby needs it.
So this is it - the art of breastfeeding is natural, but learning how to breastfeed requires a great deal of patience, persistence and the right support from those who know what normal breastfeeding is really all about. Did you know that anyone can call themselves a lactation consultant, but not call themselves an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC)?
IBCLC's have to be committed to supporting families to breastfeed - it takes a lot of time, dedication, commitment and a lot of money to maintain our credentials. We have to attend seminars that can cost up to thousands of dollars to attend, we have to sit a 3 hour exam every 5-10 years of which alone costs approximately $600 to sit. We are specialists with advanced knowledge and skills when it comes to breastfeeding, breastmilk biochemistry, maternal and infant nutrition, research, detailed anatomy of mothers and babies, detailed knowledge in maternal and child psychology, developmental milestones are just a few of the areas we are experts in. So when there is no advantage to be an IBCLC other than the fact that you are keen to protect and support breastfeeding families, why else would you ensure your IBCLC credential is maintained?
Did you know that you don't need any special knowledge or experience to work in most breastfeeding support clinics? Did you know that it is widely known that some health care professionals will advise that they are a "Lactation Consultant", but the reality is, their credentials are not up to date. Please don't get me wrong here - it is not just IBCLC's that provide great breastfeeding support. It is also trained breastfeeding counsellors, doulas, midwives and other health care professionals that commit themselves with keeping up to date with current research and skills in supporting breastfeeding families.
Did you know that what happens during birth has a direct impact on a new mother and her family's breastfeeding experience? Here are just a few examples of the issues which directly impact on breastfeeding:
These are just a few examples of what I commonly see whenever I support breastfeeding families. Provided you find the right support to begin with, and give yourself and your baby a chance to be supported so that you can breastfeed, MOST breastfeeding issues can be sorted out. Don't wait until you are ready to give up - get help as soon as possible. It is all up to you as a breastfeeding mother, to WANT to breastfeed. If you get the right support, you WILL breastfeed successfully. I have never met a breastfeeding mother, who has regretted persisting through her struggles of early breastfeeding. It is not uncommon to want to give up along the way, just like labour, you need someone in your corner, supporting and encouraging you - YOU CANNOT DO IT ALONE!
I am disappointed to see that so many mums being offered breastfeeding support by the wrong people leading to premature weaning and sadly for some, postnatal anxiety and depression. If only our government would inject funds into allowing us medicare provider numbers so that all families could access the support of IBCLC's. Unfortunately, we are in a position where our government funded breastfeeding clinics are resource poor and are pressured to present evidence of the "numbers" of women attending the clinics to maintain funding or else the threat of service closure prevails. New mothers are disadvantaged in that they have to combat sleep deprivation, exhaustion and car parks to get to their appointments on time - or else they miss out. They are also often exposed to lack of privacy, having to breastfeed in front of several others, which can be incredibly intimidating when you are a new mum.
There is just so much wrong with our healthcare system when it comes to breastfeeding support. Why funds aren't placed into more publicly funded home visiting IBCLC's is beyond me!
My take home message here, is make sure you get the right support from the start.
The organisations to go to for the best support and recommendations here in Australia are:
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Kellie Eason RN, RM, IBCLC
Nurse, Midwife, IBCLC, Infant Feeding Therapist, Birth & Parenting Educator, Baby Sleep & Settling Consultant