This article on breastfeeding knowledge explains how attitudes and knowledge around breastfeeding can affect feeding choices.

Breastfeeding choices

In many Western countries women now have a choice to make about how they will feed their babies – research suggests that this decision is often made prior to pregnancy, although some women will make the decision during pregnancy or even after the birth. Women and their partner’s positive or negative attitudes towards breastfeeding will have a significant bearing upon their success at breastfeeding.

Factors which are important are –

  • How they feel about their breasts
  • Believing that breastfeeding is more natural
  • Whether they consider breastfeeding or bottle feeding to be more convenient
  • Whether they consider that breastfeeding would be embarrassing, or impinge upon their freedom.

Many factors in society impinge upon a mother’s perception of breastfeeding

  • Advertising of formula milk, sending a subtle message that the baby will be better satisfied and sleep better on artificial milk
  • Mother returning to work early after the birth
  • Mothers not staying in hospital for a few days to nurture herself and her baby
  • Extended families being remote, reducing the support available from family/whanau
  • Health professionals not providing the necessary information and support, especially to new mothers, who do not have family support.
  • Embarrassment about breastfeeding in public.

These can create a barrier to mothers initiating and continuing to breastfeed, despite believing that this is the best way to feed your baby.

Education in pregnancy to expectant mums will enhance their knowledge about breastfeeding –

  • To increase their confidence
  • To increase their commitment to extended breast feeding.

Breastfeeding awareness

Breasts come in all different shapes and sizes!

An awareness of your breasts in pregnancy and the opportunity to discuss your breasts and any concerns you may have can be invaluable. Women may be concerned about the shape or size of their breasts, or nipples. It is useful to remember that this will rarely have any bearing on your ability to successfully breast feed. Most important of all is your belief in your own ability to breastfeed:

Breastfeeding is hormonally driven by the brain, therefore confidence in the process of breastfeeding is vital to its success!

Pregnant mums need to know about the importance of –

  • Fully breastfeeding for the first 6 months
  • Rooming in with their babies
  • The benefits of breastfeeding
  • Management of breastfeeding in the first few weeks
  • Dealing with common problems.

The success of initiation of breast feeding is closely linked to the birth experience. The ultimate outcome of a pregnancy is a normal, vaginal birth, of a healthy baby, who successfully latches to the breast for a first breast feed. Clearly, this is not possible for all women, for a variety of reasons. However, when decisions are made which do not promote a normal birth experience and successful breast feeding, it is vital that the mother and her partner are aware of that information.

The World Health Organisation (2001) recommends that infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life. To give them additional fluids, formula or solids will be detrimental to their health.

Co sleeping and breastfeeding

For centuries and centuries and in many ‘non-Western’ countries around the world mothers share their bed with their baby. This promotes comfort and ease of night feeds.

Recently mothers have been advised against this, for fear of suffocating their babies and increasing the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Consider these facts –

In 2001 2,236 infants died from SIDS in the USA.

64 of these babies were sharing a bed with their parents.

The other 2,172 were sleeping alone in a crib….!

Research shows that the majority of breastfeeding mothers do bed share and they should certainly not be made to feel guilty for this. What is imperative is that the bed is as safe as a cot would be –

  • No risk of rolling out
  • Firm mattress
  • No duvets over baby

The benefits are that the baby is in close proximity to the parents and will be well nourished through the night.

If the parents have been taking drugs or alcohol, or smoking, then bed sharing cannot be considered safe.

In all instances it is recommended that the baby shares a room with you for the first 6 months of age.

Useful articles

For information on Baby’s First Breastfeed, click here

Breastfeeding Tips contains great information for new parents, to help them to breastfeed successfully.

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Paula Skelton is a qualified NZ nurse and midwife, a midwifery & childbirth educator and the mum of three lovely girls.

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