…If you’re not into reading about that stuff then look away now! This is, to be honest, a self-indulgent post. (Hmmm, are any blog posts not self-indulgent? Discuss…) I’ve decided to write it, and I plan to write as honestly as I know how, because I have this stuff on my mind. I’ve never quite resolved the rather difficult birth experience I had with my daughter, never quite come to terms with failing to be able to breastfeed her and as we hope to have another child (though that’s proving to be, once again, a slow process) I thought it might do me some good to get this stuff out of my head and somehow resolved. I’m looking for a bit of catharsis, and you, my friends, are about to bear witness if you want to. If you don’t want to get inside my head that much, and feel there is such a thing as too much information (you’re right) I recommend you exercise your ‘get out of jail free’ card and click on someone else’s blog instead. There have been some letters and articles in the press recently, and intermittently over the years, which relate particularly to the issue of breastfeeding, and I need to sort that out in my head . So that is, as the post title suggests, the main topic here today.
Everyone knows, or should know by now, that breast feeding is the best way for a baby to be fed. The World Health Organisation says
Breastfeeding is the ideal way of providing young infants with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development. Virtually all mothers can breastfeed, provided they have accurate information, and the support of their family and the health care system. Colostrum, the yellowish, sticky breast milk produced at the end of pregnancy, is recommended by WHO as the perfect food for the newborn, and feeding should be initiated within the first hour after birth. Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age.
There’s not much to argue with there really. It’s the way women (female mammals even) are designed to nourish their young. There is no more natural process, and yet I have been all too aware that we as a nation are not so good at this:
UK breastfeeding ratesThe Office for National Statistics performs its Infant Feeding Survey every five years. The figures from the 2005 survey were published in March 2008. The 2005 figures show some significant improvements from the 2000 survey. Key findings were:
- The proportion of babies breastfed at birth in the UK rose by seven per cent.
- Initiation rates in both Scotland and Northern Ireland rose by eight per cent and those in England and Wales by seven per cent.
- Scotland, which showed the greatest increases in the prevalence of breastfeeding at ages up to nine months in 2000, appears to have stabilised in 2005, with a small increase in the rate at four months and no increase at six and nine months. By contrast, the other countries show an increase at all ages.
- Overall, only 35 per cent of UK babies are being exclusively breastfed at one week, 21 per cent at six weeks, 7 per cent at four months and 3 per cent at five months.
- In 2005, for the first time, figures for Wales were separated from those for England. This will enable each country to see their individual progress at the next survey in 2010.
(from Unicef report released in 2008)