Breast is Best?

27 Apr

The subject of breastfeeding is not often talked about, or thought about by people other than expectant mothers and fathers. It is not common to go out in the United Kingdom (UK) and see someone breastfeeding their baby in public. Although it is well known that breast milk is the best start a baby can have, for some reason breastfeeding rates are not high. At one week old, only 35% of babies in the UK are breastfed, and by the time they are five months old this number drops to a mere 3% (UNICEF, 2005). This seems crazy considering the benefits of breast-feeding for both mother and child, and the fact that the price of formula milk costs around £100 per month.

A survey in The United States (US) revealed that 27% of people thought that breastfeeding was embarrassing, and a third of people thought that babies aged one year old or over should not be breastfed (Li, Fridinger & Grummer-Strawn, 2002).  Even breastfeeding mothers reported that they disapproved of breastfeeding in public, and said they were often ridiculed by their own friends, and found a lack of support from some health service providers (Guttman & Zimmerman, 2000). The most negative perceptions of breastfeeding came from people aged 30 and under, and those aged over 65, people will low income and less education (Li, Fridinger & Grummer-Strawn, 2002). Guttman and Zimmerman (2000) suggested that it is these negative perceptions of breastfeeding that discouraged some mothers, who would have liked to have breastfed their babies, from breastfeeding.

One of the major disadvantages of breastfeeding is the lack of freedom it gives the mother. Mothers who are planning on returning to work or education are often faced with the problem of having to wean their baby off the breast onto a bottle, which can be a challenge. Producing enough expressed milk for the baby to have whilst the mother is not there is also difficult. A mother returning to work is one of the major reasons for the decline in breastfeeding (Van Esterik & Greiner, 1981).  But whilst mothers who have worked and breastfed have reported it as challenging, they have also said that it is rewarding and worth doing (Zafar & Bustamante-Gavino, 2008).

If a breastfeeding mother chooses not to express, or her baby will not take a bottle (which is common with breastfed babies) the mother is pretty much attached to her baby 24 hours a day, every day, which can be very hard work. This also means that the father will not be able to bond with the baby, and unable to settle it. A breastfeeding mother is also advised to drink no alcohol, not to take illegal drugs and certain medication, not smoke, and is provided with a list of foods which may be harmful to the baby, give it colic, or make their milk taste bad. This all limits the freedom which the mother feels.

Around 50% of mothers who did begin breastfeeding their babies said that their reason for stopping feeding was the fact that their milk alone did not satisfy their baby (Li, Fein, Chen & Grummer-Strawn, 2008). The other two top reasons were that the baby began to bite, or lost interest in the breast and began to wean itself (Li, Fein, Chen & Grummer-Strawn, 2008). The reasons for stopping breastfeeding in the first month of the babies life were that the mothers experienced sore nipple, the babies would not latch on correctly, or there was not enough milk for them (Li, Fein, Chen & Grummer-Strawn, 2008).

Image

[Graph above retreived from: http://www.sharontrotter.org.uk/NIP2011-breastfeeding.html%5D

The above graph highlights the fact that most problems which breastfeeding mothers encounter are due to not enough or incorrect support and advice. This means that most problems could actually be stopped altogether.

There are certain medical and health conditions which make a mother unable to breastfeed, but these only account for 2% of women and their babies (Community Midwife, 2011), Apart from these 2% the other valid reasons to not breastfeed seem to be the lack of freedom it gives the mother and the publics perception of breastfeeding. These should not outweigh the emotional and physical benefits which breastfeeding gives to mother and baby.  More needs to be done to promote breastfeeding and to change the public’s opinion of it so that it can be accepted as a social norm.

 

References:

Guttman, N., &Zimmerman, D. R. (2000). Low-income mothers’ views on breastfeeding. Social Science & Medicine, 50(10), 1457- 1473.

Li, R., Fein, S. B., Chen, J., & Grummer-Strawn, L. M. (2008). Why Mothers Stop Breastfeeding: Mothers’ Self-reported Reasons for Stopping During the First Year. Pediatrics, 122(2), 69- 76. doi: 10.1542/peds.2008-1315i

Li, R., Fridinger, F., & Grummer-Strawn. (2002). Public Perceptions on Breastfeeding Constraints. Human Lactation, 18(3), 227-235. doi: 10.1177/089033440201800304

Zafar, N., & Bustamante-Gavino, I. (2008). Breastfeeding and working full time Experiences of nurse mothers in Karachi, Pakistan. International Journal of Caring Sciences, 1(3), 132–139.

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3 Responses to “Breast is Best?”

  1. bonitadavies May 2, 2012 at 5:15 pm #

    Whilst the subject of breastfeeding is controversial, there are clear benefits to both the mother and the baby. Allen and Hector (2005) recommend that there are health benefits to the baby because breastfeeding is the biologically natural way to feed infants.
    Furthermore Evenhouse and Reilly (2005) found a correlation between breastfeeding and cognitive ability, suggesting a long term benefit of intelligence. The use of siblings in this study also gives it higher validity, as there is less chance of selection bias distorting the results.
    More generally, the NHS (retrieved 2012) list a wide range of benefits of breastfeeding, including protection from infections and diseases, correct temperature and physical bonding between the mother and the baby. It also lists a range of health benefits to the mother, including naturally using 500 calories per day, saving money and lowering risks of breast and ovarian cancer.
    Therefore whilst there are clear costs of breastfeeding in terms of social opinion and working, these have to be balanced out with the potential health benefits to both the mother and baby.

    References
    Allen, J., & Hector, D. (2005). Benefits of breastfeeding. New South Wales Public Health Bulletin, 16(4), 42-46.

    Evenhouse, E., & Reilly, S. (2005). Improved estimates of the benefits of breastfeeding using sibling comparisons to reduce selection bias. Health Services Research, 40(6), 1781-1802.

    NHS. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/why-breastfeed.aspx on 2nd May 2012.

  2. Cjh May 2, 2012 at 9:55 pm #

    My last blog was in relation to Breast Implants, and throughout my research I came across some information in relation to breast feeding. According http://www.healthcare.org, (2012) It is reported that overall no risk can come to the mother or child with breast implants, nor is the milk affected. However, the milk production can be affected which therefore may affect the milk so this information is a little contradictory. During breast implant surgery if the milk ducts or vital nerves have been damaged or cut then milk production is unlikely. It does go on further to say that studies have shown that babies who are breastfed are less likely to be ill or suffer serious illnesses. It also suggests that later on in life dieases such as diabetes and chronic liver disease is lower for those who have been breastfed. The FDA, (2012) report that at this time it is not known if a small amount of silicone could pass through from the breast of the mother into the breast milk during feeding. However a study comparing the two women with and without breast implants found no indication of higher silcone levels. Yet, in relation to the PIP implant it was reported that these women are recommended NOT to breastfed their babies (NHS, 2012).
    In an article in 2012 published in the Sun Newspaper, Lucy a mother, breastfed her daughter despite having a ruptured PIP implant. Her NHS doctor reassured her that she was at no risk and to breastfed as normal. Since, Luna her daughter has developed a brain tumour which affects the nervous system and will continue to grow until it causes her death. Medical experts say they cannot rule out that Lucy’s damaged PIP implant was not to blame for her daughter’s brain tumour as and I quote “do not know enough about them at this time” (Pollard & Phillips, 2012)

    Breast feeding after breast implants . (n.d.). Retrieved from http:wwwhealthcentre.org.uk

    Risk of breast implants (2011, June 22). Retrieved from
    http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/ProductsandMedicalProcedures/ImplantsandProsthetics/Breastimplants/ucm064106.htm

    Pollard, C., & Phillips, R. (2012, February 03). Burst pip implant gave my breast-fed girl cancer. The Sun. Retrieved from http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/4105608/Burst-PIP-implant-gave-my-breast-fed-girl-cancer.html

  3. jessicabibby May 2, 2012 at 10:21 pm #

    According to ‘BabyCenter’ (2011), breast implants can also cause harm to the mother whilst she is breast feeding. This is due to the engorgement (when the milk comes in after the baby is born) being more exaggerated in mothers with implants, causing more pain. Research does seem to show conflicting opinions on whether it is safe for the baby to breastfeed when the mother has silicon implants, which leads me to think that it probably is not safe, or worth risking. It does however say that the saline solution implants are safe to breastfeed with.
    There is also research showing that there are higher number of birth defects, and low birth weights in children who are born to mothers with breast implants.

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