Study finds 28 per cent skip meals every day and half skip meals at least once a week to feed their children
Study finds 28 per cent skip meals every day and half skip meals at least once a week to feed their children

Half of women who struggle to breastfeed say they 'feel like failures'

'For some it is obviously a magical part of motherhood, for others it can be traumatic'

Sarah Young
Tuesday 29 January 2019 13:39
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Half of mothers say they feel like a “failure” when they struggle to breastfeed, a new survey has found.

An online poll, commissioned by BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour and BBC Radio Sheffield, asked 1,162 UK women aged between 18-40 how they are feeding their babies and how this makes them feel.

Revealing the many different breastfeeding experiences women can have, it found that while two thirds (66 per cent) of mothers of who breastfed their baby said it was one of the best parts of being a mother, half (49 per cent) admitted it was one of the toughest parts.

In addition, more than a third of women who formula-fed their baby said they felt ashamed for giving their child formula.

“Often women are told what they should be doing without a full understanding of the factors that affect a woman’s decision to feed by breast, bottle or both,” said Karen Dalziel, editor of Woman’s Hour.

“This poll gives clarity on those reasons and shows that feeding babies is a complicated and emotional experience – it exposes the impact healthcare professionals, family and friends can have on the whole experience.”

The survey also investigated the factors affecting how women chose to feed their babies, including public pressure, mental health and ability.

It revealed that a third of women (33 per cent) who breastfed their baby did so because of pressure from society, while three in ten women (30 per cent) who formula-fed their baby (either exclusively or in addition to breastfeeding) said they would have liked to have breastfed but felt too embarrassed to do so in public.

Other findings include that one in seven women surveyed (15 per cent) said the issue of how they fed their baby had a negative effect on their mental health.

Despite this, a large number of women (76 per cent) spoke positively about their experience of formula-feeding, saying they enjoyed involving their partner or others.

Similarly, 75 per cent also said using formula allowed them greater freedom in feeding their baby.

“The results of the poll provide some really interesting insights into how different the experience of feeding your baby can be,” said BBC Radio Sheffield editor, Katrina Bunker.

“For some it is obviously a magical part of motherhood, for others it can be traumatic and associated with pressure and a lack of support. There is clearly a bigger conversation to be had on the subject.”

The findings come after new advice from the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) which stressed that new mothers should be respected if they choose to bottle feed.

While the guidance still says babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months, in line with advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO), it also acknowledges that some mothers struggle to start or carry on.

Chief executive Gill Walton said: “Evidence clearly shows that breastfeeding in line with WHO guidance brings optimum benefits for the health of both mother and baby. However, the reality is that often some women for a variety of reasons struggle to start or sustain breastfeeding.

“The RCM believes that women should be at the centre of their own care and, as with other areas of maternity care, midwives and maternity support workers should promote informed choice.”

“If, after being given appropriate information, advice and support on breastfeeding, a woman chooses not to do so, or to give formula as well as breastfeeding, her choice must be respected.”

For more information and advice on breastfeeding, you can call the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 0300 100 0212 from 9:30am-9:30pm, or use the online web chat service here.

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