I’ve stopped talking about the benefits of breastfeeding in antenatal classes.

Newborn breastfeeding
(C)Snowdrop Doula CIC

Bit of background here… I have been involved in infant feeding support and education for around 16 years now. I am very passionate about adequate support for breastfeeding for the whole family. 

In this time I’ve seen just about every scenario. Our model of support at Snowdrop Doula CIC triples the chance of breastfeeding at 6weeks and 6months.

In my practice I started off sharing all the benefits of breastfeeding. This felt important then as I believed parents to be were unaware of the evidence. 

I now believe this is likely to do more harm than good. Here’s some of why I now think this.

Advertising of formula and breastfeeding.

We now have a lot more advertising and campaigns for the benefits of breastfeeding. It is no where near enough or even the right way but it exists, nonetheless. 

We see formula advertising talking about how breastfeeding is best and how their milk is trying to replicate it. These ads are seen by everyone and so that message does get heard. (Yes, there’s very clever marketing in that so you buy their product but the message remains). Seeing these adverts does put a simple message in a person’s mind that breastmilk has properties that formula can’t ever replicate, because they are saying how they are trying to replicate breast milk, “over 50 years of breast milk research”, etc.

Depending upon the area you live there are various NHS campaigns as to the benefits and “breast is best”. This helps to cement what we have already seen on TV. In addition to this, midwives and antenatal information given includes the benefits too. I am not naïve to think this is consistent in areas nor optimal. It is not. Still more should and could be done.

This all contributes to a basis in messaging via advertisements of breastmilk being optimal for health of both mother and baby. It would be rare for a pregnant woman to not have seen any of this or for conversations with family and peers have happened. 

Parents are not stupid.

In this article I am concentrating on why I no longer talk about benefits in a class setting. Parents who attend antenatal classes have a tendency to have already been seeking information on birth and feeding. They have often seen the information in that breast milk has more beneficial properties than formula milk before signing up for the class. In a class setting I have usually just repeated this. In talking about specific details parents have been surprised by the amount of benefits but the basic message of breast milk having properties formula does not have is not new information.

A note here; is wise not to make assumptions here, however, not everyone attending classes has read anything else and are coming to classes for the point to learn. 

I’ve found, often, in breastfeeding support circles there’s a judgement that parents who formula feed just haven’t done their research and/or don’t care. When’re this may be true of some it is quite rare. There are many reasons a person chooses to formula feed. Rarely due to not understanding the benefits of breastfeeding.

Why talking about benefits of breastfeeding does more bad than good.

Guilt. It is a very powerful emotion that can affect anyone. I have seen this as a common theme within postnatal depression, the feeling of not being good enough and failing at what should come naturally. Very common comments when talking about these feelings include “and I couldn’t even breastfeed, I know it’s the best, and I couldn’t even do what’s best.” Everytime I hear this I become upset at what kind of messaging society is giving where a woman is feeling such despair. Surely something should change here.

What benefit is there to knowing all the benefits but then not being able to breastfeed, for whatever reason? In my experience, all it does is trigger negative feelings and beliefs on the woman’s ability to parent. That is not good. 

With some studies suggesting over 80% of women do not breastfeed as long as they want to this impacts far more woman than it should.

It doesn’t actually improve chances of breastfeeding. The problems are more to do with expectations of feeding and life with a newborn. Knowing the benefits rarely suddenly makes a woman suddenly decide to breastfeed. In some circumstances they may so, “oh I didn’t know that, I may try to give some now”, but, in my experience of working with families from all sections of society, this does not have a huge impact. 

On balancing the positives of potentially helping someone to breastfeed who may not otherwise against the guilt inducing if not breastfeeding, it does not appear to be worth it. Instead, I use the time to discuss infant feeding as a whole, how breastfeeding works, how formula feeding works, the common problems and how to help overcome, and answer questions. With this giving a caveat that it can be difficult and it’s not for all. If parents ask for the information I will give it, but I’m not discussing as a general topic. I’ve seen too much harm with very little, if any, benefit.

I am aware that in some circles this is quite a controversial viewpoint but I’d ask is it worth it? Is it improving breastfeeding rates? Does it help with wellbeing? If no, then why are we doing it?

How does counselling work?

We get a lot of questions about counselling and psychotherapy as people seek therapy support. Some of the common ones are..

How does counselling work?
I’m worried about delving into my fears and worries. Do I need to?

I have had counselling before and it didn’t work. How do I know it will this time?

This short video aims to address some of these questions.

Our counselling service may help you. Do get in contact if you would like more information or to book some sessions.

New YouTube video, perinatal depression 

Have you found our YouTube channel yet? There’s a new video dropped looking briefly at postnatal depression and antenatal depression.

Postnatal depression is thought to affect around 1 in 5 new mums. The symptoms can be quite distressing for many. Here’s a new video with some self help tips for postnatal depression, antenatal depression, perinatal depression.

Support can be found here.

Am I allowed to…?

Am I allowed a home birth?

am i allowed a home birth? Am i allowed to choose a caesarean?

Am I allowed to choose a caesarean?

Can I choose to not have vaginal exams?

Can I decide to not have blood tests/ scans?

Do I have to have a midwife?

These are some of the many questions asked when it comes to pregnancy, birth and parenting. The short answer to these questions is that it is always your choice what to do with your body. The only legal requirement is to notify of the birth of the baby (and any death). Anything else is a personal choice that noone can, legally, coerce you into.

However, you may be met with various levels of resistance and threats should anything be “out of medical advice”. This can sometimes be difficult but if you are aware of your rights these issues can be quickly dealt with.

You may be told that social services will be contacted and for the most part they do not tend to take any further intervention.

You may be told things such as your baby will die. This usually comes from a place of fear. If such scary things are suggested it is worth looking up the reality of this for your situation. “Doubling the risk” may still remain at 2% chance.

The most important thing is that you feel safe, are safe and are aware of the risks and benefits of all options, making for a truly informed choice.

If you feel you are wanting to choose something that someone else if making difficult for you then you can contact us and we may to able to support you. You can also contact organisations such as Birthrights for legal questions and support.

Can i take antidepressants whilst breastfeeding?

YOu cant take antidepressants when pregnant or breastfeeding. Can you take antidepressants when breastfeeding or pregnant

Can i take antidepressants whilst breastfeeding? This is a common concern for many who need to take antidepressants postnatally (after the birth of a baby).
It is a bit of a myth that many medications cannot be taken whilst breastfeeding. There is usuallly an option and a case of weighing up benefits with the risks. Many antidepressents remian safe whilst breastfeeding as it is not found to cross into breastmilk and/or cause issues.

If you find you are in need and there is some confusion speak to your GP. There are some GP’s who are not fully aware that medication can still be taken so worth a deeper converstion. You can also check out the Drugs in breastmilk helpline and website and more information here.

If you are in need of mental health support we do offer many options and there are other services out there. Speak to your health visitor for other local options for you

Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of.

History and stigma of mental illness.

Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of.

Over many years the view of mental illness has changed hugely. decades ago people displaying behaviours that were thought to be ”not ok” would be diagnosed as ”insane” and locked up in mental asylums. Some of these behaviours would not be seen as any form of an issue these days, for instance, women not wanting to have a child may have caused a reason for being sent to an asylum, as would homosexuality.

Now, in 2022, we do not have ”lunatic asylums” and the care and treatment of mental illness is vastly different. (although we do have a way to go yet.) Psychiatric wards exist and these do tend to be for those who are most ill, with illness such as psychosis. In maternal mental health we do have some mother and baby units in the UK for those who require inpatient care.

Progression of views

The NHS now has frameworks in place to treat mental illness in various ways, beginning with sharing self help strategies, and with talking therapy and only inpatient care for those most at risk. Theories and beliefs of mental heath care tends to now work on looking a the person as a whole and how best to support the individual needs, with a view to make things better rather than judge and lock away as some form of danger. Research now knows that people with mental illness are no more a risk to others as anyone else.

Societal views on mental illness has also changed along with this. Mostly excepted as part of life for many. We now see that mental illness is treat as psychical illness is. a person could suffer for a while and can access (depending on various things) help to make the illness better or more manageable.

Feeling ashamed is something that can come from others or beliefs around a situation. In many situations this feeling could stop someone accessing support and therapy. If professionals and the wider society talk about mental illness as something to not label or that things are not an illness it can also contribute to this.

In reality having a mental illness is OK. Mental illness can be treat in various ways, just as any other illness, and ways to many a longer illness can also be done. Society and services no longer judge mental illness as something dangerous (for the most part) because we have the research to show otherwise.

Seeking help, support and treatment that is right for the individual is key. we have a way to go to getting things perfect, if that’s even possible, but we have a much better under