Almost 68% of women in the UK start breastfeeding, only 48% continue beyond 6-8 weeks – Gov.UK (2021)
The long-discussed breastfeeding rate in the UK is low and continues to fall behind much of the rest of the world. Whilst the benefits are widely accepted, what are the practical obstacles of breastfeeding in the UK? And, how can you navigate them in your breastfeeding journey?
Worries over milk supply
Worries around milk not coming in to feed your baby or, when it does, not knowing if your baby is getting enough are common concerns. It is usual for breastmilk to come in a few days after your baby is born. Prior to that your breasts will make colostrum – the liquid gold that is orange in colour and contains antibodies and other beneficial factors in the perfect quantity for your newborn.
How will you know when your ‘proper’ milk has arrived? You will wake to your chin resting on your full breasts. Joking, kind of… Once you begin feeding your baby, are they producing wet nappies and gaining weight well? If so, this is a good indication your milk is more than enough for them.
Milk production works on a demand and supply basis so feed your baby often and respond to their hunger cues. Take comfort that this new skill you are both learning together may be challenging but it will reap incredible benefits for you both too.
Staying at home to rest and feed
When you are recovering from birth and your baby is feeding around the clock, the idea of leaving the house can feel like an enormous task! You’re very much in the baby bubble – where your days and nights are all mixed up and you’re tending to your baby’s every need. This can be equally lovely and at times frustrating as you may be keen to get ‘out and about’.
We live such busy lives that pausing all that to stay home and get feeding established could feel alien to you. But the truth is some time spent staying close to home will benefit your baby as they learn to latch. Plus you are more likely to eat and drink and rest enough within the comfort of your home.
We live such busy lives that pausing all that to stay home and get feeding established could feel alien to you.
Breastfeeding in public
Once your milk supply is established, and you feel ready to head out… how will you feed? Cover? No cover? Weird apron smock thing? Many Brits feel shy about breastfeeding in public and that includes people within the vicinity of a breastfeeding mother. The truth is whilst we think people must be able to see everything and all of you when feeding, your baby shields your breast from the public. We can only see everything because we are looking down at our babies and our chest.
If you are feeling nervous, head out somewhere you have been before, with a trusty companion in tow and keep your eyes peeled for breastfeeding-friendly stickers in venues. Does this mean you can ONLY feed in these places? Absolutely not but they will have an ideal set up for breastfeeding parents and should make you feel at ease.
Finding feeding friendly clothes
UK weather is infamously changeable and the usual what to wear conundrum is exacerbated with needing to have your boobs accessible for your baby. You may wish to treat yourself to some new breastfeeding-friendly clothing items, or perhaps even borrow them from friends or buy them second-hand.
You may also be surprised to find that items in your existing wardrobe can work well for feeding. For example, dresses or tops with buttons can allow for easy feeding access.
Seeking out good breastfeeding support
If expectant parents have not had access to quality antenatal education (that includes breastfeeding information) they may struggle with the challenges of breastfeeding. Without a doubt breastfeeding requires commitment and persistence.
If you are expecting or navigating breastfeeding your newborn and are not surrounded by a number of people who have breastfed themselves then look for the feeding support in your area. There may be more resources available than you realise. Heading to boobingit would be a good start.