This week (24th-30th June) is National Breastfeeding Week. The aim of NBW is to raise awareness of the health benefits of breastfeeding, increase social acceptance and promote support for breastfeeding. This week also sees the publication of Breastfeeding: Stories to Inspire and Inform; a collection of stories from breastfeeding mums detailing their experiences nursing their babies, put together by Susan Last.
There’s something quite fascinating in reading how diverse breastfeeding relationships can be, even where mums have had multiple babies. This reinforces my own discovery that different babies are… well, different. Fascinating too that virtually every mum, no matter how ambivalent to breastfeeding they may appear to be at the start of each story, quickly becomes emotionally invested in this intimate act of primal bonding.
What is really reflected in each story is how important support is to the breastfeeding mum; it can’t be coincidence that mums who talk about pressure to bottle feed from family members are the same mums who talk about early cessation of breastfeeding. I can’t be more grateful that I have a family who sees breastfeeding, even “prolonged” feeding as one mum refers to it, as normal rather than something to be wrapped up as quickly as possible. One mum herself talks about this, reflecting on her own experience gathering support through Mumsnet which ultimately led to her becoming a breastfeeding peer supporter.
As an experienced breastfeeding mum (my own story could easily double the size of this book!) I found myself nodding away to various snippets, sharing out loud my own advice as if these mums could hear or indeed make use of my belated words of wisdom(!) Unfortunately I also found myself sighing and shaking my head at others… the obsession with ending feeding at 6 months, and myths about milk quality and quantity in particular. Thankfully (for my blood pressure) common myths are highlighted with an asterisk to advise readers that evidence-based knowledge disagrees and the issues are then covered in the “Exploding some common myths” section.
I definitely think this book is one to add to the library of texts I recommend to new mums, if nothing else than to offer reassurance that there is a huge range of what is ‘normal’ feeding. The honest sharing of real-life experiences does far more to encourage and support struggling mums than any clichéd “breast is best” slogan and that, to me, epitomises National Breastfeeding Week.