Wednesday, 11 August 2010

The Party Line

On tuesdays I go to Baby Cafe. All the babies three months old and younger go to one room, older babies to another, accompanied by mums of course. It's a drop in session where you can chat to other mums, babies get to meet on the mat, and for a couple of quid you get a spud or sandwich that you've not had to juggle baby in order to make (in the early weeks that was a godsend to me). More importantly for those that are just getting used to breastfeeding, it's a friendly environment for your first public feed, and there's always a health visitor around to advise.

Which brings me to the point of this post...

Today the health visitor did her usual thing: she had an informal chat to each of us, checking we're were happy, no questions, feeding (breast or formula) going well. The conversation went along these lines:

"How are you today? How's the feeding going?"
"Fine thank you. A bit tired but that's to be expected."
"Why? How often is she feeding overnight?"
"About every two to three hours."
"Hmm... you really ought to be trying to stretch that to four hourly, day and night. Are you sure you've got enough milk for her? Can you tell whether your breasts are becoming full again?"

I've got several problems with that last bit:
  1. A nine week old formula fed baby may well be able to go to four hourly feeds, but it's much less likely that a breast fed baby can do so: breast milk is more easily (i.e. quickly) digested than formula, and they are more likely to take just as much as they need to feel full (as opposed to bottle fed where they may end up taking more than they need). When I checked with health visitor number two at baby clinic this afternoon she told me this: demand feeding (i.e. feed whenever the baby wants milk) is the NHS breast-feeding strategy and all health visitors should be advising as such.
  2. Rather than ask me if my milk supply is good (something that's rather difficult to work out), how about ask me about Baby Badger's weight gain and number of nappies (something that's easy to quantify and gives a good indication of if she's getting enough)?
  3. A mother less inquisitive/confident/bolshy than myself may not have asked for a second opinion regards the four hourly feeding, and could have had the seeds of doubt planted regarding her milk supply. Health visitors are meant to be supportive!

This is not a post abusing the NHS. I can't fault the care I've received during pregnancy, birth and beyond. I perhaps haven't received as much attention as some, but that's fine as I've had a pretty easy ride of it. What I do expect from the NHS is that the staff should have the same up to date information and provide consistent and good advice. That isn't always happening (I experienced similarly conflicting advice while in hospital with Baby Badger).

Image: photostock /

1 comment:

  1. I agree, it's shocking how many health professionals give out of date, anecdotal advice about breastfeeding. I think that what you're doing: reading up on proper advice, going out there and feeding your baby is the best way to normalise breastfeeding in society. It's sadly so rare these days that there isn't a normal support network of informed family and friends like there might have been, say, 70 years ago. You might be interested to read 'The Politics of Breastfeeding' if it's something you feel strongly about.


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