Why don't women in UK breastfeed their babies?


I have just finished having a 'conversation' on twitter where I was called a lactivist and a nipplenazi (google their meaning, I had to!). The basis of this abuse was because I responded to a tweet where a woman said she had witnessed a pregnant mother being worried about having to breastfeed her child because she could not find formula in the shop. The background to this is that we are currently in the COVID19 crisis where people are panic buying supplies as they are uncertain as to if they may be forced to quarantine themselves and for how long.

So what offensive thing did I say? I said that the pregnant mother should not be worried, breastfeeding has its challenges but it is really easy once you work through them. I also said that kellymom.com is the best site for evidence based advice as sometimes the doctors, midwives and healthvisitors in UK give poor advice for example
1. Using growth charts for combifed babies (breastmilk and formula) for exclusively breastfed babies
2. Not being able to provide latching advice
3. Not telling women that in the first few days, milk may not appear but the baby needs to be continually put on the breast in that time to stimulate the milk production.
4. Offering formula in hospital to settle a newborn instead of encouraging breastfeeding and advising that the baby may be unsettled due to the birth process and new environment.
5. Not having had experience of breastfeeding or supporting breastfeeding themselves to fully understand its difficulties (endless wake ups, tiredness, possible pains due to mastitis or poor latch, oversupply and nipple changes generated by pumping) or its benefits (fully biocompatible, adjusts to the baby's needs, always available, food and comfort all in one).

Finally I also said that once presented with the research and evidence, it is the woman's choice to do whatever she likes. A fed baby is the most important thing, breast or formula or both., it does not matter, feed the baby.

The vitriolic response from a minority of people does underline why UK has the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world (Source - UNICEF).  An NHS survey showed that 81% of mothers start breastfeeding but within 3 months that drops to 17% and by 6 months it is 1%.

My argument is not one that is against formula feeding it is rather one that says breastfeeding is normal and natural BUT (in bold and all caps) requires a lot of dedication to master and a lot of good support from family as well as clinicians and health workers. Mammals large and small give birth to their young and the mothers then feed the young with milk that is naturally biocompatible for the young baby. We as humans are mammals, we are built to do this.

Is it really offensive to say that breasfeeding is natural or that babies should be fed regardless? My very rational mind says no.

Additional Sources:
1. Image Source - Wikimedia Commons

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