Breastfeeding goal 'too idealistic'


ADVISING mums to exclusively breastfeed for six months due to health benefits may be unrealistic, a study has found.

In a bid to boost breastfeeding rates around the world, women should be given more achievable goals ...

This implies that we should aim for less-than-best because less-than-best is being achieved, rather than putting in the required resources to help mothers achieve the optimal exclusive breastfeeding duration. Would this approach be taken in other areas of health care?

Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby's life is recommended by the World Health Organisation and endorsed by many governments. But ... in reality, it could be challenging and the advice was too idealistic ...

Some women said antenatal information left them unprepared, they felt pressured to breastfeed and the "all or nothing" approach was unhelpful. One mother said she felt guilty because her experience of breastfeeding was not the "lovely bonding experience" it was promoted to be ...

So what is required for women to be well-supported in breastfeeding? I think there are two main aspects. One is practical support, and the other is professional support.

Practical support

This is important for all new mothers, and includes family and friends helping with cooking, cleaning, household chores and anything that can possibly be delegated. A new mother has only one job in the first few weeks after birth, and this is to get as much breast milk into her baby as possible. This requires unrestricted access to the breast, lots of cuddles and skin-to-skin time and lots of rest with good nutrition. It might seem a bit daunting to hear is said that way, but the advice pays off later with fewer absences from school for infections, asthma and colds.

Professional support

My personal opinion is that the care provided by the general hospital system (public or private) is inadequate to meet the needs of new mothers. Some have only one home visit and maybe a phone call or two. This is no substitute for daily home visiting in the first week, and regular, ongoing care for the remaining 5 weeks. Postnatal care is preventative in its nature. It's not so much about fixing problems as much as it is about preventing problems from occurring through education, support and care. Daily postnatal visiting can help to minimise postnatal depression, boost breastfeeding rates and help families and friends feel empowered in helping the new mother.

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