Breastfeeding is best for both mum and baby but some women struggle to breastfeed or are anxious about feeding in public.
Aasma Day talks to Lancashire mum Polly Bidwell who struggled to breastfeed her first two children but was third time lucky.
Growing up with a mother who worked as a breastfeeding counsellor, Polly Bidwell felt feeding a baby with its mother’s milk was the norm and knew that when the time came, this is what she wanted to do.
So when circumstances led to her being unable to breastfeed her first two children for as long as she wanted to, Polly was devastated and admits she was wracked with guilt.
Polly, 39, who lives in Leyland, near Preston, explains: “There was no doubt in my mind that when I had children, I wanted to breastfeed them.
“Breastfeeding was just the normal thing in our household and as far as I was concerned, it was just what you did when you had a baby.
I felt all-consuming guilt and felt there was something wrong with me for not being able to breastfeed my babies. I put a lot of pressure on myself.Polly Bidwell
“I knew I wanted to breastfeed my children as I knew there were so many health benefits for the baby.”
Polly, who is married to Luke and has children Charlie, nine, Milly, six and Freddie, who is nine-months-old, desperately wanted to breastfeed but found the reality very different when she had her first child Charlie.
Polly was discovered to have the infection Strep B so had to have antibiotics during labour and when Charlie was born, he was given antibiotics too.
Unfortunately, the antibiotics led to them both developing thrush so Polly found breastfeeding very painful.
Polly, who works for the clinical research network in mental health research, recalls: “I did not know what I had so I just tried to struggle through with breastfeeding.
“I just thought I wasn’t doing it right and kept persevering.
“I managed about five or six weeks with Charlie and then I had to stop as it was just too painful.
“It was excruciating pain and it felt like needles shooting through me.
“Charlie then went on to bottles and was absolutely fine. But I felt terrible for not being able to carry on with breastfeeding him.”
When Polly had her daughter Milly, she experienced the same problem and had antiobiotics again and once again developed thrush. However, this time she had some treatment for it.
However, she found breastfeeding Milly extremely painful and managed five weeks before having to give up and Milly went on to bottles.
Polly explains: “Both Charlie and Milly were absolutely fine on bottled milk, it was just me who found it difficult to deal with.
“I felt all-consuming guilt and felt there was something wrong with me for not being able to breastfeed my babies. I put a lot of pressure on myself.”
When Polly was pregnant with her baby Freddie, she was determined to breastfeed properly this time and she took probiotics as soon as she went into labour to counter the antibiotics.
As a result, this time, she did not get thrush.
Polly says: “The Family and Baby Service came into hospital to talk about breastfeeding and gave me advice on positioning.
“I told them about what had happened with my first two children and when I went home, they came to visit me there and checked Freddie was latching on OK and gave me support telephone numbers.
“They also told me about their breastfeeding drop-in sessions on a Friday in Leyland and I found the group a great source of support, especially in the first few weeks when I felt too embarrassed to breastfeed in public.
“With their support, I realised I could breastfeed discreetly wherever I was.
“I am still breastfeeding Freddie now and am still going to the FAB breastfeeding group. I am hoping to carry on feeding Freddie for as long as he wants it. I feel very glad that I managed to achieve breastfeeding with Freddie and I feel very blessed.”
Raising awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding
HEALTH professionals from Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust are raising awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding throughout this month.
Members of the specialist infant feeding team are encouraging soon-to-be and new mums to give breastfeeding a try and highlighting the many benefits it can provide.
Research shows 72 per cent of new mums in Lancashire choose to breastfeed after the birth of their child.
This provides protection against a variety of infections and diseases for the baby right through into adulthood including; obesity, ear, chest and stomach infections, allergies such as asthma and food intolerance, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Breastfeeding can provide mums protection from ovarian and breast cancer and helps strengthen bones providing protection against hip fractures, as well as strengthening the relationship between mum and baby.
The team are encouraging mums to share who helps support them breastfeed and where they breastfeed on social media using the hashtag #believinginbreastfeeding.
Local businesses can get involved too by signing up for the Breastfeeding Friendly Places scheme and pledging their commitment to creating a breastfeeding friendly environment.
Louise Dunn, infant feeding practitioner at Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, says: “We are holding a variety of events across the area encourage people to start conversations.
“There can be many reasons mums may not want to breastfeed and one of the main reasons is because they may feel uncomfortable or unsupported by local businesses and the general public when feeding out and about.
“We hope that by starting conversations we can make sure mums to be can make an informed choice over whether they would like to breastfeed.
“Businesses can help by joining in the conversations and showing their support by signing up to the scheme and displaying the ‘Breastfeeding Welcome’ stickers.
“We hope that by creating a norm where breastfeeding in public is seen as ok rather than frowned upon and that this won’t be the deterrent that it may be at the moment and more mums can choose to breastfeed and pass on the many benefits this brings to their baby.”
To find out about local events in your area and for more information about breastfeeding and how to sign up to be a breastfeeding friendly place, visit www.lancashirecare.nhs.uk/IF
You can follow the activities on Twitter by following @LancashireCare and searching the hashtag #believinginbreastfeeding.