Supporting your partners breastfeeding choices

The risks of not breastfeeding

A lot that you and you partner have about breastfeeding, will give you this information, but they will emphasis the benefits for breastfeeding rather than talk about the risks of not doing so. I say that breastfeeding is the way we have evolved over millions of years to feed our babies, and that anything else is a risk. Some people find this way of looking at it uncomfortable, but if you read around it I think you’ll see it makes sense.

Remember we are mammals, and have been for millions of years. All mammals feed their young milk from breasts or teats. The word mammal actually means that the animal has a mammary gland to produce milk.

The use of artificial formula is a very very recent phenomenon, and is not as safe as you might think. For one thing, babies fed on ‘modern’ formula (since, say, the 1970s) are not even in middle age yet.

No long- term studies have been done. What we do know is that artificial formula changes the body: it alters a baby’s gut (breastfed babies’ poo is yellow and smells milky, while that of formula fed babies is browner and smellier, more like adult poo) and immune system, making babies more vulnerable to infections. The immune protection that your partners
breastmilk provides cannot be underestimated.

Breastfeeding has served us as a species for millions of years of successful evolution, and probably has many more effects on the body than we currently know about – and we know about a lot. If you read about it, or Google the benefits of breastfeeding, you will probably be overwhelmed! Artificial formula can never come close to matching the living fluid that your partners breasts will produce.

Having said all this, her choice regarding how you feed your baby is sovereign, and supporting her choices is your role, sharing your opinions but understanding that whatever conclusions you come to are the right ones for you and your family.

The risks to your baby (and partner) from not breastfeeding:

  • More chest and ear infections
  • More likely to have to got to hospital for vomiting and diarrhoea
  • More likely to be constipated
  • More likely to be obese and to suffer related diseases (e.g. diabetes)

The risks of not breastfeeding for the mother:

  • More likely to have breast and ovarian cancer
  • More likely to have heart disease
  • More likely to retain weight put on during pregnancy
  • Periods restart sooner than if breastfeeding, leading to iron loss (anaemia)

Any breastfeeding will protect your lover and your baby from these risks, and the longer she breastfeeds for, the longer the protection will last.

Where to get breastfeeding support

In most hospitals the midwives will be able to help your partner and your baby get breastfeeding started. There are infant feeding advisors on staff if you need more help.

In some hospitals there are maternity assistants or volunteer peer supporters on post-natal wards who can also offer support. If you give birth at home, or once you come home from hospital, community midwives will visit or offer clinics in the early days.

Then you’ll be allocated a health visitor, who should be able to direct you to breastfeeding groups or peer supporters in the community. Peer supporters are other mothers who’ve breastfed their own children, who’ve had additional training in supporting breastfeeding.

They can offer understanding and support and help with minor challenges, such as poor attachment/‘latch’, and they can signpost you to more help for other difficulties. They often run breastfeeding groups where your lover can meet other mothers with new babies, which can be very reassuring.

There’s also a national breastfeeding helpline staffed by trained breastfeeding counsellors, and organisations like La Leche League, the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers and the Breastfeeding Network which run support groups, online discussion groups and Facebook pages and offer great information on their websites. Details of them all are at the back
of the book. There’s bound to be something in your area. If your partner is finding breastfeeding challenging, you can help her to access the support she needs.

References:

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