Sunday, May 25, 2008

breastfeeding in Sweden

I asked dolly of For Nine Pounds to do a guest post on why breasteeding is so successful in Sweden (94% compared to our artificially high figure of 40%)- she's written this for me.

To sum up her ideas, it seems that the difference between there and here would be: attitudes to nudity, fiscal sense and pragmatism and a hospital system that knows how to teach women to breastfeed, even if it does so with as little charm as the Irish one, at least it knows its stuff.

I just scanned over this article on infant death and formula stats - obviously more relevant to third world countries than developed ones, but might help us recommit to the Nestlé boycott... I don't know if the stats hold up, but at first view it's making a significant point.

And while I'm surfing, it seems breastfeeding also decreases the risk of rheumatoid arthritis! Hurrah!

And here's an article on attitudes in Ireland - I'm really including it because it says 'Yayyyy for boobies!' at the end. Indeed!


Alleged Comedian said...

Jane breastfed our first son, for 4 days. He was still hungry, she felt useless, I came home from work to find them both sobbing on the bed.

Cue SMA, happiness.

Cue me doing the graveyard feeding shift, unhappiness, but a small price to pay. I am ambivalent about breast feeding, as only a man can be. If it's your style, fine, but it's getting to the stage where it is seen as the only politically correct option.

Which is an unfair burden to place on a new mum. That's hard enough methinks, and in our case, formula worked, our children are healthy, happy and nourished.

I think that is rather the point.

There was a time when breast-feeding was frowned upon and shunned, which is equally as terible as the nipple-nazism we have now.

jothemama said...

Well, I'll put my hand up to being a 'nipple-nazi', as I think that, offensive and innacurate as he term is, I still think it's better than the alternative. This has nothing to do with political correctness. Nothing.

I'm the first to understand the trials of breastfeeding, learning a new and difficult skill at an exhausting, frought and emotional time.

It's not uncommon to find a mother of four days crying though, whether she's breast feeding or mixing a bottle of formula.

These days it's everybody's choice whether they go with a possibly rough few weeks of establishing breastfeeding and the benefits that go with it, or whether they go for the emotionally easier route of the bottle.

However, there is more than enough medical evidence out there that formula milk is not as good as breastmilk and has certain negative attributes - to suggest otherwise is inaccurate.

The whole 'breast nazi' thing sadly undermines the vital importance of breastfeeding. What we need is a health service that helps and reaches ALL mothers, not those with the knowledge already, or those who can afford private consultants. ALL women deserve dedicated help to give them a smooth and positive breastfeeding experience, so they don't feel alone, lost, scared and in pain. Where these systems exist, mothers are far less likely

If we had that, the ingrained negative attitude to breast feeding in Ireland might change.

You can't tell me for a SECOND that attitudes breastfeeding here are now on a par with attitudes to formula. Don't kid yourself. We've generations of anti breastfeeding propaganda that need to be knocked down, and the whole 'breast nazi' think is part of that.

I'm so sorry your wife went through what she did, I've been there and I know what it's like. I know what it's like to sit there clenched, knowing your baby will wake soon and you'll have to feed them again, and dreading it. I also know what it's like to get things sorted and established, and go on to feed happily for more than a year. And for this reason, I personally feel that a rocky start is worth the struggle, assuming you have the right educated support.

That's what we should all be fighting for. Sustained, professional, personal support from the midwives, the hpsitals, the public health nurses, properly trained and working from the same page.

Alleged Comedian said...

I can't disagree with anything you've said Jo, on the basis that I only have my experience, such as it is, to go on.

But I refuse to withdraw the nipple-nazi remark, as the hospital we were in were rather dictatorial about breast-feeding, and incredibly rude to those who weren't.

I agree that it should be a choice, based on proper information and in an environmentthat respects both formula and breast mums. I concede that in developing countries, the need for mothers to breastfeed is crucial, particularly as there may not be a clean water source.

Regarding "negative" consequences of formula feeding, I am more of the opinion that breast feeding can have a few more advantages, particularly regarding immune system functions etc, but to turn that around and imply that formula feeding is "bad" is something I find a little off-putting.

I do however take your point, but Sweden has the highest rate of suicide in the western world, perhaps it's all the men not getting any breast action that's fuelling it...

jothemama said...

Eek, highest suicide rate in the world? Scary counter stat! I hope there's no correlation - I thought it might be more to do with hours of daylight... we do also have a high suicide rate, and presumably loads of breast action :)

I agree with the hospitals and HSE pushing breastfeeding but I don't for a second agree that they've got their tone right - for example the story of the midwife, when asked for help, throwing her eyes to heaven and saying 'Did you not read the leaflet?' or a woman who asked for a bottle in desperation jsut being left alone without help - disgusting. Unhelpful - but I've ranted about this before.

But I don't think that's exactly what breast nazi-ism usually refers to. That's just shitty, ill informed practice - many of these midwives are the same women who were (and often still are) pushing the formula and handing out the milk retarding pills up til recently - it's usually hippy La Leche types like me who get branded with the nazi label. And while I'd like to see breastfeeding in the majority and better support systems and more postive attitudes in place in our country, I really don't feel any need to gas everyone who chooses formula. I like lactivist best.

Rechru said...

The midwife asked me at my antenatal check-up asked when I said I planned to breastfeed, had I read the leaflet.
I had, so I felt totally prepared.

Many, many were the times in the early days of my daughter's life I thought despairingly of that midwife and the leaflet with its beaming new mammy gazingly lovingly down at her nursing baby while I nearly went out of my mind with the pain of early breastfeeding and my lack of the required skills for the job. Why had the leaflet not mentioned any of this?

I began to understand why midwives used to correct me (in a nudge, nudge/wink wink sort of way) when I said that I PLANNED to breastfeed, by saying "well, you will TRY".

This seems to be the attitude of the health service; tell pregnant women to TRY it, and then, well, hope for the best. I now know how hopelessly inadequate this is. Simply "trying" and seeing how it would go was never going to be enough in my case, nor in the case of so many others. SUPPORT is KEY in the early days of breastfeeding for the multitudes who "try", alone, and find themselves catapulted into a mire of pain, bewilderment, despair, pain pain and more pain meshed with the exhaustion of a new baby. I got my support on and from a lactation consultant, and at at last when I was able to venture - dazed and confused - back to the outside world, at breastfeeding support groups.
Not from the leaflet.

jothemama said...

It's awful. Rollercoaster is great, but it's so terrible that it's the only place a lot of women find for advice and help.

In truth, I'll often post suggestions I'm not even 100% sure of. IT's a good idea, buit can't take the place of a proper consultant. I can't bear the thought of all the women being waved off out of the hospital to a lonely and frightening trial of pain and tears, being doomed to feel they've failed, while it's the hospital's failure. And hte bad name it gives breastfeeding - I keep talking to people who want to express only, which seems like such a miserable chore with no one of the niceness of breastfeeding attached to me!

I hope it's going to change. But how are they going to make the HSE people nicer?

Someone on RC suggested having real bf mums do talks in ante natal classes, I thought that was a good idea.

Also, Ina May Gaskin has a Breastfeeding book coming out, that sounds great - she says they never had any trouble with it at her birth centre because they all knew what to do: proper help = no problems.

They don't have many sections either :)