A new book by a Swansea University academic explores what breastfeeding means to women, how they feel when things don’t work out and importantly, how care, support and outcomes can be improved for future generations of women.
In her new book, Why Breastfeeding Grief and Trauma Matter, Professor Amy Brown a leading infant feeding researcher at Swansea University, examines the effect that stopping breastfeeding too early has on women.
While health guidelines promote breastfeeding, the UK and Ireland have the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world. Many women want to breastfeed but difficulties in accessing specialist support, misinformation and negative public attitudes mean many stop breastfeeding before they are ready.
In fact 90% of women who stop breastfeeding in the first six weeks are not ready to do so and this can have a devastating impact on their mental health. This is especially true when their desire to breastfeed is dismissed and many feel a mixture of grief, anger, guilt and frustration which can profoundly impact on their early experience of motherhood.
Professor Brown said: ‘For too long women have been told that it doesn't matter if they have not been able to breastfeed their baby. Whilst this may be said in kindness, and some may be at peace with their decision, for others this message can invalidate women's experiences on many levels.
“Breastfeeding is not just about making sure their baby is fed; it is a woman's reproductive right for her body to work in the way she expects and being able to breastfeed can be closely tied to her identity, culture and religion.
“We must stop telling women that their experiences don't matter and instead recognise what she may have lost, through from a bodily function to her preferred way of mothering. And most of all we must continue working to change things for the next generation of mothers, so fewer experience the grief, disappointment and even trauma that not being able to breastfeed can bring.”
Professor Amy Brown is based in the Department of Public Health, Policy and Social Sciences at Swansea University in the UK where she is Director of 'LIFT' - the centre for Lactation, Infant Feeding and Translation Research.
Why Breastfeeding Grief and Trauma Matter is available from Pinter & Martin 5th December for £8.99.