Is breastfeeding as easy as it’s cracked up to be?
More than 80% of British mums start breastfeeding their babies, but around half of them give up within six to eight weeks.
Well, there are multiple factors involved but the bottom line is: it’s not always as easy as it’s cracked up to be.
Just 10% of mums who took part in a study believed that they had been prepared for what it would be like1.
There is often a lot of focus on the benefits of breastfeeding and not much said about the difficulties, understandably not wanting to put women off.
But the research by Professor Amy Brown of Swansea University showed that women want to be told the truth – it can be challenging.
One mum told Prof Brown: ‘It would have helped to have been honestly told that it's not a piece of cake and that you have to learn it and that it's normal to hurt/ feel uncomfortable for the first few weeks; that "it's natural" doesn't mean "it's easy and will just happen”.’
One of the problems is that you can end up with sore or even cracked nipples.
That shouldn’t happen, unless your baby’s position or perhaps a tongue tie is affecting the latch. But what if it does happen – research shows that 80-95% of breastfeeding women will experience some degree of soreness with 26% reporting extreme nipple pain2.
Multi-Mam Nipple Compresses are a unique, natural way to help you through those difficult days until you find out what’s causing the discomfort.
Many mums say in reviews that their triple action helped them to carry on breastfeeding.
Multi-Mam Nipple Compresses contain 2QR-complex, a specific element of aloe vera gel, which can:
- Immediately give cooling, soothing relief for sore nipples
- Reduce swelling and speed up healing
- Protect against infection
The molecules of 2QR-complex mimic the docking points where bacteria would normally attach to the skin, rather like two pieces of a jigsaw. If bacteria attach, you can get symptoms including swelling, inflammation and infection, especially if you have cracked skin. Because 2QR takes up these binding sites, the bacteria simply can’t attach and cause problems.
Each Compress is a soft material pad impregnated with 2QR gel, with a light plastic back that not only prevents leakages but creates a “moist wound environment” which is recognised to speed up healing3, 4.
Multi-Mam Nipple Balm can also help to restore moisture and condition of the nipples during breastfeeding. Like Compresses, you don’t need to wash your nipples before breastfeeding because these products are harmless even when swallowed by babies – there are no preservatives, colours, harsh chemicals or animal ingredients.
That’s important because frequent washing can itself cause drying of the skin which can lead to cracks.
It’s also worth bearing in mind when you’re packing your bag in preparation for the birth that Multi-Gyn Maternity Compresses have the same triple action – but these are slightly bigger, designed for the perineum.
Statistics show that 85% of women will sustain perineum trauma and 70% of these will need stitches5.
Whether you’ve had stitches, been torn or delivered your baby without either of those, it’s fair to say that you’re going to be a bit raw and tender down there.
You will likely be tired, even if you are overjoyed with your beautiful new baby, largely because they are unlikely to be letting you get much sleep. And that can make pain or discomfort either from nipples or perineum feel that bit worse.
Studies have shown that women with pain and increased physiological stress gave up breastfeeding sooner6.
Although Multi-Mam Nipple Compresses are not a form of painkiller, surveys show that pain reduced when they were used. In a 2013 survey, the average pain score of half of women in the survey who started with moderate to severe pain dropped from 7.5 to 2 within 2 days7.
In 2016, another survey showed that average pain scores of women who used Multi-Mam Nipple Compresses in a trial for 10 days dropped from 6.9 to 2.0 on a scale of 1 to 108. Visual signs of symptoms (cracks, redness, scabs, exuding sticky nipples) decreased from 4.1 to 1.6 on a score of 1 to 5. No wonder 91% of them said they’d use Compresses again.
The Royal College of Midwives says exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of an infant’s life is the most appropriate method of infant feeding. Breastfeeding should continue alongside complementary foods for up to two years.
Yet, less than 1% of one-year-old babies are getting any breastfeeding, according to official statistics9. That compares to 23% in Germany, 56% in Brazil and 99% in Senegal.
So, what else can you do to improve your chances of carrying on?
According to Prof Brown’s research, it’s important to recognise that every feed makes a difference. The idea of six months of exclusive breastfeeding may seem unattainable, but you could aim for six weeks, or even six days. If you feel it’s an all or nothing situation, it might feel overwhelmingly difficult.
It’s a good idea to get your whole family on board.
One of the key points made by the mums who took part was that breastfeeding education messages needed to target a wider audience including fathers, children and wider family members.
As one said: ‘You can tell women that breast is best til the cows come home. But if their partner believes differently and the mother-in-law is trying to give the baby a bottle, who do you think is going to win? Tell mums by all means but also tell their wider family’.
Perhaps the research will change the way breastfeeding is presented by the authorities, but in the meantime, you can lay the groundwork with your own families, asking for support when you need it.
The mums suggested that campaigns shouldn’t focus solely on the health benefits, but should help people to understand other advantages, such as bonding, saving time, costing nothing and being convenient.
It’s also useful to highlight that women have legal protection to breastfeed in public. Maybe some people don’t want to see it, but if everyone grows up seeing it being done as normal, then it will become the normal thing to do.
In the end, every mum needs to make her own decision about how she feeds her children, depending on her own set of circumstances, and no one ought to judge that.
What everyone can do – families, friends and employers – is to help each mum to breastfeed if she wants to, with encouragement, emotional and practical support.
Baby Box university has lots of useful video on breastfeeding
Institute of Health Visitors parent tips includes help for common breastfeeding concerns
NHS breastfeeding support info
The breastfeeding network (National phone helpline)
La Leche League
Association of Breastfeeding Mothers
Association of Tongue Tie Practictioners
The Baby Café
Biological Breastfeeding – support with latch postions etc
Lactation Consultants of Great Britain
National Childbirth Trust
UK Association for Milk Banking
Maternity Action – advice about your rights
1 Brown, A. (2016). What Do Women Really Want? Lessons for Breastfeeding Promotion and Education. Breastfeeding Medicine, 11(3), pp.102-110.
2 Newton, N. (1952). Nipple pain and nipple damage. The Journal of Pediatrics, 41(4), pp.411-423.
3 Rovee, D. (1972). Local Wound Environment and Epidermal Healing. Archives of Dermatology, 106(3), p.330.
4 Woundsource.com. (2018). Moist Wound Healing Benefits | WoundSource. (Available at: http://www.woundsource.com/blog/benefits-moist-wound-healing.)
5 Clinical Review: Managing perineal trauma after childbirth, BMJ 2014
Sara Webb, specialist perineal midwife.
6 Abou-Dakn M, Schäfer-Graf U, Wöckel A. (2009). Psychological stress and breast diseases during lactation. Breastfeed Rve, 17(3), pp. 19-26.
7 Goedbloed, A. (2004). Multi-Mam Nipple Compresses: Evaluation of the relief and treatment of nipple pain in breastfeeding women. In-house study by BioClin B.V., Delft, Netherlands.
8 Kwakman, P.H.S. (2016). Customer satisfaction survey. Nordic Consumer Health, Sweden & BioClin B.V., Delft, The Netherlands.
9 The Lancet Series, 2016