World Breastfeeding Week: A mother's story
The theme this of World Breastfeeding Week this year is 'support breastfeeding for a healthier planet' and the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF are encouraging governments to protect and promote women’s access to skilled breastfeeding support.
As well as the physical and emotional health benefits, breastfeeding also forms part of a sustainable food system. However, it isn’t always easy and the COVID pandemic has presented further challenges. Mothers need support – both to get started and to sustain breastfeeding.
Here, one mum shares the story of her and baby Archie’s breastfeeding journey so far, the challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic and the support she has received from the team here in our neonatal unit.
“Archie was born extremely preterm at 25+4 weighing 900g (2lb).
Prior to birth I hadn't put masses of thought into how to feed him and always had the thought process of whatever works for him is what I would go with. Having a premature baby I thought the best thing for him would be my breast milk.
Leanne, an infant feeding advisor, came to me on the unit and spoke to me about the options I had for feeding - I didn't feel pressured into choosing expressing and was given all the information to make an informed choice. Leanne took me to the expressing room and taught me how to use the pumps and express. She was very professional and friendly.
During my journey I've had phone calls from the team checking in on me to ensure my supply is OK and they have always been there to answer any questions - a very knowledgeable team. I've had my supply dip down a few times and the team are always on hand to give advice and tweak your journey to suit you.
I love expressing personally - I find in these crazy times it has given me something to do to feel like a mummy, and although due to COVID rules I couldn’t cuddle him for five weeks, I feel it really helped build a bond and it's also been a great chance to engage with other mums.
Six weeks later, Archie is out of intensive care gaining weight nicely and now weighing 3lb. He is still fed through an nasal gastric tube but is starting to get his suckle and I'm looking forward to the next stage in our feeding journey.”
Supporting breastfeeding is important on any neonatal unit. Babies born sick and/or preterm are vulnerable and breastmilk significantly reduces the risk of serious complication in the short and long term.
In terms of breastfeeding during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) state that there is no evidence showing that the virus can be carried or passed on in breastmilk. The well-recognised benefits of breastfeeding and the protection it offers to babies outweigh any potential risks of the transmission of coronavirus through breastmilk.
For more information on breastfeeding, visit our pages about feeding your baby.