75% of London Mums believe Breast is Best but not everywhere
A survey conducted by London Mums, an independent group of new mums based in South London, reveals that 75% of the 61 who responded felt that breastfeeding women are accepted in public places but not everywhere.
Most felt that in 'nappy valley', particularly Putney and Fulham, there are good places for breastfeeding. However, the perception in the City and Canary Wharf was totally different, with mothers feeling uncomfortable breastfeeding in public, and given dirty looks. London Mums feel that there is a stigma about breastfeeding in public places and wish there would be more 'child friendly' cafes and restaurants. Also, most mums interviewed felt that it was more acceptable to be seen nursing newborn babies rather than bigger, older babies. Only 15% of those interviewed think that they are not accepted in public at all.
66% of the 61 who completed the survey are still breastfeeding their babies although 30% of them are mixing breast milk and formula. 55% of them felt huge external pressure starting breastfeeding, particularly from NHS health professionals and from NCT breastfeeding advisors. The pressure was perceived as negative and sometimes as emotional blackmail by 46% and as encouragement by 36%. Those 46% felt that the approach was not very sympathetic for the mums who did not want to breastfeed pre-birth and in the maternity ward. One mum commented: "Breast is best but formula is not poison. Mums who do not breastfeed should not feel like they are murdering their child. Being a good mum involves so much more than breastfeeding and formula babies grow as normal."
12% of mums interviewed have been breastfeeding for 7 months so far and 53% of them intend to do so until the baby is one year old.
For 34% of mums who have stopped breastfeeding early on or never really started it the main reason was low milk supply for 48% of them followed by return to work or baby problems such as reflux. 20% of mums said that they wanted their body back and 10% had to stop breastfeeding because they wanted to get pregnant again. 25% of those who have now stopped did breastfeed the babies for 4 to 6 months.
92% of all interviewed agreed that breastfeeding mums need a support group to cope with the challenges of breastfeeding and felt that there are not enough infrastructures despite the NHS heavily promoting breastfeeding. Only 8% of them disagreed and said that having a peer group only adds pressure if they are facing problems with breastfeeding.
According to Monica Costa, founder of London Mums, "Breastfeeding is very difficult to start with and new mothers definitely need a lot of support to get it established. You are led to believe that it is the most natural thing in the world and both you and baby will do it automatically. But it can be very stressful and draining for the woman. It is a personal choice and a lot of mums start motherhood under a lot of pressure at an existing emotional time." She added: "Perseverance and peer support such as the London Mums group are key to success."
This survey conducted in May 2007 is based on the responses of 61 new mums based in South London with babies in the age group from 0 to 24 months. London Mums is confident that this represents a robust statistical return. Percentages don't always add up to 100% as some mothers gave more than one answer.
May 11, 2007