Mother says pressure to breastfeed can be counter-productive

Helen Farmer says breastfeeding can be painful and that pressure to do it can lead to stress, which doesn’t help when it comes to producing breast milk.

Helen Farmer prefers old-school audio baby monitors to video-equipped gadgets. Courtesy Natalie Robinson
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While there is a legitimate push for more mothers to breastfeed, for some there are issues that prevent them from doing so, such as pain or having difficulty producing breast milk or expressing it.

Helen Farmer, a British mother-of-two girls who lives in Dubai, had breast reduction surgery a few years ago, so was unsure if she would be able to breastfeed. She tried and found it painful.

"Breastfeeding is not easy. While breastfeeding is perhaps the most natural way of feeding your child, it doesn’t come naturally to many people,” said the 35-year-old mother and blogger.

“Far too much pressure is put on new mums to get it straight away – pressure from themselves, healthcare professionals, other mums. Some mums don’t enjoy it and/or find it painful and some babies don’t take to it.”


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Ms Farmer had her first daughter in January 2015 and her youngest in February.

“I did breastfeed my first and second daughter. It didn’t work well for me the first time as I did not make much milk. If you don’t get lactation support and the help you need in the first week, you can miss the opportunity,” said Ms Farmer.

"I did not get help for the first couple of weeks and my daughter was losing weight and the midwife was encouraging me to breastfeed. I was stressed and stress reduces your milk supply. It was my mum who asked me what I wanted to do. I said I want to try combination feeding.

"I felt a huge amount of guilt as I was facing a lot of pressure to breastfeed from social media and health professionals telling me that breastfeeding was the only way.”

Ms Farmer was working full time in Dubai when she had her first child and took three-and-a-half months off. She took unpaid leave and stopped breastfeeding a month before going back to work.

"If I had six months off, I would have continued combination feeding instead of switching to just formula. The maternity law is crucial in many women giving up breastfeeding. Few companies have facilities where a mum can go and pump milk,” she said.

Despite little maternity leave in the UAE and unaccommodating workplaces, she feels that, generally, attitudes are improving in the country.

"I felt judged for giving my elder daughter formula. I would go for mummy coffee mornings and everyone would be feeding and I would be very conscious of having a bottle,” she said. “Two years later I feel people are a lot more pro-formula and pro-mental health of the mother.”

Ms Farmer blogs about her experiences at