Common Sense in Breastfeeding

February 15, 2008

For many, breastfeeding is a very controversial topic. Future parents often don’t give it any thought until they discover that they are expecting. Suddenly their whole world changes and they have to make their minds up about parenting styles, personal expectations and what they “feel” is right for their offspring. The choice of breastfeeding is one decision to take that does not come easily. Parent’s choice is generally guided by their expectations of themselves and by what they think others may expect from them. Depending on the level of personal support around them the decision to breastfeed may come easily or instead may be accompanied by lots of research and information gathering. In other words, infant-feeding is essentially shaped by culture and the way society has evolved to understand and accept it.


In the late nineteenth century when it was common practice for women to work long hours in industrial factories, artificial formula found its way into the shops. Around WWI bottle feeding started to become fashionable as it was widely promoted by scientists and doctors. In addition, large companies sold it as a safe, nutritious and supposedly easy way to feed infants. In the 1940s only 20 to 30% of babies were actually breastfed. This practice was questioned in the eighties when a boycott against Nestlé was initiated. Today breastfeeding is actively encouraged by medical professional and organisations such as UNICEF, LaLècheLeague, The Breastfeeding Network and others.

This brief historical overview shows how Western societies have grown from what was absolutely normal and, in fact, vital to human survival to a complete change in human behaviour in order to favour scientific achievements. Infant bottle feeding evolved into fashionable practice which proved deadly for thousands of newborns. Those scientific trials counted for and still do count for thousands of infant deaths annually worldwide. Unfortunately, the question of what is best for baby has long been put aside to give space to what is more profitable.

However, all information about the historical and cultural background of infant feeding disregards the importance of how the individual new mother feels in today’s world when it comes to finding the best way for her newborn. Here, support is a key factor to happy parenting. As many families live apart from their parents and close friends, support is often not present. In fact, a study has shown that 53% say they don’t see their family enough and 58% would like more friends to share problems and experiences. With not only a little baby but also great personal expectations, new parents face an extreme challenge.

Parenting is a life long task and thus, gives enough time for every parent to find their right parenting strategies, for themselves. Babies are very strong and adaptive to what their parents understand to be best for them.

Most importantly, new parents have to trust their instincts and common sense when responding to baby’s needs. It can be difficult to navigate everyday life with all the energy and care that parenting demands. The choice of breastfeeding or bottle feeding is one of them: we all know breastfeeding is best for baby; however, in our isolating society it can be difficult to overcome first hurdles, especially when going it alone. New mothers should not be made to feel guilty if they cannot breastfeed or if they doubt their own ability. Equally, new mothers should not be made to feel guilty if they decide from the start to bottle feed. Instead, they should be able to speak to breastfeeding counsellors or other mums who have been in the same situation to get the advice and support they desperately need.

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