Friday, 21 November 2014

My View on the NHS Booby Bribes!

So Breastfeeding back on the agenda with the NHS 'paying' mums to breastfeed

I'm trying to decide what I think about it and it just doesn't sit right with me. Yes we all know that breastfeeding is the ideal option for our babies especially in the first few weeks but this has got to be a mothers choice not something that is done purely to obtain a reward. I get that the previous pilot was considered a  success in that a number of those involved breastfed to either the required 6 weeks or 6 months and for those babies involved this will undoubtably been beneficial but how can this be the right way forward? For some Im sure this gave them an option to breastfeed when they may not have previously felt they could, but for others it would have been a means to an end - after all D will do what I ask if there is a reward at the end of it. 

The scheme is just so arbitrary and completely ignores that there are so many reasons why women choose to breastfeed or not. Some are embarrassed about feeding in public, some women will have a lack of knowledge not only about the benefits of breastfeeding but also about how to start or the difficulties they may encounter. For some women the initial pain of breastfeeding may put them off starting or result in them giving up early on and for others there may be other demands such as work or family which mean they make the decision to bottle feed their babies. Then of course there are the medical reasons why Breastfeeding is either not possible or difficult for some women.

For me, money is not the answer to any of those issues, Good quality support and advice is! 

My own daughter had a posterior tongue tie which was missed by the initial midwife checks and only found after 10 days of difficulties in feeding. I was literally at my wits end with the pain, F wasn't getting the milk she needed and we we're both exhausted and miserable. I was just very lucky that one of my midwives took my concerns seriously and referred me to a colleague of hers who specialised in Tongue ties. When finally diagnosed however we were advised that we would need to wait 3 months to get the tie snipped and even then we are likely to be told it can't be done on the NHS as baby isn't 'failing to thrive' So the fact that I was in pain, baby was suffering from trapped wind and Reflux due to the bad latch and our breastfeeding relationship was miserable at best wasn't a consideration as long as F was putting on weight? How many mothers will give up feeding in that time? How many will just think they simply can't do it or that the pain is just too much? We were lucky enough to be able to pay for a private consultant to perform the tie snip but that's not going to be the case for everyone and I can't help but wonder how many cases like this are just not diagnosed quickly enough or at all.

In my opinion there is a significant lack of knowledge and support for issues such as tongue ties, Midwives are given very basic training on diagnosing ties and health visitors even less. And with the NHS being so selective in who they will help there is clearly a lack of understanding there about how significant tongue ties can be in terms of women breastfeeding. Tongue ties are just one example of the issues women and babies may encounter medically and this is something I experienced personally but I am sure there are many more.

I just can't see the logic in scheme which feels so focused on individuals rather targeting the support systems as a whole. We ensure all women have access to the kind of help and support which would allow them to make an informed decision about how to feed their children and to recieve quality support should they encounter problems, have a change in circumstances or feel they need help in any way. This just screams of the whole fish or fishing rod scenario, I can't see how the NHS can sustain such a scheme on the long term, We need to be thinking about changing opinions surrounding breastfeeding, educating those who wish to breastfeed and support all mothers regardless of how they choose to feed their children - this to me is just just pure carrot and stick mentality! 


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