"Realistic advice and Breastfeeding support"

About: Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh at Little France / Maternity care

(as the patient),

It has been my experience that the Scottish NHS and midwives service goes out of their way to promote the benefits of breastfeeding to pregnant women. Unfortunately, the quality and availability of support after giving birth has been pretty poor for me.

I was disappointed by the attitude of my health visitor towards breastfeeding. On the surface she was willing to tow the official line of supporting it, however, I found some of her comments quite discouraging. She said things like “that baby feeds all the time” as if his rate of feeding was not normal and “breastfeeding isn’t really compatible with modern life”. She also told me that I would not be able to manage number of night feeds my baby needed. I just felt that she was quite down on breast feeding and that it was not really worth the effort. What I really needed was support and encouragement.

I also found both GPs at my local surgery less than helpful. Firstly, they seemed to be slightly embarrassed about me needing to expose a breast to feed by baby. Next, when we struggled with a thrush infection after taking antibiotics the doctors seemed unsure as to which medications to prescribe and failed to coordinate treating my baby and myself together, which is essential. This led to a lot of unnecessary pain for me and put a strain on the new relationship between myself and my baby. Feeding hurt so much that I dreaded it and often cried from the pain. This really affected my confidence as a new mum and made it harder to bond with my baby. However, I could not get my condition taken seriously and treated effectively. Despite being determined to breast feed, I almost gave up and switched to formula as things were so difficult. The only reason I continued that I was able to get help from a private lactation consultant.

I was seen by an NHS breastfeeding consultant, but she was so rushed because of the high demand that she was not even able to watch me feed to baby. I found the help at the breast feeding clinic at RIE good, but they were so limited in hours and so busy they barely had five minutes to spend with us. They also seemed to be more geared towards helping mothers with babies failing to gain weight. They did not seem too concerned about me being in pain during feeding.

I think if the NHS is serious about increasing the number of mothers that choose to continue breastfeeding they need to offer a lot more support. It would be excellent if there were specialist classes given to pregnant women that want to try breastfeeding. These would need to go into a lot of detail and should cover both the pros and cons realistically instead of just talking about how wonderful it is like on the free dvd that is given out. I think giving women the impression it will be easy and wonderful means that when people find out its hard and can be a struggle and can be painful they immediately lose confidence and give up. It would be better to prepare mothers with realistic advice and offer better support after.

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Response from Melanie Johnson, Executive Nurse Director, NHS Lothian

Thank you very much for taking the time to share your experience.I am very sorry it was not as it should have been and your comments are very helpful.

I will share your story with colleagues to prompt a review of our breast feeding services and address the issues you raise. If you can recall the names of the staff you saw and let me know which GP surgery you attended I will also follow this up directly with them. You can do this by emailing me at melanie.johnson@nhslothian.scot.nhs.uk.

Thank you again for taking the time to write.

I hope you and your baby are doing well

Best Wishes


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