Half of women aged 18-40 who breastfed their babies say they felt like they let their baby down when they struggled to breastfeed, a new poll commissioned by BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour and BBC Radio Sheffield indicates. In addition, while two thirds of women who breastfed their baby say it was one of the best parts of being a mother (66%) half say it was one of the toughest parts (49%).
The poll investigated the factors affecting how women fed their babies, including public pressure, mental health and ability to breastfeed.
Other findings from the poll include that one third of women who breastfed their baby agree that they felt pressure from society to breastfeed (33%) and three in ten women who formula-fed their baby (either exclusively or in addition to breastfeeding) say they agree that they would have liked to have breastfed but felt embarrassed to do so in public (30%).
Conversely, three quarters (76%) of women who formula-fed their baby (either exclusively or in addition to breastfeeding) say that they enjoyed involving their partner or others in feeding their baby, and 75% of this group also say that they agreed that using formula allowed them greater freedom in feeding their baby.
In relation to female mental health, one in seven women surveyed (15%) say that the method of feeding their baby had a negative effect on their mental health. Many women described a feeling of pride in breastfeeding their baby, but those who struggled with breastfeeding repeatedly mentioned feeling like a failure as a result.
Karen Dalziel, Editor of Woman’s Hour, said: “The purpose of this poll was to find out how women are feeding their babies and how this makes them feel. Often women are told what they should be doing without a full understanding of the factors that affect an individual woman’s decision to feed by breast, bottle or both. This poll gives clarity on those reasons and shows that feeding babies is a complicated and emotional experience. It exposes the impact healthcare professionals, family and friends can have on the whole experience. We hope our findings will be useful in guiding appropriate interventions that support women.”
BBC Radio Sheffield Editor, Katrina Bunker said: “The results of the poll provide some really interesting insights into how different the experience of feeding your baby can be. For some it is obviously a magical part of motherhood, for others it can be traumatic and associated with pressure and a lack of support. There is clearly a bigger conversation to be had on the subject and I look forward to hearing further stories and discussion throughout the week on BBC Radio Sheffield and on Woman’s Hour.”
The findings of the poll will be discussed live on Woman’s Hour on Tuesday 29 January with a panel of guests. On Wednesday 30th January there’ll be an opportunity for listeners to share their experiences via a phone-in which will be broadcast on both Radio 4 and BBC Radio Sheffield, presented by Jane Garvey and Paulette Edwards, the host of Radio Sheffield’s mid-morning programme.