Dear NHS…

Dear NHS,

I like you…alot! I am blessed to live in an area where you’re pretty good. I like my local doctors, getting an appointment is quite easy and I’ve stayed at my local hospital when I had gastro back in 2009 and I was treated with great care. I praise you, I tell everyone how the US need to have a system like we do and I’m blessed that when my son has had any issues, your healthcare system has always sorted it out.

So, you can imagine my dismay when I read this afternoon that the NHS is planning on “bribing” mother’s by offering them £200 shopping vouchers for breastfeeding. As if the debate between breast and formula is not tumultuous enough.

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I wanted to breastfeed and I had every intention of breastfeeding until my son was at least 6-8 months old. But as you know, life has a way of throwing us surprises. I had a perfect pregnancy but a hard labour. 40 hours after my waters broke, my son was born via emergency C section. I lost a lot of blood, I unfortunately didn’t have a transfusion and my extremely low haemoglobin levels affected my supply. My son had a great latch but there was just never enough for him. I fed for an hour on each side (every 2 hours) and then topped him up with formula. I battled with this for 6 weeks before I stopped. And the guilt ate at me. Because all you hear is “breast is best” and as a mother who couldn’t feed, you feel like you failed your child.

But I didn’t. I didn’t fail my son. I realised that a happy mom = a happy baby. And he is a happy toddler now and a smart and healthy one too. So by you rewarding mom’s who breastfeed, you’re not really thinking about the ones who can’t. The one’s you are sending a message to…a message that says “What you’re doing is not good enough.”

Please take that money and use it to help mom’s like me. Mom’s who want to feed, mom’s whose children have tongue tie, mom’s whose children don’t have a proper latch. Put that money towards recruiting specialists who can help us. Put more lactation consultants out there. Put more people in hospitals who are going to talk to mom’s about breastfeeding and tell them how difficult it can be.

As a first time mom everything is so new. We worry about our baby crying, our baby sleeping. Are they too hot, are they too cold. Why is their skin dry, why is their poo so yellow. Don’t make breastfeeding another one of those things we worry about. Support us!

You can raise a hat to mom’s who succesfully breastfeed but put your resources to those who can’t. I’ll like you even more!

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FASD and the criminalisation of mothers

I was listening to the radio in the car yesterday when a news reporter started talking about criminalising mother’s who drink while they are pregnant. As present, the court of appeal is deciding whether a council in the North West of England can hold the mother of a 7 year old girl responsible for her Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (FASD).

FASD is an umbrella term for all disorders resulting from a foetus being exposed to alcohol. It can lead to memory and attention span issues, affect speech, language and behaviour. It can affect a child’s immune system as well as damage their vital organs.

When I heard this, my only thought was “What mother would drink copious amounts of alcohol if she knew what it would do to her child?” And the only answer that came to mind was a) A mother who didn’t know better b) A mother who felt stuck in an isolated situation.

If that’s the case then criminalising mother’s who give birth to babies with FASD does nothing to support them. And if a mother really wants to drink then how are they going to catch her doing it in the privacy of her own home? Will stores not be allowed to sell alcohol to pregnant women? Are pregnant women going to be treated like under 18 kids trying to purchase alcohol?

Want my two cents? I think the government needs to spend the money they would putting women behind bars (which in itself would only make the situation worse once they got out) on better health care/education for those women in need. Pregnant women who feel the need to drink when carrying a child. Pregnant women who feel trapped with no where to go who resort to alcohol. Women who are depressed who resort to alcohol. Women who’s partners have deserted them and so they resort to alcohol. Young women who know no better. Reach out to them, educate them, show them the consequences of their actions. Many women in prison are there as a consequence of trauma. By criminalising drinking during pregnancy, that number would only increase.

A healthy diet also goes a long way towards a healthy foetus. Preventing FASD requires a better funded NHS in place to provide support for women with not only alcohol abuse but substance abuse. Midwives and GPs who are trained to understand addiction and whom women can confide in. Counsellors and support workers who can work with these women to get to the root of the problem and help solve it.

What really irks me are all the feminists coming out of the woodwork. The people who claim that just by telling a woman she can’t drink during pregnancy, we are controlling her and telling her what she can and cannot do with her body. Now come on! Really?! What is more important? Simply telling a woman she cannot/should not drink while pregnant or dealing with the aftermath of her drinking and ruining her child’s life?!

I also get the opposing argument, I’m not naïve. I’m sure there are many women who do understand the consequences of their actions but just don’t care enough. Any healthcare system in the world isn’t going to be able to reach all of the people all of the time but even if we can begin to tackle the situation for half the women out there, it’ll be one step in the right direction.