I was sorry to read the article in the Telegraph today about the NCT’s new stance on breastfeeding.
Of course they’re right on one level – the NCT is ridiculously middle class. But I don’t get why they think it’s their stance on breastfeeding that is the problem. I would have thought it was the “about Â£200” cost that stops people on lower incomes attending classes? Just maybe? Hmm??
Where do the NCT think that their “pregnant 15-year-old living in central Manchester” is going to find Â£200 for antenatal classes? Even if you have that sort of money available, it might not seem like the best use of your time and money (and yes, I do know that you can get NCT courses free through the NHS… but I didn’t until I read the article. Enough said).
Isn’t it a bit insulting to suggest that just because a mum isn’t earning a good salary, they will think that breastfeeding, something which medical research suggests has a hugely beneficial effect on future health and wellbeing, is just for “posh people”. That income has an effect on your ability to take in information and make the decision that is best for you and your child? The decision to breastfeed isn’t always a pious one – do the NCT even know how much formula costs and how much that can hit a low income?
As for the racial mix, doesn’t that suggest that there is something else going wrong too? I’m no statistician, but this 2006 study concluded that UK breastfeeding rates were considerably higher among black and asian mothers. So… Possibly not the breastfeeding that’s putting so many women off the NCT?
Having attended NCT classes myself, breastfeeding is a very small part of the mix, and in my experience, the teaching is factual not evangelical. There is certainly an assumption that most people will try to breastfeed, but as in the last Infant Feeding Survey UK mums overwhelmingly knew the benefits of breastfeeding, that’s not an unreasonable assumption to make for a charity concerned with child health and pregnancy.
I don’t think the classes made any difference to the way we fed our babies when they arrived. But they did give us a reality check on what to expect if we did breastfeed – knowing about latching, the signs of mastitis etc. was really useful.
I don’t think that mums who choose to bottlefeed should be villified, and anyone who does can leave now. But equally, I don’t think that they should be lied to. Mums have to make decisions every day about what is best for them and their family, and there are lots of factors that come into the equation. If organisations like the NCT don’t stand up for the things they believe in, and give us the facts without frills or apologies, then who will?
Perhaps before they start getting all “discreet” with their breastfeeding campaigning, and assume new mums can’t make informed decisions, the NCT should first see whether the more accessible and cost effective classes they are proposing help to win mums’ hearts and minds.