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The Duchess of Cambridge is Breastfeeding


Royal Baby Newspaper CoverAs soon as baby George arrived, speculation moved to whether the Duchess of Cambridge was breastfeeding. Chances were she was going to – most women in the UK start out trying to breastfeed. In the latest Infant Feeding Survey (2010) the proportion of babies breastfed at birth in the UK was 81%. Breastfeeding was most common among mothers who were: aged 30 or over, from minority ethnic groups, left education aged over 18, in managerial and professional occupations and living in the least deprived areas. 3 out of 4…

When she was spotted in a rather nice nursing dress, it was a pretty sure thing. Apparently it is now officially confirmed that she has chosen to breastfeed the new Prince.

Of course whether she continues to breastfeed is something else. The same 2010 survey found that by 3 months the number of women exclusively breastfeeding was only 17% with another 31% mixed feeding. That means that nearly half of those women don’t get to the 3 month milestone.

You’ll notice I don’t use the phrase “give up” – too emotive and largely just not true. Some of those mums actively chose to stop breastfeeding because it didn’t suit their family – fair enough. But statistics show that the majority of breastfeeding mums wean before they want to, many battling through all sorts of issues (mastitis, tongue tie, bad advice, fear of breastfeeding in public…) without the right support for far too long and finally deciding with much heartache that breastfeeding can’t work for them. Giving up doesn’t come into it.

There is no one size fits all support or advice for breastfeeding mums – some need physical support, some need emotional support, some need medical support, some need someone to make the tea and feed them chocolate buttons… (thanks darling!), but we nearly all need something, and if that support doesn’t come in the right shape at the right time, then chances are the breastfeeding relationship will falter.

Royal sources are quoted in The Mirror saying, “…Don’t expect Kate to be photographed breast-feeding. She does not want to become a pin-up for the breast-feeding lobby.”. While Kate clearly doesn’t want the media pressure of becoming a breastfeeding advocate (and who would?), the reality is that her parenting choices will influence new mums around the world, regardless of whether she is ever seen breastfeeding in public. It’s a big deal.

Kate will be surrounded by supportive women (the Queen breastfed, as did her mother before her) and will I’m sure be given all the help in the world, but even with the best support available, the pressure to be this perfect can’t be helpful – my first breastfeed in front of other people was a nervous experience as I paranoidly assumed everyone was watching me. In my case they weren’t, but what if they all really were watching you?

Much as it’s great to hear that she is breastfeeding, being a Princess doesn’t make Kate any less a new mum. She has enough responsibility at this point looking after her baby and herself, without the stress of trying to please everyone else. I hope for her sake that she is getting the right kind of breastfeeding support for her, and whether she moves to formula within days or breastfeeds him until toddlerhood, she makes those choices without pressure or judgement. And in that respect, may you all be treated like Princesses!