Breastfeeders up and down the country were outraged to receive an email from Mothercare, which raised the topic of weaning at 10 months old. At this age, babies are often misread as choosing to ‘self wean’ at the breast when they are in fact on a nursing strike. Click here for an article explaining this behaviour for this age. Self weaning in its truest form usually occurs from around the age of 2.
As purveyors of artificial milk, it is entirely within Mothercare’s interest to encourage weaning from breastfeeding – especially as there’s not much you can sell an established breastfeeder aside from breast pumps, which chances are by 10 months, are already bought.
One mother/doctor decided to make it clear to Mothercare why this email was a bad idea.
Following the massive response to your insensitive comments in Gurgle about breastfeeding last week, your staff at the magazine (specifically the editor) posted on social media that the company are supportive of breastfeeding, and that they were keen to do better with the messages that are conveyed.
I was therefore very disappointed to receive the email below via the Mothercare mailing list later in the week.
An email entitled “your baby at 10 months old”, subtitled “stopping breastfeeding”. In what way is this meant to be supportive of breastfeeding? How is this working to improve breastfeeding rates in the UK? Yes, within the text it says that “you don’t have to give up completely”, but that really isn’t the point. By even suggesting stopping breastfeeding at this time you are, in a non-subtle way, undermining breastfeeding mothers and the WHO and NHS guidance that breastfeeding should be continued, alongside solid foods from 6months old, until 2 years or beyond.
We know that the culture in the UK is not widely supportive of breastfeeding. Comments such as these, and those recently published in Gurgle, are contributing to the problem. Suggesting weaning from the breast prematurely is putting in the minds of mothers that there is something wrong with still breastfeeding. Of course, babies should still be receiving a complete milk diet alongside their solid food until a minimum of a year old, so this is therefore directing mothers to use formula.
For my own daughter, I am confident in myself that I will continue breastfeeding her until she self weans, according to worldwide medical advice. On behalf of other mothers breastfeeding, and of course their babies, I would ask that you rethink your policy of undermining their breastfeeding relationships. Perhaps if we can stop having the messages going out that there is something wrong with breastfeeding, it might help to improve breastfeeding rates which, as you know, are the lowest in the world, with the attendant risks of formula feeding.
A breastfeeding mother and doctor.
Have you received an email along these lines? How does it make you feel?