Learning to feed a newborn baby can be a rewarding and happy experience, but it can also feel lonely, frustrating and confusing. I was keen to sit down with father, author and paediatrician Carlos Gonzalez to talk about his book ‘Breastfeeding Made Easy’ as well as his experiences of dealing with many new and concerned breastfeeding mothers.
Advice regarding breastfeeding can often be confusing and contradictory, what would you say are the biggest myths surrounding breastfeeding?
Myth 1.- Your baby doesn’t know when he is hungry; only the clock knows.
Myth 2.- Breastfeeding is difficult. (But our ancestors did it for millennia!)
Myth 3.- Breastfeeding hurts, but good mothers don’t cry. (No, if it hurts, there is a problem and you should ask for expert help).
During your time as a paediatrician what were the most common concerns parents had over their babies feeding? And what advice would you give?
When exclusively breastfeeding: “Will he stay hungry?”
My advice: “If you think he needs more milk, breastfeed him again” (of course, you should check if there is a real weight problem).
After starting solids: “My child won’t eat!”
My advice: “Never, never, never force a child to eat”.
There seems to be concrete evidence behind the breast is best ethos, but do you think in some circumstances it is ever best to combine or bottle feed?
For medical reasons, breast is best (except in the case of HIV infection, galactosaemia and other rare exceptions). But medical reasons are not the only reasons. We, as doctors, can only give true medical information. But mothers should also weigh social, economic, or family considerations, and personal preferences, and their conclusion can differ from medical advice. You have the right to eat lots of bacon, if you like. But you cannot expect doctors to tell you “lots of bacon is good for your health”.
Is there an ideal amount of time to breastfeed for? And if so what would you say it is?
I would agree with WHO and UNICEF: at least two years, and then for as long as mother and child want to do it.
If you could give one universal piece of advice to all new mothers what would it be?
Never be afraid to show your children how much you love them.
Do you think attitudes to breastfeeding are different in the UK compared to other European countries?
Well, probably breastfeeding there [in the UK] is not yet ‘the normal way’, like in Scandinavia.
What is your opinion on the recent spate of women being asked to leave public venues for breastfeeding in the UK?
Shocking! We in Spain are used to seeing the UK as the cradle of civil liberties… Well, maybe this is the problem, and freedom is happier in its mother’s lap than in a cradle.
What are your views on baby-led feeding? And what are your views on structured feeding and sleep routines?
I see many happy babies eating freely from day one (I mean, from the age of six months) normal family food with their own hands. And I see many families struggling and suffering while trying to feed babies a stipulated amount of ‘baby food’. Fortunately children don’t follow feeding and sleep routines. I don’t want to wake at 6:30am on Saturdays and Sundays, just because my children’s routine is to have breakfast at 7:00am.
Attachment parenting has had a lot of press in recent times, how do you feel about the concept of baby wearing, co-sleeping etc? And do you think it is a new phenomenon?
New? Babies have been carried for millennia; you won’t find in a museum a pram older than the 19th century. And having a special room for a baby is something you can only afford by having too many rooms or too few babies. I co-slept with my parents, as almost everyone in my generation.
Struggling with a fussy toddler? Read our interview with Carlos Gonzalos ‘What to do if your child won’t eat‘. You’ll also find plenty of articles, recipes and advice for feeding a children on our family and kids page.
Carlos Gonzalez is that author of ‘My Child Won’t Eat’, ‘Kiss me! How to Raise Your Child with Love’ and ‘Breastfeeding made Easy’. For more information visit pinterandmartin.com.
What do you think of Carlos Gonzalez’s views? We’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions…