Breastfeeding; and Childcare Costs Post-BudgetThursday 21st of March 2013 | Category: Baby News | Written by: Leoarna Mathias
Breastfeeding; why it's never out of the spotlight
Recent research shows that despite the government's heavy investment in delivering strong messages to expectant mothers, it is still the case that only 1 in a 100 mothers exclusively breastfeeds her child to six months, here in the UK. As I write this sentence, I stop to think about all my mummy friends, metaphorically sifting through them, to remember whether any of them managed this particular feat. I'm not sure they did. As a generation of mums we have been subject to more information about the value of breastfeeding than perhaps any other in history. That's a good thing, and a bad thing. Good, because we are lucky in the developed world to enjoy unparalleled access to useful information that helps us to make good choices for our children. Bad, because this information is often pitched in such a way as to leave those of us who find breastfeeding difficult, impossible, or simply 'not for us', rather guilty. We're told that it brings an enormous range of health benefits to our child; that it has a positive impact on their IQ; and that it will reduce our own risk of certain life-threatening illnesses. But for every research paper that extols the virtues of breastfeeding, another will question the benefits lobbyists claim it will bring.
Breastfeeding isn't just an issue here in the UK, either. A recent twitter campaign, led by Save The Children, fought hard for children of the developing world to begin breastfeeding in the first hour of their lives. Worldwide there is a movement to boycott the purchase of all Nestle products as a response to their promotion of formula milk over breast milk in many developing countries. And as I've observed here on the blog before, worldwide, women express their passionate belief in their right to breastfeed, using the power of the internet to do so.
And back to the childcare issue - this time, counting the cost
I would be doing our readers a disservice if I blogged this week without looking at the impact of the budget on issues that matter to us. As you may have picked up, the day before the budget saw the government announcing a revision of its scheme to offer tax breaks to middle income families who are paying out for childcare to the tune of £1200 per child, per year. This useful piece on Mumsnet breaks down the new package into easily understandable points. And beyond making sense of what is actually on offer, the media has had a far bit to say on whether this actually solves the problem of spiralling childcare costs at a time when the economy is stagnant and wages aren't going up. In general, they don't respond favourably. There is a general feeling that these proposals don't do anything to help those on lower incomes, and aren't being brought in quickly enough, as they won't apply until late 2015. More fundamentally, experts argue that they do not go far enough in tackling the root causes of unaffordability in the UK's childcare industry.
Earlier this year we looked at the proposed changes to the ratio regime in childcare, and the consultation period for those proposals comes to end later this month. It is still true to say that the vast number of contributors to the consultation process is opposed to Liz Truss plans. All this debate takes place against a backdrop of perpetual interest in the impact of a mother's working on their children's development. Feeling so 'under the spotlight' is an uncomfortable reality for many of us. We see ourselves as doing what we have to, to ensure our family stays adequately housed, warm and fed. For ourselves, we try to make sure that we remain employable in the long term. Yet the world appears to view us as riding roughshod over the emotional and physical needs of our offspring. For a balanced and well-informed read on the challenges of the juggle, have a read of Gaby Hinsliff's excellent book 'Half a Wife'; it will help you make sense of the choices you've made, or the ones you know you're going to have to. And remember, you are the best person to make decisions for your family, whether those decisions are about how you feed your infant, or who is looking after them when you can't.