……Aside from a never ending pot of cash, eternal happiness and the ability to eat my body weight in chocolate without gaining so much as an ounce????
In all seriousness, there are a fair few things I’d like, having spent a considerable amount of time researching and hearing from a number of women regarding their experiences of post and pre natal mental health issues.
Read on for a list of changes I think can and should be made.
- Women’s decisions regarding how they feed their baby respected. No one should feel vilified or judged for choosing to bottle feed their baby. Neither should a woman fear telling a health care professional they have decided against trying to breast feed their child or they have abandoned their breastfeeding endeavours for whatever reason. Their baby, their body, their decision. End of.
- Information on how to formula feed a baby readily available. Since I started my mission, I’ve been keeping an eye out wherever I go, be it a surgery, a hospital or a community centre. I’ve seen an abundance of breastfeeding literature in most places, but nothing on formula feeding. I know these leaflets exist, I was handed one myself, 2 years ago when I made the decision to bottle feed my son. It’s almost as if they’re reluctantly distributed; these leaflets should hang with pride next to the breastfeeding pamphlets. It is information that women should have easy access to. I worry the reluctance to discuss formula and bottle feeding could lead to babies becoming ill through parents not being aware how to sterilise feeding equipment properly and prepare a bottle in the correct way. I fear these women and their babies needs are overlooked.
- Midwives and Health Visitors to receive mandatory mental health training across the board. I want health care professionals to be on the look out for signs and symptoms displayed in the ladies they are looking after. This should be both post natally and antenatally. The topic of mental health should be discussed during check in meetings with the midwife in the lead up to birth, not just asked once by a health visitor when they do a home visit a few weeks after baby has arrived. Having a baby is one of the biggest emotional and physical challenges a woman can go through, I feel more support is needed. I want women to feel prepared for the emotional and hormonal changes that can often happen post birth and know exactly what to do should they feel they are suffering from a mental health illness.
- Women (and indeed men) to feel comfortable in discussing their concerns regarding mental health to their GP. A clear and consistent referral procedure for all patients to enable them to receive the help and support they need. With absolutely no judging or unwelcome comments.
- I think it is wrong we can’t receive Boots advantage card points on First/Stage 1 milk, should we decide to buy formula in Boots or any other store which offers its customers reward points for purchases. We’re not talking about cigarettes or any other consumer product that can cause ill health, we are talking about powdered milk here. Powdered milk that so many mums and dads rely so heavily upon. I understand the WHO (World Health Organisation) recommend babies are exclusively breast fed for the first 6 months of their lives. However, as we know, this isn’t possible for many women and their babies. Formula isn’t a dirty word and it shouldn’t be stigmatised. Women should not be made to feel guilty because they have chosen to formula feed.
- Support groups set up that all new mums and dads can access easily. These support groups would take place in local Sure Start and community centres etc. and be a place for new parents to realise they aren’t alone. The support groups would be advertised widely. There is help and support out there and talking about experiences and feelings can help parents to realise they are not isolated.
I hope, more than anything, the stories and experiences I have been told become less and less frequent in the future. I hope that women do not worry about what others will think of their feeding choice or that they fear they’ll be judged if they seek help for depression or anxiety. The more we talk about mental health, the less of the stigma there is.
I’ll be honest, when I was at my worst, and during the lead up, I kept quiet. The amount of people who knew, I could count on my left hand. This was through fear of others not understanding, being judged or perhaps being told I couldn’t cope with being a Mother. These fears were all real and perhaps made me feel even worse. I felt I had to hide how I was feeling and become this person that others expected to be greeted with.
Since ‘going public’ with my illness and experience, I have received nothing but incredible support from friends, family and people I don’t even know. This is fantastic, and something I’m so grateful of. I hope this encourages others to talk, to seek help and support and to realise above all that they’re not on their own for I know all too well just how isolating depression and anxiety is.