Jacqueline Brand-Holt facilitates a mother-led breastfeeding group at the Women's Network. It's a drop-in space, a support group, a sanctuary for mums which runs on the first Friday of the month.

"The reason people like myself are motivated to have a group like this has to do with the statistics around breastfeeding," she says. "The messages are very clear. The World Health Organisation (WHO) says we should be breastfeeding for six months exclusively; there is no need for a baby to be fed any food before then. That is healthy for the baby and starts them off well developmentally. However, the statistics show that women start out quite well. By six weeks when they're leaving their midwives there's a huge decline, and by six months it's less than 25 per cent of mums are breastfeeding."

Jacqueline puts a lot of it down to the challenges involved.
"This idea that it's natural and straight forward is delusional - it's actually quite hard. There are also a lot of cultural things that come into play. La Leche League, for example, was established 60 years ago ... because then every woman was advised to bottle feed."
She says La Leche was set up to support women to do what was instinctive.
"What has happened between then and now is that WHO has found evidence to support the fact that breastfeeding is a good thing, and that it's better than formula feeding. That message has not necessarily filtered through because women are influenced by what their mothers have done. There's also the culture around balance of parenting roles so the idea that you can bottle feed means a father is brought into this.
"When you start part-time bottle feeding, you're interrupting a physiological feedback system, so milk supply diminishes. This is where I come in. I'm really interested in the physiological facts of breastfeeding and how little is understood by the public."

Jacqueline says infant feeding in general is about attachment and connection and that message is important for mums to understand.
"Even though I'm motivated to provide breastfeeding support, I'm motivated by the holistic empowerment message there for women and to support them when they have to go through the difficult process of weaning, dealing with judgment because they've come off breastfeeding. It's a political minefield.


She says while La Leche League began as a resistance movement, there are other things at play - like exposure when women breastfeed in public.
"That's a big one still." She talks about feelings of shame and embarrassment, making some women unable to breastfeed in public.
"Normalising is an important part of the breastfeeding movement; to support women to feel okay about doing this. Part of what needs to be overcome are the feminist issues around comfortable confidence in doing what we do.

Jacqueline also talks about the physical changes that occur during those six months of breastfeeding and how some women can become concerned or even think their milk supply is drying up. The support group can inform as well as help women feel comfortable and relaxed.

To find our more about Jacqueline's breastfeeding group, contact The Women's Network, 75 St Hill St, phone 345 6833.