20/08/2008 - 22:00

Meeting the challenges of motherhood

20/08/2008 - 22:00

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An unplanned pregnancy in 2006 caught former marketing consultant Claire Burke off guard, especially with regard to the challenges of nursing a newborn.

Meeting the challenges of motherhood

An unplanned pregnancy in 2006 caught former marketing consultant Claire Burke off guard, especially with regard to the challenges of nursing a newborn.

Like many thousands of new mothers in Australia every year, Mrs Burke was keen to embrace the experience to the fullest, and saw breastfeeding as an important part of that.

After learning the secrets of correct attachment and overcoming a number of other difficulties after the birth of daughter, Solei, in 2006, Mrs Burke discovered there was one thing missing from making her nursing experience an enjoyable one.

"[I wanted] comfortable, affordable clothing that allowed me to breastfeed discreetly and comfortably in public," she said.

Frustrated by the lack of appropriate clothing available for women in her position, Mrs Burke started Funky Muma Breastfeeding and Maternity Wear.

The Stirling home-based business imports a range of breastfeeding body tanks, tops, dresses and sleepwear for mothers.

"Even though it's against the law to discriminate against women breastfeeding in public it can be a really stressful situation for new mums who want to get out and about, so the genius of these garments is that they enable breastfeeding without any exposure, so it can be done privately in public," Mrs Burke said.

Recent research has found that women are now working longer into their pregnancies and are returning to work much sooner after giving birth.

Research by the Australian Institute of Family Studies has found that the rate of breastfeeding among Australian women is well below national and international benchmarks.

WHO's current infant-feeding recommendation is that infants should be fed breast milk exclusively for about the first six months of life, and thereafter they should receive nutritionally adequate complementary foods while continuing to breastfeed for up to two years.

Currently, only 14 per cent of Australian babies are meeting those guidelines.

Mrs Burke believes that number remains low because many first-time mothers are not aware of the hidden challenges that come with motherhood and are discouraged by 'traditional' clothing not suited for nursing a newborn.

"The biggest problem which this particular niche market endures is the lack of repeat business," Mrs Burke said.

"From my perspective, a lot of women feel they can only buy clothes suitable for throughout their pregnancy and then while they're breastfeeding, so it's hard in this market to keep customers coming back.

"Many feel they will not get use out of their maternity clothes beyond the maternal period."

Through product differentiation and word-of-mouth advertising, Mrs Burke said she has shifted that customer sentiment, by offering garments for various occasions that can be worn beyond the initial period recommended for breastfeeding.

"The tops and dresses I offer are fashionable and there are no zips, clips or buttons; that's the genius of it all, it makes it so easy to feed while keeping postnatal tummies unexposed and warm," she said.

"And they just look like your everyday clothing; we have sleepwear, casual tops, and working-style clothes so mums can keep working and breastfeed in their work clothes."

Studies by the Australian Breastfeeding Association shows that even women who are eligible for maternity leave usually return to work before their babies are three months old.

"There is little hope of encouraging more Australian women to breastfeed for longer unless working women are enabled to practice breastfeeding," the ABA said.

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