By Abby Kennedy
Before I got pregnant, I didn't really think about breastfeeding. I've got my Mum to thank for that. I was raised in a house where breastfeeding was normal. Completely, and totally normal. I never gave it a second thought, and it is only now that I'm starting out on my own breastfeeding journey, that I realise what a gift that is.
When I found out I was expecting, I noticed that 'breast or bottle' was a common discussion amongst my pregnant peers. I realised then how I was different - although many said they wanted to try to breastfeed, I always answered that I would breastfeed. I couldn't imagine any other way. I had experience of bottle-feeding as a nursery nurse, but when I imagined feeding my baby, I imagined holding him close and breastfeeding.
Another gift from my mother was her copy of The Womanly Art Of Breastfeeding. It was very old, obviously very well read, and had her contact details as a La Leche Leader in the front. This book was the first 'parenting' type book I read, and the one that influenced me the most. I came away with the overwhelming message that if there were problems, it was almost certain that they could be overcome. My Mum supported that message, and didn't ridicule me over not buying bottles or formula 'just in case'.
I planned my birth carefully. I didn't research enough though, or things might have been very different. I know now that you can't research enough! I went along with the hospitals wishes, and I was induced at 39 weeks due to. I did what I could to minimize the damage to the breastfeeding relationship. I knew that birth had a big effect on breastfeeding, and I refused pethidine, and insisted on immediate skin-to-skin contact. Those first moments were a bit of a blur, but I help my baby close and he tried to feed.
In my room a few hours later, I began to realise that my resolve to breastfeed was going to be tested! Toby (born a healthy 7lb 7oz with an Apgar score of 8) was unable to latch. I tried the positions I'd seen detailed in books. Nothing worked, and despite days of help from various self-proclaimed Breastfeeding Experts, I realised that things weren't going to change any time soon.
I was in a daze of emotion - I felt disappointed, confused, angry and guilty. My Mum arrived with another gift - reassurance that if I wanted it to work, I should keep trying. She brought with her not only a message of hope, but a breastpump. I began pumping, and continued for 9 weeks. Throughout that difficult time, my Mum was a wonderful support to me. She listened and reassured me. She was one of the few people who didn't suggest I give up. It was so helpful to have someone I could tell my woes to, who listened sympathetically, but didn't always suggest formula!
Toby latched on when he was 9 weeks old. He was then exclusively breastfed for 6 months, and now at almost 13 months is still breastfed on demand. I will continue until he self-weans. We went through so much to get to this point, and it is down to my Mum that I got this far.
I hope one day to be able to offer this sort of support to my children. I will be there for my daughters and daughters-in-law, to listen, to give hope, to give practical help. Until then, I try to help other women by being a proud and happy breastfeeding Mum. I know that growing up knowing that breastfeeding was normal and right helped me, and I'm doing my bit to pass that message on to every person who sees me gazing into my sons eyes, holding his hand, and proudly giving him milkies, wherever and whenever he wants it.