Before giving birth to my two children I knew I wanted to breastfeed them for at least two years. This is what my mother did with me and this is what I wanted for my children. Along with unlimited and unconditional love, breastfeeding was the most important thing I could offer them at this young age and which would help me bond with them. What could possibly be better than the natural, accessible, and full of nutrients milk for my children?! I wanted to do it on demand. I wasn’t interested in sleep-training them. I just wanted to be there for them when they needed me. I wanted to set them for life. My driving thought was that four years of sleep deprivation for me and my partner is not much of a sacrifice.
When I had my first child I thought I would naturally know how to breastfeed. I was wrong. Nothing comes the easy way. I had to have support in order to make the nursing process less painful and with little or no hassle. Luckily, the NHS did offer this support. A breastfeeding specialist came round the ward with a woolly boob and demonstrated to both me and my partner how to do it, how to hold the baby, and how to wait for the right moment…
Yet and despite the NHS support there is still a lot to be done in order to encourage/educate women into breastfeeding. Checking babies for tongue-tie should be part of the procedure of checking babies when they’re born. This would save a lot of stress for both mother and baby if done as soon as babies are born. In the early days/months of a baby’s life midwives and doctors shouldn’t be quick to advice for bottle-feeding if the baby isn’t thriving or is overweight. This is what happened with a friend whose baby wasn’t putting on weight according to charts and with mine who was overweight and off the chart at six weeks only. The advice I was given is to stop breastfeeding! Being firm in my belief and knowing that charts do not speak for every single case, I challenged the doctor. My friend did the same and continued nursing for the next three years. Another sphere which needs improvement is the promotion of work environment which are conducive to breastfeeding.
While women’s choice whether to breastfeed or not should be respected, and while some can’t simply do it because of health issues, more resources and research need to be invested in finding out why the percentage of breastfeeding women in the UK is relatively low. It might be a generalisation but from personal experience I find that class, education and critical thinking play a part in the decision of whether to breastfeed or not.
Despite its mental and physical health benefits for both mother and baby there are still anxieties around breastfeeding, especially in public. Women are still made to feel awkward about breastfeeding in public. It is within this context that the photographs are taken. Some are of women who have twins and who happened to be boaters. Breastfeeding for them was the easiest and most natural way to do it. Encouraging women to nurse wherever they see fit should be the norm not the exception.