"My breast-feeding journey started when I had my first child at 22. All I knew was that everyone in my family had breastfed and I had been breastfed so it was embedded in me that I would - I didn’t feel that there was a choice or any other options. No information was given to me except being asked whether I will breastfeed or bottle feed and when I answered ‘breastfeed’, it was acknowledged that I was doing the best thing. At one point I was even told "that’s a good mum" because I had mentioned I would breastfeed.
I started having more knowledge of terminology like latching, colostrum and all the feeding terms, when I had my second child. This was down to me reading more and more about breastfeeding and not relying on my family only to educate me on the process. When I was pregnant with my third child, I was lucky to get a place on an antenatal course which included details on breastfeeding, what may affect milk production and what I needed to do to express.
I always found expressing milk hard, although I had plenty of milk and had to sleep with a towel around my breasts because they would always leak. Mastering the art of expressing was not easy for me – a manual pump was not working, and I found an electric pump worked on one breast but not the other. However, when my mother expressed for me using her hand it would always work. Now that I have my third child, I have realised breastfeeding works better when you have more knowledge, patience and feel relaxed. Now I have confidence in my breasts and, although they have fed 4 kids, I certainly feel I know them more now and breastfeeding is less of a task. It’s become a part of bonding with my baby.
Before the birth I didn’t think much about how to feed because my midwife didn’t really talk about it till nearing the end of pregnancy when she asked how I would feed the baby. I replied breast and she acknowledged it as being a good choice or a choice that pleased her but didn’t elaborate more on it. I was very nervous on where I would feed because I often saw mothers breastfeeding in the town centre, with heavy efforts of covering the baby. Because of that, I equipped myself with muslin clothes, but I was not too nervous when it came to breastfeeding because I used to notice that when you do breastfeed outside people tend to look at you funny and they weren’t really accepting of breastfeeding. But then I realised that they didn’t matter and, when my baby wanted to feed, nothing else mattered the moment. I looked at my child and I thought “you know what, my child needs to eat and he’s crying”. As Africans, it is normalised in our culture for most people breast feed, so you seem to get questioned when you don't, and so I kind of knew that I wanted to fit in to the normal. Being a mother in itself has made me not really care about how people perceive me or how people feel, because my main priority has become my child and feeding my child.
With my first child I used to combination feed and give him breast milk as well as formula milk, I started this right at the beginning when he was really little, so he just got used to that kind of feeding. Whereas, with my second child, I solely breastfed for about 6 months and then started to try and give her formula after that, which she refused. Ending breastfeeding with her was really hard - I think we had to wait until she was about a year for her to take on formula milk. With my third and forth children, they both breastfed as well and they didn’t want to see formula from day one, although I did try it.
You and your child are different and like different things from everybody else, so do things that will make you comfortable. Try out breastfeeding if you can because it does have some benefits, and also try out expressing the milk and bottle feeding. As a Mother, you need to take care of yourself and try to accept all the help you can get in order to be the best at your job.
As long as your child is fed, your child is happy and your child is thriving, you’re doing a great job whether you are breastfeeding or bottle feeding. Trust your instincts, when a child is born a Mother is born."