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My View of Breastfeeding

Mandy Hopgood
Colchester Great Britain
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 25, No. 2, 2008, pp. 23-24

Having just returned from traveling around Australia at the age of 20, having a baby was the last thing on my mind; but seeing those two lines on the pregnancy test I knew I would be settling down for the next few years at least.

The pregnancy was mostly uneventful and I have to say I hadn't even considered how I would feed my baby until one evening after a parenting class, my partner asked if I thought I would breastfeed. I seem to remember replying that I would give it a try and see what happened. I also remember him asking, "Yes, but what if you can't? Will you just bottle-feed?" It occurred to me at the time to ask why I wouldn't be able to breastfeed, but I soon learned over the next few months that this was a common theme. I was told a combination of the following by well-meaning friends and family. "But you might not be able to." "Don't worry too much if you can't." "There isn't really a big difference anyway, don't wear yourself out."

Knowing pretty much nothing about feeding a baby, I decided to find some information for myself and bought a book about breastfeeding for beginners, which was swiftly followed by many breastfeeding books. Well, I was inspired! This absolutely seemed the way to go, not only from a health perspective, but because this would mean minimum work for me. I had seen friends making up bottles: heating formula, sterilizing, then washing the bottles, and then starting all over again -- I couldn't believe that nobody had told them about this wonderful thing called breastfeeding.

It turns out that somebody had told them, but the idea just didn't appeal to them. When discussing that I wanted to breastfeed, my friends and women of my age just couldn't understand why. "Why would you when you could have the freedom that bottles enabled?" "It ruins your figure and you can't wear nice clothes." "What would your partner think?" "How embarrassing having to get your breasts out in public!" The perception was, without a doubt, that breastfeeding was reserved for older women or those with a penchant for the hippie lifestyle.

Nevertheless, when Lucy arrived in the August of a very hot summer, she went straight to the breast and pretty much stayed there for the next six months! At first people were very congratulatory, but as the months went by the compliments were slowly replaced with perplexed questions: "When are you going to stop feeding?" "Don't you want to start bottles soon?" "Don't you want to go out at night, get away from the baby for a while?" I couldn't help feeling that because I was a young mom, I was expected to bottle-feed. When my regular health care practitioner was on vacation, the doctor filling in wrote "formula fed" in Lucy's notes without even asking if I was breastfeeding, and then expressed surprise when I corrected her. When breastfeeding in public, the positive comments were about how it was nice to see a young mother breastfeeding. When I sat down to think about it, I didn't know one other mom who was breastfeeding or who had breastfed her baby.

While I was in the library with Lucy one afternoon, I noticed a pamphlet on the board advertising the local La Leche League meeting. It took me two months to work up the courage to go -- I imagined that I would be the youngest mom there and wouldn't have anything to talk about or add to the meeting. I eventually went when Lucy was just over a year old and I haven't looked back since. I was right: by the looks of things, I was the youngest mom there but I was wrong about not having anything to talk about. At last I had found other mothers with whom I could talk about breastfeeding and I loved it! My age didn't matter; we all shared the same experience, had something to add to the conversation, or suggestions to give when somebody was struggling. I love going to meetings and now I have my son, Harry, to take along, too.

I have realized that, as a young mother, breastfeeding can be even more of an isolating experience than it can be for older mothers -- statistically, a young mom is much less likely to know another young mother who is or has breastfed. But LLL has changed all that for me and I hope still to be going to meetings when my son is a toddler, too.

Adapted with permission from LLL GB News

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