Even as a teenager, I used to think that if ever I had children I would breastfeed them, although I didn't have any particular reasons why. When I was 13, my sister had her first baby and she breastfed him for 18 months, but all other mothers I knew were giving bottles. After I left school I did several health related courses and became a holistic therapist. Because of my training, I became even more interested in breastfeeding, as I learnt more about the benefits of it. By this time, most of my friends had children and hardly any of them had breastfed at all. The ones who had tried it said they couldn't do it, either because the baby wouldn't latch on, or it was painful or both. They couldn't understand why anyone would want to breastfeed. However, I was adamant that if ever I was lucky enough to have children, I would breastfeed for at least 12 months.
I finally became pregnant and was really excited and looking forward to the birth. I had a long wait though, as Chelsea was over 3 weeks late. (There was no pressure on me to be induced as I was booked for a home birth with an independent midwife). When Chelsea finally decided it was time to be born, she was in a hurry and I was only in labour for an hour, so the midwife didn't make it in time! Although most women envied me for having such a quick, easy birth, I had not only found it terrifying and was disappointed that the midwife I'd become so close to had missed it, but it also affected my bonding with Chelsea. I kept thinking births that quick only happened on TV, that sort of thing doesn't happen to me; I felt as if someone else had given birth to her, she didn't feel like mine. I was so disappointed that I'd now got a baby after years of wanting one and yet I couldn't bond with her. Although I'd wanted to breastfeed primarily because of the nutritional benefits, I also knew that it could help bonding so it became even more important to me.
I did a few problems though; on the third day, a piece of nipple was hanging off and bleeding every time I fed and I also had very painful engorgement. Although I would often say "I can't do this anymore", especially during night feeds when tiredness made it harder to cope with the pain, I had no intention of giving up. I got support from my midwife and got through it.
Despite exclusive breastfeeding, I became pregnant again very quickly. Breastfeeding became really painful; at first I just put it down to hormonal changes making my nipples sensitive. After months of pain, I told my midwife (the same midwife I'd had before) and she said it sounded like thrush. After trying to clear it up naturally, I resorted to conventional medication but even that didn't work. I just put up with it as I knew Chelsea was benefiting from it. The symptoms disappeared like magic as soon as the baby was born.
I had a lovely birth this time, with the midwife there, and I bonded with Kalonice immediately. Kalonice had been diagnosed antenatally with a kidney problem. Although the paediatricians weren't very concerned as her one kidney was fine, it felt even more important to breastfeed her. I had thought that it would be a piece of cake this time so I had a shock when I found it difficult to latch her on. I think I was so used to Chelsea latching herself on, I forgot that Kalonice needed some help with it. Also, I was trying to feed her every time she cried, assuming she was crying because she wanted a feed. My midwife suggested she may be just tired, but Chelsea had always fed for comfort and I was assuming Kalonice would be the same. When she was a few weeks old she started sucking her thumb and things got easier then. I realised that once she spat my nipple out and started sucking her thumb, that she was ready to go to sleep and no longer wanted to feed.
Chelsea is 2 years old now and Kalonice is 10 1/2 months and they are both still breastfeeding. Sometimes I feed them both together, although I find it a bit awkward and I think it's nice to feed them separately so they each get individual attention. Several months ago, Chelsea started lifting my top up and helping herself to feeds. Now she still does that a lot but, if Kalonice is feeding, Chelsea just sits next to me and strokes her head and waits for her to finish, then latches herself on to the same side. I can't believe I had so many people telling me I was mad to want to breastfeed, I can't understand why anyone would not want to.
Jo-Anne Berry, Oxford