Simply the Breast

His breathing was soft and sweet, his warm body against mine, skin to skin, I could feel the love and connection building, and within minutes he was reaching for my breast. I felt nervous but excited all at the same time, and then it happened, the start of our breastfeeding journey.

I am confident that most readers first thought was that of surprise. Apologies for disappointing you, but what it really highlights is the way in which society portrays a woman’s body. Sexualising the breasts in a way that women do not feel comfortable doing the one thing our breasts were biologically functioned to do, produce milk to feed our babies.

I am a mother of three, and it was my choice to breastfeed them. In total, I have been fed for just over four years. Each journey was unique. We faced many hurdles, including mastitis, cracked nipples, thrush, tongue tie, feeding aversions, oversupply, engorgement and the most challenging of all, a baby who could not suck. I did not even know that was a thing. It was never discussed in my antenatal classes, but yes, I gave birth to a baby who had no sucking reflex. He was just as confused as I was, but I very quickly had to learn how to hand express into a syringe. It was exhausting and not only physically demanding but mentally and emotionally draining too.

I had no idea how something that is so natural could be so hard. What I was confident about, though, was my determination to make it work, and I did. I faced challenges along the way, but instead of seeing them as a way out, I used them as lessons; I came to realise that this was the most rewarding thing I had ever done, and it gave me purpose. My purpose was to feed and nourish my baby, and the reward was watching them grow, knowing I was wholly responsible for that.

My passion for breastfeeding led me to train as a volunteer breastfeeding support worker, where I spent time in the postnatal ward advising and supporting new mums. I was always the first one there when my friends had babies, and I loved being able to support them at such a personal time of their life.

One thing that kept coming up when I would chat with mums was that they often felt unsupported in their choices. Not entirely just their choice to breastfeed, but every decision they made as a mother was being questioned by those closest to her. It really saddened me as I knew with the right support and encouragement, they would flourish with the confidence every mother deserves to have. The anxiety and fear of judgement from others are one of the main reasons mothers give up breastfeeding. In fact, less than 1% of women who breastfeed are doing so after their baby is 12 months old, and the UK has the lowest breastfeeding rate in the world.

My advice to others would be to educate themselves so they are able to ignore the negative opinions of others and have the belief in themselves that they can overcome and achieve. Normalising breastfeeding to inspire future generations is empowering. Embrace your breasts and own your story.

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