Shauna’s Story

As a teenager, I remember constantly daydreaming about what it would be like to be pregnant, then to hold my own baby. In these daydreams I always pictured myself breastfeeding my child. This was quite strange since I knew nobody who had breastfed their baby. I was a reader, a watcher and a listener though, so I must have experienced it somehow.

I do remember one experience, I was about 11 and I saw a distant relative breastfed her baby. I was absolutely mortified – I was extremely shy, especially regarding my body, and the flash of flesh appalled me.

Roll on a good few years and I finally knew what it felt like to grow my baby (nine months familiarising myself with the toilet bowls north and south of the border, as well as nine of the most exquisitely beautiful but worryingly fragile months I have experienced).

Eventually, and so thankfully, after a stressful induction, I knew what it felt like to hold my little stranger – a girl. I thought I’d know her. I didn’t. She’s almost 3 now and I love getting to know her – she constantly surprises, delights and amazes me. She frequently frustrates and infuriates me too. Turns out we knew one thing about each other – how to nourish and be nourished.

After a very brief incubation she latched on perfectly in the delivery suite. Back on the ward, I was nervous about knowing when to feed her, so I called for help. No response. So I called again. And again. Eight hours later, still no help, so I decided to grab the bull by the horns (or the nipple by the baby!?) and get on with it. Thankfully we did. Thanks also to the Early Release Midwives who supported me brilliantly at home.

My friends who had babies around the same time all breastfed for roughly 3 or 4 months before weaning. I thought this was what you did, so I bought all the paraphernalia required. I kept saying, maybe next week. After about eight months the dust had gathered on the equipment and the decision was only to be made (happily) by my little girl at seventeen months old when I was five months pregnant. After a very quick and easy labour, my new little boy fed differently – sloppily! But again so naturally and easily. The change to that newborn latch after feeding a toddler was huge though. Ouch! So tight!

At his six month developmental check a phn tutted at me when I responded to a question that we were breastfeeding without any problems. She muttered under her breath about me being one of the very few lucky ones. That may well be. I have had mastitis and thrush, nipples bitten until they bled by teething babies. But, none of these were insurmountable. They certainly weren’t the worst cases but were tricky all the same. However, they weren’t what stood out to me about my experience of breastfeeding. This phn wanted me to list the problems I was supposed to be having, the problems that go with breastfeeding. It really infuriated me. As did my experience in hospital having my second child, when I saw so many women longing to breastfeed, literally crying out for help, only to receive little or none and leave with bottles of formula. They were denied this beautiful, life changing experience mostly for the sake of a bit of time.