Age at interview: 38
Brief Outline: Caesarean section, daughter in special care, thrush, continued to breastfeed because the baby had an infection. Long-term breastfeeding with her son also.
Background: At the time of interview, this 38 year old, White English woman was breastfeeding her 16 month old son. She also had a 7 year old daughter whom she had breastfed. An IT manager, she was married to a senior systems developer.
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This woman breastfed her daughter until she was two and a half years old and intends to breastfeed her son until he decides that he has had enough, because she thinks that it is the natural way to do things. She does not come from a family background of breastfeeding but did voluntary work for 'Baby Milk Action' (a non-profit organisation that aims to save lives and to end the avoidable suffering caused by inappropriate infant feeding and marketing of infant formula) about seven years ago for a year or so before the birth of her first child. She was adamant that her daughter was not to be fed infant formula even while she was in Special Care and was furious when the midwife said 'Oh, she was hungry last night and we didn't want to wake you so we gave her formula milk'. Her second child was conceived soon after surgery for an ectopic pregnancy and she found it very hard to accept the new pregnancy despite being delighted to be pregnant again. Right up until the birth she was saying that she couldn't breastfeed this baby but knew that she would and had bought no bottles or formula before the caesarean section. She then set herself milestones to achieve, such as six weeks, when he starts solids, six months etcetera and is still breastfeeding him at sixteen months! When, in a moment of weakness she nearly bought infant formula, her five year old daughter talked her out of it.
Most of the midwives were fantastic but she was furious when a midwife in Special Care gave her...
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So where were you while she was in special care?
I was still at the hospital on the ward.
On the postnatal ward?
Yeah on the postnatal ward just round the corner from where she was so, I could go down.
And did you visit her?
Yes I went down to see her and so on and.
And you expressed breastmilk?
Yes I did.
They'd got a pump at the ward which you could, in a separate room that you could go and use so they showed me how to use that and then every opportunity possible I was trying just to get something, something out for her so she could have some as, which went well apart from one, on one occasion the midwife came back down to the ward and she said to me, 'Oh we, we', she brought my daughter back in fact and she said to me, 'Oh she was hungry last night and we didn't want to wake you up so we gave her formula milk'.
How did that make you feel?
I was furious, to say the least, because I'd said to them, 'If I'm asleep wake me up and I will try and feed her myself and if not I will express', and so I was very angry because I had said to them, I'd actually put it in my birth plan that I wanted her to have no formula milk at all so, quite angry at that but this was this one midwife who wasn't particularly supportive of breastfeeding, the others all were, they were fantastic. I mean one midwife sat with me for two or three hours trying to get her to feed, so she was good, but this particular one I don't think she was that supportive of it and I just, I think it was the easy option for her.
Did you do anything about that?
I went and complained afterwards about it but then left it at that.
Did you get a response?
Trying to think, I did get a letter back I think, but I can't remember precisely what they said now, I think I got a pretty standard apology and not much else but I think there was much less emphasis then on breastfeeding, we're talking nineteen ninety-nine, I think there was less emphasis then on breastfeeding than now, so you didn't have any of the hospitals where they were Breastfeeding Friendly and so on.
She was fed up with breastfeeding her two-and-a-half year old daughter and decided to stop but it...
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She worked as a volunteer for a breastfeeding lobby group before having her children and did not...
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And what did you know about breastfeeding at that stage?
Nothing, to be quite honest my mother hadn't sort of breastfed me, she'd wanted to but couldn't, and I hadn't known anybody who'd had, so 'cause I was very small when my cousins had children, so I didn't really know anyone who'd done it at all, but it just seemed like the right thing to do, and the easy thing to do as well so.
So you had no background in it really'
'no family background?
No not at all.
But it was what you wanted to do?
Yeah, it just seemed like the right thing to do.
Where do you think that inclination came from?
Well I've always liked to do things the natural way sort of thing I don't like taking lots of medicines and everything else anyway, so really it's just part of that, that, and also I think well why get up in the middle of the night to make a bottle up and why spend all this money on formula milk when it's there? And I've done voluntary work for an organisation who don't particularly like formula milk and the way it's marketed, so of course from that made me think about it.
So what organisation was that?
They're called Baby Milk Action and they campaign against a company and their marketing of formula milk in the developing world so.
And what work are you doing for them?
Well I don't any more but I used to do voluntary work for them, just helping out with anything that needed doing, 'cause we happen to live in the same place and it was an issue that interested me so.
How did you get involved in something like that before you were ever a breastfeeder?
Well I've heard of them and I can't remember how I'd heard of them, but then found out they were in the same town as me, so I thought well, you know, it seems like an issue that was important and I didn't like what the company concerned were doing so when I found they were campaigning against them because I'd boycotted the company's products anyway before, thought, 'Right let's see what I can do' and to help them out so.
So how long ago was this that you were involved with them?
It would have been in the early nineteen nineties.
About six years before I had my daughter, six or seven years.
So six or seven years before you even had your own children?
Yes, yes, that's right.
Oh that's pretty amazing yeah. so do you feel as though you went into your pregnancy then pretty well clued up on breastfeeding?
Well I didn't know anything about it at all but I was determined that's what I was going to do, it never occurred to me that I would do anything else, it just seemed like the right thing and...
...I certainly wouldn't want to spend money on formula milk and give money to the company whose things I'd been boycotting anyway, I mean there'
Her periods returned early after her son's birth but she has not conceived. She gets irritable...
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Occasionally I'll notice, roughly about, about once a month in time with the monthly cycle I get to find it, I find it a nuisance so, sort of adding insult to injury that with, when he was born I was feeding so much was that my periods came back when he was four weeks old, and I was furious to say the least, I'd had eight months off with my daughter and they just came back straightaway, I've no idea why and I found it.
He was exclusively breastfed on demand?
He was breastfeeding yeah and they came back straightway at four weeks, and I was absolutely furious, I thought this is not part of the deal, you know? [Laughs].
What does that say to you?
I was not impressed so, at all, I don't know why it was I thought about it, I thought, 'Has there been a time when he's not really breastfed much one day' but he hadn't gone long, he went four hours once and then that was it I just thought, 'Well that can't be long enough' but no they just came straight back, but then they came straight back after my ectopic pregnancy it was only two days and they came back, and at first when they came back when he was born I didn't realise I just thought well I've obviously been overdoing it and it's just that after the caesarean it just started bleeding again. But then it was four weeks later and it was four weeks later and so obviously, that was that and so I was not amused [laughs] to say the least, it's not supposed to happen.
So you would not rely on breastfeeding as a contraceptive?
Well we'd, we were talking about whether we wanted to have another child or not and so on and we said, 'Well we're not going to prevent it and we'll see what happens' and sixteen months later nothing's happened, so it's obviously doing, it's obviously working as a contraceptive I wouldn't say anyone should rely on it but it obviously is working, because nothing has happened but then maybe it's not working I don't know yet and it's just some other reason, but no I wouldn't rely on it, but no in sixteen months and he's still breastfeeding and nothing's happened so.
Her children were both big babies and her health visitors told her that her daughter was...
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Yeah she was four months old and well she was so enthusiastic, she just couldn't wait to get her hands on other food, so anything you gave her it was, 'Oh yes I'll have that and I'll have some more' so was very, very keen, but I mean I've just, I'd given her vegetables that I'd mix, I'd put milk, I'd put some milk in them for her I'd expressed it so, because I thought I'm not going to mix things up with water or whatever, or cow's milk so, yeah I think it was familiar to a certain extent anyway and she just took to it, well like she had to breastfeeding really once she'd got going she just couldn't stop eating things, she just really wanted it all the time.
Did you have a set pattern or a routine that you would give her breastmilk and then solids, or solids and then breastmilk or anything like that?
I'm trying to remember now, I'd give her lunch about the same time as I did so I think, you know, I mean I always breastfed on demand so it was just a case of well now we're going to have lunch and if she happened to have a feed not long before so be it I wouldn't say, 'Oh eleven I'll give you breastmilk and then at half past eleven we'll have lunch', it would just depend on, you know, what she wanted, so.
So very flexible about it all?
Yeah. I don't go with routines really; I just sort of do what seems the easiest thing at the time, what suits them and suits me. I mean this young man he's completely opposite to his big sister, she would always want to have solid food and he's not really interested.
And how old is he now?
He's sixteen months.
And still not really interested in solids?
Not particularly I mean, he is but on his terms, when he wants something he will have it, but, you know, he might only eat four or five teaspoons in a day, and we've been through, I used to go and see the health visitor and I soon gave up on that idea when, because she was concerned so this health visitor and I don't really see eye-to-eye on pregnancy and birth and everything else and breastfeeding and so on, and my daughter is seven and is tall and thin as they come, now she would eat and eat and eat and apparently was going to be obese by the time she was six, well she has to have a belt to keep her trousers up because her trousers are so, not just thin, she's a beanpole, which is quite funny because when she was little she was overweight and well the health visitor's perception of her as a baby and when she two, well there were two different health visitors, was that she was overweight because she was very, you know, she'd tripled her birth weight by less than a year and so on. Anyway young man has done exactly the same thing and is, you know, generally put on a lot of weight, but he doesn't like solid food and the health visitor who was saying my daughter weighed too much is looking at this little boy who's nice and large and saying, 'Oh he's going to be malnourished, he's going to be underweight' and I just laughed, and then she says to me one day she said, 'Oh to encourage him to eat solid food stop breastfeeding him now, stop today', and I said, 'Well what about getting up, ending up with mastitis and everything else?' She said, 'Oh no, just stop feeding him today, and to encourage him to eat gives him desserts, give him chocolate desserts,' and I just said, 'You are joking?' and I said, 'Do you know what this does to breastfeeding? You know, do you know what it'll do to my milk supply and ev