Interview 45

Age at interview: 35
Brief Outline: Loves breastfeeding despite painful beginning. Used nipple shields. Hates being separated from her baby. Feeding time is family time. Husband works away from home during week.
Background: At the time of interview, this 35 year old, Colombian woman was breastfeeding her 12 month old son. A teacher, she was married to an IT Consultant.

More about me...

Born in Colombia, where breastfeeding is common place although never seen in public, this woman met her husband while working in Britain and they moved to a new town towards the end of her pregnancy. She developed pre-eclampsia, resulting in a ventouse aided birth, and was unable to feed her baby for several hours after the birth. This worried her as she was aware of the advice to feed as soon as possible after the birth and was afraid that the baby would not know what to do. It took them a long time to learn to breastfeed and to overcome sore and cracked nipples. Her parents and sister came from Colombia to look after her in the early days and she says that 'the most important thing is that they were sharing the most important part of [her] life'. Her mother was a great help with lots of suggestions for breastfeeding, including appropriate weaning foods and traditional remedies for colic. It was a hot summer when the baby was little and she discusses the effect that had upon breastfeeding patterns. She is very emotional when talking about how much she enjoys breastfeeding and the love that she has for her family of origin and her new family, saying that she is more dependent upon her son than he is upon her. Her husband works in another city and is away all week which she finds very hard. They are trying to sell their house and move closer to his work.


She felt very protective towards her son and was nervous about taking him out.

She felt very protective towards her son and was nervous about taking him out.

So you came home at eight days'


'feeling quite confident?

I don't know if I was feeling confident, I think I was very nervous maybe 'cause it's a total change in your life and I remember coming from the hospital and [laughs] I don't know why but I was like, not mad or angry but very, cautious.


Maybe apprehensive yeah my husband was driving I was, 'Take care, take care, there's a car, there's a truck, there's a bus' and the car seat was far too big for him and I thought he was breaking, it was a sunny day, and I thought he was roasting, at every single thing is our concern you don't know how to do it, you don't know if they are comfortable or not, even if he's sleeping you want them to be fine, and the world is kind of, I don't know if it is against you but at that moment when you feel that there's no midwives, no doctors protecting you, and your husband is as new in this new role as you are you feel kind of, What am I going do? Am I going do it properly or not? So every single thing is kind of, attacking you in that way. But I think when, when we arrive home I felt, safer, the street was scary, very scary.

Yeah. The world is a dangerous place'

Oh God [laughs].

'and you worry about every possible thing.

Yeah, yeah, it took me ages to take him out to be able to take him out.

What do you mean by ages?

I think, and I don't think it was in a month but it was a wee while, about fifteen, maybe almost a month I don't know, but I, and I still don't know, I mean the weather is so funny that you don't know if it is too sunny, too sunny, or too windy, or too cold and, I carry him in a pram and I was covering him because it was a very sunny summer, he's a summery baby, and I didn't know, I didn't know if I was stronger than the environment and I do admire mums who go out with their babies with, after a week, I was unable, and we went to an abbey when he was about two months and there was a mum there, it was a rainy day, and there was a mum with a new, very newborn baby, and I kept on looking at her and saying, 'How could you?' 'cause I, I wasn't able, it's not that I didn't want him to see the world but it was like, 'Oh my God what am I going do with the world?' [laughs] 'how was that, I think I am a very protective mum'.


She was separated from her baby after birth and waited for four hours to breastfeed him. She was...

She was separated from her baby after birth and waited for four hours to breastfeed him. She was...

Finally when I was in the theatre, and there were about, I don't know how many doctors there were quite a few, and I was so angry because they didn't act promptly, they knew what they were doing but I, as a mum I wanted them to act promptly, one of the gynaecologists said to me, or the obstetrician said to me, 'Put your hands here', and I felt his head, and at that moment I couldn't stop crying, and I felt so thankful because he was there, he was taken quickly from us and, they performed the exams they had to perform, but I wanted him in my chest and I was waiting for him to come to my breast and I had to wait for another four hours to be able to breastfeed him. And I was quite scared saying, 'He's not going to like it' because I knew the sucking reflex was there at the very beginning and it kind of fades off with, with the time, but no fortunately he was able to do that.

So after four hours after the birth they brought him and you put him to the breast?


You remember that?

Yeah and I felt so proud and I think also, very, very protective, very protective because I didn't want anyone, to, to take him from me, I was extremely thankful, he was there with me.

How long did you keep him with you then when you, with that first feed?

That, then I was extremely tired, and I remember the, because I had to be taken from one hospital to another because there weren't, there was no available bed in transitional care where he was born, so we had to be transferred to another hospital and I remember the guys in the ambulance tell me that everything was fine because I kept on crying. I don't think it was even happiness. It was, oh how do you say that? It was agrada si mento, I was very, very thankful.


Originally from Colombia, she says that most women breastfeed there. Her mother came to the UK to...

Originally from Colombia, she says that most women breastfeed there. Her mother came to the UK to...

No I am from Colombia, and in my country I don't think there is, a doubt that what we have to do as women, is to nourish our babies, and I, I think I was very preoccupied not to have any milk because unfortunately for my sister-in-law she couldn't breastfeed her baby because, I don't know why but she didn't really seem to have much milk, and I was really, really concerned and I was like begging and praying, 'Please I want to have milk because I want to do that for my baby' and fair enough he's been very healthy, very alert and it fills me with happiness.

Well thank you that's lovely. Is it the norm for people in Colombia to breastfeed? Do most women in Colombia breastfeed?

I think most of Colombian women do that, I don't think there is a question of, no, I'm not thinking about breastfeeding or, no it's completely different, and their reaction, I mean kind of the effect, the reaction people have here, it was very surprising to me, because people thought that I was, kind of a more sexual thing or also outsider's opinion has a lot to do with what you actually do with your baby or not, and I don't think there's that factor in Colombia, just nature is there you go and use it basically.

So it's just assumed that you will breastfeed?

Yeah, I don't think I've ever heard anyone like, thinking, 'I might or might not do it' it's just there.

Right. How old were you when you came to the UK?

I came to the UK when I was, I married when I was thirty-one, so it was effectively four and a half years.

Right so you had most of your life'

In Colombia.

'in Colombia?


And you saw women breastfeeding there frequently or not?

Having said that, and although it's part nature, and we do it normally, I don't think we do it in public that much, I don't remember my Mum having done it in public, she was always covering herself. And, and I see her point I mean, I don't mind to breastfeed my baby where he needs to be breastfed, and if he's hungry and you have the right to go to a restaurant, my baby has exactly the same right, and I'm there so. But I try to be private, because it's a very private thing, and I don't think anyone else could possibly share it, the affection we exchange at the moment of feeding, and as I said before sometimes it's sore and it's been a year and now that he's got teeth it's kind of going back to the beginning, and there's like 'Oh' but it's still, the easiest way to get a smile from me, even when he bites me and when I said to him in Spanish that I love him when he's eating and he had to let it go to laugh and look for me again and eat, as something that it has to be mine.

So that's an emotional response?

Yeah very much so. Yeah I can go to tears.

And how long did your Mother stay?

A month, for a month she stay here for a month.

You've already said that she held your hand when it was sore, she rubbed your back and she told you how to position the baby.


What else did she do?

She was here. And, you make me cry again, because, I hadn't seen my Mum for two years and she was here doing everything, everything for me, for us, and in the m

She went back to part-time work and left expressed breast milk for her son. It was easy for him...

She went back to part-time work and left expressed breast milk for her son. It was easy for him...


How old was your baby when you went back to work?

A month.

How did you handle that? What, you know, how did you arrange it? What, what did you do?

Ah, it was pretty easy and pretty difficult, and I explained the two things. It was pretty easy because I'd only work five hours a week, that is to say, one Saturday morning, and one Tuesday evening, which wasn't much. So he was on his own for two hours at the very beginning, and, so in that sense it wasn't that difficult because it wasn't extensive periods of time for the two of them doing something he wasn't maybe feeling pretty sure about. And on the other hand, because for me it was very difficult to leave them, I had two hour classes and every time I had a class I phoned three, four times to see if they were doing okay. 'Cause it's a very difficult thing to do, and also because my Mum was here at the time, so when I said in my classes maybe, maybe sooner than a month my Mum was here supporting [husband]. And, so, I think my Mum has played his Mum's role as well, and, and she was a great help for him, and the four of them because they were, the four of them [includes her father] taking care of Luca while I was working giving the security of doing it on his own later when he had to do it on his own, and, and I think that's the way I managed and it was difficult because any time you have to leave your baby, even if it is with his Dad, my God, its like you're just tearing your heart apart, it's not that you don't trust your, your husband or your partner, it's that detaching from them is a difficult job to do. And I don't know who's more dependent, if the baby or you, I still don't know, because I think I'm very, let's say baby dependent [laughs] yes, it's very difficult to leave them but I was confident he was able to do it and it was only two hours.

So did you leave expressed breastmilk?

Yes I did.

How did you express the milk and when?

At the beginning it was very, it was pretty fresh milk, an hour before going to work I expressed.

By hand or by pump?

By pump.

Electric or hand pump?


Hand pump?

Hand pump. The first time I did it was quite, quite difficult, you have to, get to know how to manage your pump, but afterwards it was easy and you have to wait for the moment in which your breast is kind of fullish so, you can, you can get the milk easily. But after then I started working more nights so I had to do it in advance, and I barely ever freeze the milk, I know it's possible to do it and I know it's ok but I preferred to do, give the fresh milk, so I leave three or four bottles, I knew they were more than what he needed, for the time he had to be on his own, well I mean without me but, but it was mainly fresh milk.

And how did he feed that to the baby when you were gone?

He was fed with the bottle.

Through a bottle?

Through a bottle yeah.

So he didn't have any trouble taking the bottle?

No and I guess because I had to use the nipple shields, so he was used to the rubber and so, he didn't have a problem, my Mum was actually very surprised yeah, he ha


She says that the world belongs to her and her baby at night time. Her mother encouraged her to...

She says that the world belongs to her and her baby at night time. Her mother encouraged her to...

Close your eyes and think that the world is only yours and your baby's, and no one else could enjoy that moment as much as you could, and you'll see at night, that's the world for you and your baby and no one can steal that, take that away from you.

Well my Mum, the midwife suggested not to sleep with him, or, that it was easier to feed him sitting down, my Mum encouraged me to do it in bed, because it was easier for my back and, and that's a real chance to rest, you don't have much time to rest and if you're feeding them and you're in bed at least you are relaxing, but you're not as relaxed if you're sitting down. She encouraged me to do that, she also said, 'cause I was very apprehensive about the things that the midwives and the doctors say about sleeping with the babies, and, because you can sleep over them, which I don't think could ever happen, because you're never more worried that there's a tiny wee thing between you and even if you're sleeping you know, if you move some way you move outside, you never move inside, you don't even turn, I've never ever slept again facing the edge of the bed, I'm always facing him. And my husband the same thing, he's very aware, so my Mum said that it was a good time and that's the best way to bond, and I do believe in that. 
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