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Interview 48

Age at interview: 31
Brief Outline: Apprehensive at first about not feeding straight after the birth and then positioning baby at the breast. No problems thereafter. Managing gradual weaning.
Background: At the time of interview, this 31 year old, White Scottish woman was breastfeeding her 8 month old daughter. A research Project Manager, she was married to an off-shore engineer.

More about me...

Scotland has a law that forbids discrimination against women breastfeeding their babies in public and this woman is very proud of that because she thinks that breastfeeding is 'a natural thing and if you were feeding your child a bottle nobody would ask you to move'. She has breastfed in public but always does it as discreetly as possible to avoid embarrassing other people as much as for her own comfort. She says that a few shops in the city have baby rooms with feeding chairs and changing facilities where she can go to breastfeed her baby if she wants a bit more privacy. Her older sister breastfed two children and she was a good source of information and support, together with antenatal classes, books and the internet. At a special antenatal class on breastfeeding, the tutor used a cloth breast and a doll to demonstrate how to position the baby. While this was basically a good demonstration, this woman thinks that a doll doesn't move like a real baby and a cloth breast doesn't move like a real breast, so, while it gave a good idea, nothing could prepare her for the real thing. Also, at the antenatal classes, she was told that breastfeeding was easy but she did not find that in the beginning herself, perhaps because the staff at the hospital were very busy the night that she delivered her baby and she did not get the help that she felt she needed to get started. Eventually she was seen by a lactation consultant from a breastfeeding clinic who helped her to sort out her positioning and latching problems. She hasn't looked back since. Now, with her daughter at eight months of age, she is carefully planning how she will wean her gradually by her first birthday.

 

She helped to bottle feed her two younger sisters. She did not know a lot about breastfeeding but...

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Right, can you think back to when you were pregnant?

I can try yeah, alright.

What did you know about breastfeeding at that stage?

Breastfeeding during pregnancy? Not a lot to begin with but, you know, through the literature given to me by our midwife and the antenatal classes and having a look around on the websites and an older sister who had two children I got, you know, information that way.

So you'd seen your older sister breastfeeding?

Yes, yeah.

What about your mother did she breastfeed?

No she didn't breastfeed myself or my older sister, I've got two younger sisters as well, they were bottle fed as well, I'd, I remember helping to feed them but no, no breastfeeding, yeah.

So you haven't talked, have you talked to your mother much about breastfeeding?

Not really, no, I mean, you know, she was there for some advice and, you know, support to begin with but now it's, I suppose it's just become second nature now so.

 

She was ill and unable to put her baby to her breast straight after birth which caused her to be...

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They'd given me medication to lower my blood pressure so after I delivered my daughter obviously I had her on my chest and at the back of my mind I remember advice being given, try and get the baby to feed, you know, to latch on straightaway. Well that didn't happen for three or four hours at least because my, with my pressure I was ill, I couldn't sit up I was going in and out sort of, not of consciousness but I was feeling sick and things, so my husband had to take over, in looking after my daughter and, I think we were in the delivery room for what four or five hours before going back up to the ward and it was near the end where somebody had come back into the room because they'd been quite busy that night, there had been thirteen deliveries and, I sort of said to the woman, you know, 'Can you help me, I'm trying to get my baby to latch on, I can't remember anything I've been told, don't know' so the woman, at the time, did quickly help and, you know, 'It might work might not', you know, so tryna remember now, she, my daughter did latch on but not for long or anything and then we were taken up to, to the ward.

How did you feel at that time with those four hours?

The four hours [sighs] I, I well, 'cause I was quite ill I was, you know, I wasn't feeling the best, and I just felt, I felt very pressurised that people had been saying, 'You have to do this quickly, if you don't do it quickly it's not going to work, your baby won't, you know, if you don't latch on quick enough your baby might struggle later on to feed' and things.

Who had said that to you?

You know, friends, you sort of read it in the literature, obviously in the literature it didn't say you don't do this, that and the next thing but it was, this is the, all the advice said that and it's, it's the back of your mind thinking that it hasn't, I haven't done this it's not working, I'm going to have problems later on, so, yeah feeling apprehensive, anxious at that point.

 

Conflicting advice in a busy ward confused this woman and made her anxious until she received...

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I think there's a lot of pressure and by that I mean in, in the hospital itself every poster that's up is all about breastfeeding, you know, everything is, you know, breastfeeding's best, do this, that and the next thing with breastfeeding, they do have, you know, bottles with formula and everything at the hospital that you can use, but, you know, they will [sighs], I'm trying to think, not, I say it's not pressurising you or anything but, you know, they will, I think they just assume that everybody will be breastfeeding rather than the bottle.

But it doesn't sound like you got the support you needed in those first four hours to feel confident about getting it established?

No, no I didn't as, you know, as I said before, that night I delivered my daughter, they were very busy which obviously I can understand and, you know, that the staff were coming and going into the room but, you know, nobody offered any help as I say had, I sort of asked and said, you know, 'I want to try and get my baby to latch on, you know, I'm not sure what I'm doing', and as I say the woman did help me for a short period of time but then dashed off somewhere again so yeah, so the initial sort of few hours didn't get, get the help, and I [sighs] trying to remember back when we did get up to the ward [sighs], I'm trying to remember how long after [sighs], we had, we had forms where they, they, you were meant to fill in when you changed your baby's nappy, when you were feeding, times in there, and I'd been told to feed every four hours, you know, the midwife sort of said to feed every four hour. So you're thinking, 'Oh okay right, you know, this is all new to me I'll just do, you know, these are experienced people I'll follow what they say'. Luckily enough now, obviously I've only been in one hospital having a baby so I don't know what other hospitals are like, the city I'm in has a breastfeeding clinic and a centre within the hospital, and later that day one of the ladies from that centre came, was coming through the ward to speak to somebody else and, I'd been, I was buzzing to get the attention of a midwife because due to my blood pressure I wasn't allowed out of bed so I couldn't pick up my baby, and obviously I'm getting anxious because nobody's coming so this woman could see that and actually came over and she was so nice, she was really, really helpful, helped me to, to latch on my daughter, you know, give me a few pointers of what to try and then said, you know, 'Come through to the clinic the next day to, you know, and we'll see how everything's going' because, you know, I was upset at the time, you know, it's, I'm trying to get somebody's attention, I can't get out, my baby's crying, I've been told to, to feed ever four hours which the woman from the breastfeeding clinic sort of looked and went, 'No you just feed on demand when, you know, if your baby wants fed, you know, feed before four hours, after four hours, it doesn't matter'. So, I mean, obviously she was probably more specialised in what she was doing so, you know, I felt a bit more confident with her obviously she couldn't be at my bedside all the time [laughs] so midwives were coming and going and my experience and since speaking to some of my other friends the midwives the staff in the hospital everyone will show you a different way to breastfeed, there's no, you know, set thing, there's older staff who, you know, some will just grab your breast and say, 'You know, shove it into your baby's mouth it'll work', you know, others say 'no do it, you know, do it a different way' and things so, there was no continuity.

How did you deal with that?

It got to the point where I was, you know, I was quite, you know, still quite anxious about this, my mum and my older sister came in to visit obviou
 

She left the house in a hurry and came back to find that her husband and parents had cleaned it....

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It was very strange because the hospital had let me out for a couple of hours one, one day and all I wanted to do was go home and have something nice to eat because, you know, I just sort of left the house in quite a, quite a hurry because I'd gone to my routine appointment, they'd said, 'Your pressure's up, go home, we'll send somebody in the next day' so the midwife came in the next day said, 'no your pressure's still up' and I'd actually been, I'd hardly had any sleep that night 'cause I'd been up, which I thought was indigestion but I think now the pain was linked to my blood pressure and, so I just felt that my house was a mess and everything, and, you know, so to get back to it luckily enough my parents and my husband were so nice and, you know, had cleaned the house for me so I came back to, you know, the house was fine and, it was a surreal experience as in, you know, I'd left the house in a hurry and, you know, suddenly I was going back and there was three of us, you know, I'd, you know, when I left the house last it was me and my husband [laughs] all of a sudden there's a baby [laughs] there's somebody that you're now responsible for and it's, it's just mixed emotions it's, you know, you're, you're happy 'cause obviously you've got the baby, you know, you're upset, you know, 'cause you're anxious, you're thinking 'how am I going to cope?' how I'm having to do all, you know, do everything, and then, you know, life just kicks in again and you, you know, you just, you carry on and, you know, I suppose lots of people will say, you know, you can't really remember the first sort of couple of weeks that well 'cause it all just does pass in a haze and that's exactly right [laughs], you know, it [sighs], oh you know, try to remember back, you know, I suppose remember to sort of, you know, taking my daughter into the house and sort of sitting her, you know, putting her into the moses basket on the table and just sitting looking at her, you didn't need a TV or anything, you know you, forget watching anything or listening, you know, you just watched the baby [laughs], and they could keep you amused for, you know, although they slept most of the time to begin with but yes they could definitely keep you amused for a little while, when you weren't sleeping of course [laughs].

 

She was planning in great detail how she would gradually wean her daughter between nine months...

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So now at eight months her routine is she gets a breastfeed from me in the morning and she gets her breastfeed from me mid-morning, the one morning she's in nursery she gets it from the bottle, the afternoon she's now on a snack and water and she gets a breastfeed from me before she goes to her bed at night. So, that's what I'd like to continue with that until she's about nine months old and then think about dropping out the mid-morning breastfeed so that she would only then be getting breastmilk first thing in the morning when she wakes up and last thing at night before she goes to bed. After that, I haven't quite decided, I've got a rough idea in my head of where I want to go, and along the lines of maybe till she's about, from about ten and a half months I'd like to just maybe try and drop one of those feeds, so that by the time she's a year she's completely finished breastfeeding from me. Haven't decided which feed's going to be better to drop at the ten and a half months I've got pros and cons for each of them.

What are they?

You know, I think breastfeeding first thing in the morning sets her up for the day, you know, she'll get some milk from me, it'll get her going, you know, downside I suppose it'd be easier to have her waking up and then coming down and just going straight into breakfast with ourselves, so it would cut out the, I mean the breastfeeding in the morning probably takes me anything from sort of ten to twenty minutes so it would either give me a little longer in bed or just her routine in the morning where if you're rushing away to do something or whatever it would, it would be better. Or then you've got the night feed where do you want to continue, you know, giving your child milk before they're going to bed from yourself, at the moment she'll sometimes, she'll more often than not fall asleep feeding and then I can carry her up to her cot and put her down, and she normally, she'll stay settled. Sometimes which she's started doing again, she'll be awake after her feed and I'll just have to read her a story and she'll go down to sleep no problem, but do you want to get into the routine of, you know, is she actually feeding because she wants it or is she going to feed because it's a comfort for her before she goes to bed? So I'm running through all those things in my head at the moment to try and make a decision as to, to which one's going to be the better and I think around about the year old would be a good time where to completely stop the breastfeeding, I know some people go on a lot longer.

 

She describes her let-down and the reassurance that she gets from knowing that her milk is there.

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So tell me then about this other sensation, this let-down that you're talking about?

The let-down, I would say, it doesn't happen every time but I would probably about ninety-eight percent of the time when my daughter's feeding she'll be latched onto the breast and, sort of suckling away, within maybe a minute, minute and a half, you'll start to feel a sensation sort of coming from the underarm? and it's just sort of like a tingling sensation sometimes it's more painful than others, but I wouldn't say that it's ever, 'Oh' really, really painful or anything, but it, it's just a, to me I find it quite a nice sensation because I know then that the milk's flowing through and my daughter's getting what she needs. I mean I know she'll be getting it anyway but when that sensation happens, you know, that's my sort of trigger to say ah okay, you know, she's happy enough, she's feeding properly, and I can sort of relax and [laughs], well, you don't read a magazine like you think that you can in the beginning when you're feeding [laughs] because you don't have a spare hand because you're still unsure that you're holding your baby and you're holding your breast or, you know, you don't have a spare hand until much later on. I mean now, and my friends laugh at me, I can be feeding and expressing from the other breast at the same time [laughs] so.

When that let down happens did you notice the change in your daughter's feeding or what she was doing, how she was behaving at the breast?

No I can't.

No?

I can't say that I did.

She didn't start sucking faster or gulping or swallowing, sucking less or?

Now that you mention that a couple, more than a couple of times obviously because she's, she's now eight months old, but maybe from time to time, probably in the beginning, it's usually when the, when the let-down, probably milk was flowing faster she did probably suck a bit quicker, or sometimes come off and cough a bit, and then that's quite fun because just as the, the let-down the milk is coming out quite fast so you can get sprayed [laughs] and your baby can get sprayed but I just, I laugh at it, you know [laughs], and it, you know, again that's just another way to show that your milk's there [laughs].

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