Imagine that in today’s society, breastfeeding or nursing as it is commonly called, an act between mother and baby that has been around since the beginning of the human race, one that many health professionals say has great health benefits to both mother and baby, is still not being normalised.
Internationally, the month of August is declared Breastfeeding Awareness month where many advocates take this time to drive campaigns to empower women to commit to breastfeeding. In the local landscape, many women are still battling with issues such as not being able to pump milk at the workplace and far worst being looked down on for the simple act of breastfeeding in public, all of which encourages them to separate from this natural behaviour and turn to baby formula.
While the choice to breastfeed lies within the mother, and every mother is different, in keeping with our aim to highlight the issues, we sought to share one mother’s experience in the hope of normalising breastfeeding along with our international community. First-time mother Stacy Seegobin shares her breastfeeding story since having her baby boy who is now six-months-old with the WE Magazine:
Tell us about your decision to breastfeed?
For me, the decision to breastfeed came naturally. I knew it was something I wanted to do and I knew it was best for my son. However, I purchased formula and bottles just in case he
had difficulty latching on but I did not have that problem (with him) at all. My little man latched on like a champ from birth and refused everything else at the hospital. I plan to breastfeed for as long as my son wants to. When he is ready to wean then we will.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome in your breastfeeding journey?
I have to say I’m pretty lucky. My breastfeeding journey thus far has been a great one. I did not have any major challenges thus far. My supply has been steady (with proper diet) and my son
has no issues latching on. One small challenge I had though was not having enough support in my journey. I have constantly been bombarded by others insisting to feed him formula along with breastmilk. I have gotten questions like, “Yuh not giving him bottle?” “Yuh should give him formula now and then.” “Yuh should wean him early otherwise he will get addicted to the breast and yuh wouldn't like that.” When he was just a few days old, he was pretty fussy, as all babies are at that age, and I was just getting the hang of breastfeeding. I had some really sore and painful nipples and I was still recovering from a C-section. The thought of nursing him made me cringe because of the pain. My family insisted that I give him formula since I was in pain, and I agreed. I felt guilty. I felt like I let my baby down. Later that day, I joined a Facebook group - Caribbean Breastfeeding Support - and that is where I got so many useful suggestions on how to treat sore and painful nipples. I was back to breastfeeding my little one the next few hours. That was the first and last time my baby had formula.
Did you take any steps to prepare to breastfeed before you had your baby?
I had very little knowledge about breastfeeding and what it takes prior to my baby. My mom didn’t have the opportunity to breastfeed me or my sister so I didn’t have much insight. All
I knew was that I wanted to breastfeed. I read a lot about it online but didn’t know anyone with actual experience (breastfeeding). So I bought the first pump I found while baby shopping, some storage bags and nursing pads. That was it. Everything else I learned on the journey.
What has been the hardest part about breastfeeding, and how do you manage it?
I honestly enjoy breastfeeding. The hardest part about it for me is pumping. I hate it or maybe, I’m terrible at it, but I could never get the hang of it. It drove me crazy but I needed to do it. I needed to have an emergency stash of milk in case I needed to leave my baby for a few hours. I still don’t pump and have accumulated almost 300 ounces of milk over a three-month period. How did I do it? I found a nifty little silicone pump online that collects the excess milk that leaked from my breasts while nursing. It has become my favourite and most used breastfeeding tool to date.
How has your partner or family helped you with breastfeeding?
My husband has been my anchor throughout my entire journey thus far. Whenever we were criticised or encouraged to give formula (to our baby) he (my husband) would encourage me to keep at it. No matter how hard it gets, he reassures me that I am providing something more nutritious for our baby.
Is there anything else you'd like to share with breastfeeding moms or soon-to-be moms?
Knowledge is power. A lot of new moms give up trying or don’t even try because of misinformation or not enough awareness of what breastfeeding is really like. I urge moms to keep at it. It is hard and sometimes frustrating but it’s worth it. For moms to be, I encourage you to speak with other moms who are breastfeeding or have breastfed to understand what it may be like. The Breastfeeding Association of Trinidad and Tobago provides a lot of guidance through lactation consultants.