According to the World Health Organization, 4 out of 5 women initiate breastfeeding. However, only 1 out of those 5, maintain it to the recommended 6 month mark.
As if life didn’t already have a cruel sense of humour, won’t Mother Nature also throw her 2 cents in and make, what is essentially the wisest choice in nourishing your offspring, one of the gosh-darnest trickiest things to do… And THAT sentence right there ladies and gentleman, is the understatement of the century!!!
Seriously,WHAT was she thinking? We need our species to survive.So, being the clever little minx that Mother Nature is, she goes and makes sex one of the greatest pleasures of the flesh.Thus, ensuring that the human species shall certainly choose to practice procreation. Thereby, ensuring the survival of the species. Perfect sense, right? I think so.
So why then, is the practice of perfectly nourishing,and innately protecting the species against a multitude of viruses and bacteria, one of the most treacherous skills to master?! No freakin’ wonder only 4 out of the 5 actually attempt it – never mind the lonely 1 who actually sticks it out!
Well freakin done to you, Mrs “1 out 5”. Not that I spit on the other 4 who long since took up the formula torch. Hells to the no. Not at all. In fact, I completely understand the choice.
Ever since my first pregnancy I’ve become somewhat obsessed with all things breastfeeding (in fact, still toying with the idea of studies and career down that path – but that’s another blog post for another day) Truth be told, my obsession might have actually first started as a young girl, about 18 years ago, watching my sister attempt to breastfeed her first daughter. Tears rolling down her cheeks, with literally, red hot boobs, so huge, it rivalled any playmate bunny (of course with the added bonus of the throbbing, murderous pain, and the sudden need for a swift death – thank you, mastitus!). In a room full of well-meaning aunties and cousins – all fussing over her.
I watched as they streamed in and out of the room, taking turns in holding her hand and comforting her, wiping her brow to quell her fever. Others fetching cabbage leaves, while another holding a warm cloth to her breasts. And she, bravely holding a very old-school pump that looked much like the horn of a car straight out of a bugs bunny cartoon. She nobly wanted to provide the best food for her DD, but knew all too well that each squeeze on that prehistoric pump meant yet another piece of her nipple will be sucked right off of her, along with a lot of her blood, and a little bit of milk. But she took a breath and did it. Over and over again, I watched her do it.
Each time, I saw tiny pieces of ‘nipple meat’ flying into the collection area of the pump, with just trickles of milk. Small comfort for the torture she was enduring. Bloody hell(!) , where is the milk, I thought! She’s trying so hard, she’s not giving up. She’s so brave. A million and one people in the room, each hitting her with more and more pieces of advice. Everyone touching and squeezing her breasts as if they were objects for public inspection. She’s desperate and trying everything.Anything…I sat there and felt very helpless. Stricken by the “violence” of the scene, I was frantic in my head for a possible solution. The lasting thought that I had from that day was, “there’s just got to be a better way to make this work”.
Clearly, that image was forever emblazened in my mind, as well as the thought that there seriously has got to be a better way. Vowing to find it by the time my turn came.
And the truth is, as I’ve discovered, is that there IS a better way.
How you choose to nourish your child is completely up to you. However, if your heart is truly set on breastfeeding, then this is for you.
If you’re one of the lucky few who didn’t struggle to latch, who’ve never had their nipples hang by a thread, who’ve never had the horror of seeing blood spluttering out of your nipples all over your sheets and across your baby’s face, if you’v never had to deal with tongue tie, or if you’ve never caught your husband’s panicked expression when seeing your damaged nipples, then well done to you. You lucky fish you. I am solidly jealous of you. Here’s your medal, take a bow. Now go sit in the corner, the rest of us need to vent…So, if you’re one of the millions of ladies who weren’t so lucky (and there are a lot of us), please know that you don’t have to struggle on your own. Its NOT gonna get better all by itself, and no, its NOT suppose to hurt. And you certainly don’t have to suck it up (excuse the pun). You’re not a failure, and you’re not weak. You just need help.
More over, you need professional help. And what’s so wonderful about today’s times, in comparison to the days of my sister’s time, is that there is just SO much help available to you now. (and way better equipment!)
I see it over and over again how many of my friends struggled with breastfeeding. And when chatting to them, I notice that quite a few of them know so little about breastfeeding and the mechanics of it. And how each of them had come across a stumbling block that they could have been helped over. More over, that so few of them knew that professional help from tender and understanding professionals was even available.
In my personal struggles with both my babies- and boy, were there some doozies with my second baba- I’ve basically scoured the Western Cape Province, and been in contact with almost every point of breastfeeding assistance you could imagine. Le lech League, Panorama BF clinic, Birth Options Midwives, the few travelling lactation consultants. You name it, I’ve contacted them. I lamented to them, cried over the phone with them, and soaked up every bit of their heartfelt empathy, comforting words, and very practical help.
These woman know what they are doing. They know just wat to say and just what to do, and what YOU need to do to get you back on track with your breastfeeding dreams.(And also how to support you, if its not possible) Not because you’re a whiny little woes and they know just what words to use for lip service. Nope. Its because they’ve been there, done that, conquered the crap outta it and genuinely care about you. More over, they’re fully educated and qualified in the matter, and applied themselves well to the science of it. They have hearts of gold, and know exactly how to marry the all of this and package it to you in way that’s gonna help poor leaky broken nippled ol’ you.
So, to save you the time and energy of scouring the web and harassing google for breast feeding professionals, here’s a quick rundown of my milky heroines:
1. Pananorama Breastfeeding Clinic: (o/h) 021 9399720 or (a/h) 083 7037711
2. Midwives at Birth Options: Ciska or Glynnis (021) 021 761 9623
3. Le Leche League: Simela (West coast): 021 553 1664
4. Megan of Motherhood matters (Southern Suburbs): 071 875 2668 or
firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
5. The Lactation Consultancy: Jean Ridler (West Coast):082 6681082
6. *[UPDATE: The Lactation Consultancy: Rosemary Gauld (Northern Suburbs):021 910 0606
changed at the time of publishing]
7. Marcha Izatt (Midwife and Lactation Consultant):078 1382040
9. *Breastfeeding Association of South Africa: 021 686 8363
(*- denotes that I did not personally use their services)
And there is so much more.The information and the help is out there ladies. I think breastfeeding needs to be rebranded and marketed much better, because clearly the message isn’t getting out. So here’s me starting it from my side – as tiny as this effort may be in the grander scheme of things, I hope it will “make a big difference to that one starfish” 😉
Be good to yourself, and be kind to the next mother- if you ever come across another woman who you suspect is struggling, perhaps gently show her the light at the end of the tunnel. Let her know she doesn’t have to struggle alone. She’s already so strong for doing her damndest to get this right. They are free to use or lose your advice – it is still each woman’s choice in the end. But you just never know when you might just have helped her find some hope.
Care to add to the list of breastfeeding support platforms that came to your rescue or that you have heard of? Please feel free to comment.Like I said, you never know when you may just help someone out there.
NB: Resources I have listed are for Western Cape Province, South Africa only. Watch this space for updates though.