I believe that we stand on the shoulders of those that came before us. We learn from our parents and grandparents and that we owe a lot of our successes to their input and lives. I was interested in my families breastfeeding heritage, so I asked my grandmother and mom about their experiences and this is what my daughter’s breastfeeding heritage is.
My grandmother’s story:
My mom was born 4th of five children. Formula was a relatively new invention and my gran was given the advice not to breastfeed but rather to give my mom formula. This she did do and within 2 weeks my mom was on her death bed. She was severely malnourished and extremely sleepy. At the time not much was known about lactose intolerance or Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy, which I suspect that my mother may have had. The doctors were ready to give up on her and then my gran says that the most wonderful midwife arrived at the farm and give my mom a soya-based formula. It was very new on the market and it made all the difference to my mother. My mom started to thrive and grow.
Listening to my gran’s story I am not able to work out if she had lactose intolerance or Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy. What saddens me is that breastmilk would have been a lifesaver to my mother in both conditions. With lactose intolerance, breast milk has the lactase enzyme that helps the baby to digest the milk and help with the allergy. If my gran had followed a dairy-free diet my mom would have been able to drink her breast milk. This was not common knowledge then and my gran was not aware of it. The recommendation to start formula was downright crazy considering where my gran lived. It was on a farm and it made getting the formula milk and making up the bottle so much harder than breastfeeding.
My mother’s story:
My mom’s story is so different, I am the 2nd born of 3 children. My older brother was a “difficult” baby who screamed for about 18 months. I, on the other hand, was an “easy” baby who slept and was easy to settle. My mother said she was a milk cow (a term I am not to fond of) and had plenty of milk. She breastfed all of us for 9 months. When the teeth started to show she believed it was time to stop breastfeeding. This was mentioned to me many times during the time I breastfeed my own 2 children past the point of teething.
My mom went back to work and sadly did not know about expressing and leaving milk for her children, neither did she have access to a breast pump. She described breastfeeding as easy and enjoyable and always left me with a positive impression of breastfeeding growing up.
My breastfeeding story is even more different as both of my children were born prematurely. My son prepared me for NICU, as well as breastfeeding in this environment – an experience that is challenging to say the least. My daughter, my second born, was also premature. But armed with my experience gained from my son’s birth and having 3 weeks of bedrest to prepare myself for this premature birth. I knew some of the things that were a danger to a prem baby in NICU. For example how important breast milk is in preventing Necrotising Enterocolitis (NEC).
Necrotizing enterocolitis, or NEC, is a serious disease that affects the intestines of premature infants. It typically happens within the first 2 weeks of life in babies who are fed formula instead of breast milk. In this condition, bacteria invade the wall of the intestine. Inflammation sets in. This can create a crack or gap that allows nasty germs to leak into the abdomen. If not treated, it can lead to serious infection and death.
With the help of my husband, we hand expressed colostrum the night prior and the morning of my caesarian section. I knew that my baby would have milk while I was recovering from my operation. This settled me and I was able to relax and focus on her birth and how beautiful she was despite her being very early. I also had a hospital-grade breast pump ready for me. As soon as I could I started to stimulate my breasts. This was so that my body would make breast milk even though I was not able to hold and breastfeed my baby directly. I continued to express for the 6 weeks that she was in NICU and then longer as she needed it. After she came home I was able to teach her how to breastfeed directly. But to be honest I also needed a lactation consultant to help me with such a small baby.
Once we were over our hiccups we had a lovely breastfeeding relationship. I loved coming home and reconnecting with her through breastfeeding. She breastfed for almost 3 years, which did start many a conversation as to when I SHOULD stop breastfeeding as for some the feeling was that this was getting a bit much. I really believe that the length of the breastfeeding relationship is made between the mother and the baby/child. Breastfeeding is a unique relationship that both parties need to be enjoying and benefiting from. They are the only two that can decide when to stop.
My daughter’s story (TBD):
Well, she is currently only 7 years old, so obviously her breastfeeding story is not yet fully in motion, but I think that she already has begun a breastfeeding story of her own. We often talk about breastfeeding. In fact, she is the one that asks me the questions. My goal is to help her gain confidence in herself so that when her time comes to breastfeed, she will know that she can believe and trust in her body. She is learning about her breastfeeding heritage and knows that breastfeeding is a part of our family and our culture. I will teach her not to be ashamed of her body and let her know that she can breastfeed when and where she needs to, and how she chooses to. And I will respect this choice of how she wants to feed her children. I know that the feeding relationship is between a mother and her child, not the granny and grandchild. I will support her and help her with the correct information around infant feeding and answer her with honesty if she asks about breastfeeding difficulties. She will also know that I believe in her ability to breastfeed.
I look forward to seeing where her breastfeeding heritage leads her and her children.
- Registered Dietitian
- Certified Lactation consultant
- I became a dietitian because of my interest in breastfeeding and nutrition. However, only when I had my two children both prematurely did, I realise how much help and support mother’s needs. No textbook can prepare you for NICU. My breastfeeding experience with my children is why I became a lactation consultant. I now help mothers in their homes with breastfeeding issues. Another of my dreams was to establish My Breastpump. My Breastpump was created to supply mothers with affordable, quality, hygienic and comfortable breast pumps. This desire came from my struggles in finding a breast pump that worked for me. While overseas I learnt about the Ameda brand of breast pumps which is internationally recognised as a leading breast pump in technology and focus on mothers. My Breastpump hires out closed system hospital-grade pumps and supplies personal pumps and accessories. To learn more about My Breastpump go to www.mybreastpump.co.za