Every photograph in our gallery belongs to a woman with a breastfeeding story. Sometimes mothers and their babies take to it like ducks to water, and sometimes there are problems. When problems come along some women fight tooth and nail to get the right support and other mothers are too tired or embarassed to ask for help. We are told it's natural and easy - and with the right support, it can be! In our country though (the UK) breastfeeding support is patchy at best. Midwives are not uniformly trained and are frequently overstretched.
Very few peer support schemes exist within the NHS, even though they have been proven to increase breastfeeding rates elsewhere. Some schemes do exist which are operated by other agencies (La Leche League Breastfeeding Network, National Childbirth Trust, Sure Start etc), but many brand-new mummies don't ever get to hear about them and volunteers frequently have to pay for their own training. Sometimes in order to get specialist support a mother may think they have to pay for it...
In the photographs which follow not all the mothers had an easy time of it. Some were able to overcome huge odds and successfully breastfeed. Other mothers were determined to feed second or third time around, feeling that the loss to them of being able to breastfeed their earlier children was something they did not want to repeat.
When I ask mothers who have stopped breastfeeding what they felt was missing, the answer is very often the same. Not enough support.
I will be adding stories from mothers who found themselves unable to feed their babies soon. We can learn a lot from them!
Giving mothers the impression that breastfeeding will be problem-free isn't helpful. Many really want to breastfeed and are so shocked when a problem comes along that they immedately assume they 'cant do it'. Problem-solving knowledge and expertise needs to be close at hand, and so often it's not. A new mother's confidence is low anyway (they've just given birth!) and often they aren't as assertive as they might be in the rest of their lives. A well-intentioned friend or family member might try to seek help for them, but all to often that 'help' comes in the form of - well - formula!
If you have a breastfeeding story you'd like to share, please get in touch.