Kim read my blog post and immediately reached out to me and invited me to contact her regarding my concerns. I fired off a short e-mail to her and in no time we were exchanging really long e-mails speaking about my concerns, fears and past experience. She has been incredibly supportive and forthcoming with a wealth of information. Kim is a La Leche League leader:
La Leche League South Africa is a voluntary organisation which provides information and support to women who want to breastfeed their babies.
La Leche League Leaders are experienced breastfeeding mothers, trained and accredited by LLL, who are happy to help other mothers with questions and concerns about breastfeeding.
I haven’t even had my baby yet and she has made herself readily available for anything I might want to know or even if I just want to talk. Since I’ve started talking to her I’ve already learnt so much that I didn’t know before. She even sent me some videos of a how to latch a baby…at which point I realized I had never seen a properly latched baby up close in my life before and that Babyice had never breastfed properly. He never looked properly latched and I never heard him swallow while we were feeding. Kim invited me to a La Leche League group meeting at her home. It is recommended that you attend a meeting before you have your baby. I dragged my friend Sanita along (she actually wanted to go, so I didn’t have to do much dragging) and we attended the October meeting for the area. The meeting was attended by breastfeeding mothers who spoke openly about their experience and struggles. It is a really supportive environment. Moms are welcome to breastfeed at the meeting should they need to do so and one of the moms let me inspect her latch up close. Her baby looked so happy, he had been feeding for a while and was ‘milk drunk’. It was so cute.
I had heard about LLL when I was struggling with Babyice, but this was post birth and I was an emotional wreck. I felt like I would just cry on the phone and I was embarrassed that I was failing even after being helped by a friend and a clinic sister. I already felt like a failure and like I ‘couldn’t breastfeed’. What I’ve started doing now is building my support system (Kim) prior to birth and arming myself with a wealth of information. I’ll be watching more latching videos and Kim recommended I purchase ‘The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding’ which is almost like a manual – I think. I haven’t started reading it yet as it only landed on my desk on Monday morning. I ordered my copy from Takealot and didn’t even pay for it with real money since I could use my eBucks. Kim has also told me that she would be willing to visit me at home to help me should we encounter any obstacles. Apparently most breastfeeding problems can be resolved with a little help.
With Babyice I felt that the hospital interference contributed a lot to our breastfeeding problems. At the time I thought they had screwed it up properly and that it couldn’t be fixed. I had the absolute worst time trying to breastfeed Babyice. At one stage it also became really painful and after listening to Kim and other mothers I wonder if I didn’t also at some stage have thrush which caused the pain, or whether it was just the latching that was incorrect. Some of these questions will never be answered. You can read about the hospital interference here and what I tried before finally giving up here. These two posts give you a rough idea, but don’t even nearly convey the emotional turmoil I went through. How inadequate I felt and what a terrible mother I felt like. The hospital post also doesn’t cover one of the things that happened which I also believe interfered with our success. Babyice needed oxygen after birth and was taken away from me shortly after. Even though he had had sufficient oxygen, they kept him away from me for two hours because they had to wait for a certain nurse to come and clear him or something. During this time they asked for a dummy. With my limited knowledge back then, even I knew that a dummy could cause nipple confusion and create breastfeeding issues. I didn’t want to give it to them. My child was crying, I couldn’t get up and go to him or fetch him (I was still incapacitated by the epidural), Rudi was flustered and the nurses persistant. Eventually I relented and let Rudi give them a dummy. This is just one of the things I felt contributed to our issues.
Something that I took away from the meeting – breastfeeding is a learned skill. It is not something that comes naturally to all woman as we are so often led to believe. My mother, aunt, grandmother and great aunt never breastfed. I had nobody to help me or show me how to do it. In my culture touching another woman’s breasts or staring at them while they are breastfeeding is taboo. Women cover up, we look away. Please note I am not saying this is a South African thing, I am saying this is the way of my culture within South Africa. There are other cultures where this is really not the case and a lot of women have an abundance of support from their families or women in their community. That is just not my experience. I didn’t grow up with breastfeeding women around me to watch and to learn from. My experience of breastfeeding women is seeing an occasional mother in a mall on a bench. With this in mind, how was I supposed to know how to do it? How was I supposed to know we were not doing it right?
I am hoping with the guidance of the LLL, the support of Kim and other mothers we will be able to breastfeed successfully this time around. I am hoping I’ll be able to stand my ground in hospital and that I will be able to have skin to skin contact immediately after birth and be able to breastfeed immediately too. I realize that it is not going to be easy and I hope that I am not being over confident. The money saved on formula and the time and trouble saved washing and sterilizing bottles alone will make it worth it, not to mention of course the best possible food and mother’s love for my baby.