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World Breastfeeding Week - how much support is there for disabled parents?

marmiteontoastmarmiteontoast Member Posts: 1 Listener
edited August 2017 in Guest blogs

Lea is a 30 something year old solo parent of one nearly at school aged small, living in Yorkshire, Lea happens to be blind and enjoys challenging perceptions based on their direct experiences of this world.  This week is World Breastfeeding Week and today, Lea talks to us about their experience of feeding their child till pre-school age and the lack of support they felt during this time.

Having a baby is said to be the most exciting but terrifying time of life for many, society as well as friends and family all seem to like to stick a oar in as to what they assume is the correct way to feed a baby. Many may say as long as the baby is fed that is all that matters. But when I became pregnant I knew in my heart I wanted to breast feed I just did not envisage what a rollercoaster of a journey it would become.


From the times my toes curled as I attempted to latch this small person on, the looks when I fed my small human in public, to milestones we rapidly reached and suppressed, soon parent and small people groups and my only conversations were taken up with “how did baby sleep? How often does baby feed? How are babies nappies?”, there is a plethora of information out there on breast feeding but none of it I came upon is geared for those of us who are blind and how to breast feed.

It took time, a fair few tears from myself and the small, but fast forward and the mini human is now 4 and a half and continues to be a nurse-a-holic. We have laughed and cried over those years, have made some incredible friends but regardless of what our journey has thrown our way we have realised breast feeding is an adventure which can not be completed without reaching out for support to not only ride out the difficult times, but our team work would be nothing without it.

Our journey over the past 4 & half years has been far from a straight forward one, battling mastitis, deciding that the only way to deal with a missed tongue tie was to google and find a lactation consultant to deal with a division myself as the NHS failed to recognise it, choosing to parent to parent milk share with over 12 families, one of which for over 2 years, battling the challenges of each stage of nursing, finding support from a peer support group locally saving sanity to face to face talk to others.


Being legally blind provided its own challenges when it came to nursing, having the confidence in myself to trust my body and not to cover up whilst nursing in public, to have the safety that The Equality Act 2010 protected me to feed my baby any where I had the legal right to be, seeking support from The NCT Helpline, Blind Mums Connect and also Association For Breastfeeding Mothers Drugs in Breastmilk line.

To any parent out there who may be reading this, you can and will do this, trust your body, it is designed for this purpose and will not let you down, if it starts to though please reach out, please ask for support and do not stop asking until you get the support you need that works for you.


It is about time we as a society realise it is ok to talk about our bodies and that includes talking about our breasts, give our bodies credit for the incredible gifts they are able to give not only us but to another, feed our babies whenever and wherever and have the confidence within us to trust our bodies, breasts are for feeding and nourishing our young, they may be an object of attraction for some but that was not their primary purpose to why we have them. It is sad that as a society we are more at ease seeing breasts in scantily clad clothing than we are to see the beautiful act of a parent nursing their young.

 

Is it wrong in your eyes to nurse a nearly at school age child? Or is it wrong that society puts the pressure on new parents to nurse without educating on how to achieve a successful nursing partnership? Did you get any support that was tailored to your impairment? Tell us about your breastfeeding experience.

Replies

  • Sam_ScopeSam_Scope Member Posts: 7,732 Disability Gamechanger
    We recieved this comment via email:

    Hello, I am writing in response to your question whether disabled women receive enough support to breastfeed. I am legally blind and have six children. I have breastfeed each of them for between one and three years. I live in Australia. Before my first baby was born, all the mothers I knew told me they could not see any reason I would not be able to breastfeed. Importantly, I knew some blind women who had breastfed. Several women referred me to Australian Breastfeeding Association. They had an information booklet and past newsletters detailing the experiences of blind women breastfeeding. I was also able to use ABA's 24 hour breastfeeding helpline and attend local group meetings, where are met other mothers (sighted) and received practical and emotional support. Healthy professionals were as supportive of me as they were of anyone else. I was extremely determined to breastfeed, as I felt that the skin to skin contact would compensate for lack of eye contact. I feel that breastfeeding was crucial to my autonomy as a parent, as it was one thing only I could do for my children. I think many disabled people lack confidence and feel judged, as this is especially the case when they are new parents. I think the biggest challenges to breastfeeding success come from others who have not succeeded and market forces. Good practical information is now available online, although my children were born all more than ten years ago so I had things either read to me or on audio cassette! I think good knowledge and mother-to-mother support, such as I experienced, are the keys to succeeding in breastfeeding as a disabled parent, as they are for anyone else. I felt so strongly about this that I trained as an ABA Counsellor and volunteered with them for twelve years. Happy World Breastfeeding Week, Fiona 

    Scope
    Senior online community officer
  • forgoodnesssakeforgoodnesssake Member Posts: 262 Pioneering
    On a slightly different track....support for non-disabled mothers who have a baby with an obvious disability, such as cerebral palsy, which is affecting latch, suck etc is very thin on the ground.  I know that some midwives have some training in helping babies with Downs, but I found, 19 years ago (and nothing to tell me it has changed much..) that there was no help for me even though my son had pretty obvious oro-motor problems.  As i had previously fed my older son, I knew I could do it and so became utterly determined but feeds of my son with CP were almost as difficult (in terms of latch on) when I stopped feeding him aged 3 to the first feeds as a baby!  I tried NTS, la Leche League etc but nothing specifically for babies with neuro problems.  So i was completely on my own, but luckily with a supportive partner and a really encouraging HV.   I'm so glad I was able to persevere (and only from one side after about 12 months...tonic neck reflex made latch on the other side just too difficult)
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