Going home with a breastfed baby
Going home with a new baby was a very special experience for all of the women we talked to. They spoke of it being a nice family time and a chance to get to know their baby and to learn together day by day. Many of the women said that the first thing they did was to breastfeed and that gave them confidence that they could care for their baby. Some said that they spent most of the first night feeding because the baby was a little unsettled. Many women said that they changed their sleeping arrangements for a few nights with either the mother and baby or the father sleeping in a spare room so as not to disturb each other. Many women/families co-slept* with their baby as a way of minimising disruption at night (see 'Breastfeeding during the night')
- Age at interview:
- This 39 year old English woman was breastfeeding her 13 month old son. She also had a daughter (11) and a son (5), both breastfed. A home educator, science tutor and sing & sign teacher, she was married to an estate agent (Interviewee 26).
Well, he was born in the afternoon, we came home very quickly from hospital after just a couple of hours, so when, when we got home we just really sort of cuddled up and, you know, we all went to bed and, and he, he just fed through the night and, and I actually sat up when he was first born and, and fed him sitting up because he did get a lot of wind and whereas with my middle son I, he lit, just was able to lay down and, and feed through, through the night and not have a problem with that at all. With the, the little baby he actually did stir quite a lot because he obviously, you know, kept on, kept held on to his wind if he wasn't actually sort of winded so, I actually sat up most of the night and actually just fed him and I winded him and, and it just sort of carried on like that. But again that wasn't a problem I just propped myself up and I had one of those 'v' shape pillows which I sort of put beside me and put my arm resting on, onto the pillow, I've moved haven't I [Laughs]? I put my arm onto the pillow and, and then that supported us both through the night and, and that, then that, we carried on like that so it was fine.
And he's always been in your bed?
Yes he, we had a Moses basket by the bed when he was first born and he just didn't really settle very well with, with that so between feeds, through the night, he would just sleep like a little kangaroo really on, on my chest like this. A head here and, we would just cuddle through and then as they say when he was a little bit older I was able just to lay him down on the bed beside me so yes he, he has, he would go into the Moses basket for just short periods and then just come, come back in but, but now it's just straight through it in our bed yes.
And what's the advantage to you of that?
Well I think it's been a huge advantage when, when I had my first baby, I sort of did everything more by, by the original book if you, if you like, and baby was sort of in our room for a while but then very quickly we, you know, she was out into her, her own room, and so that meant sort of getting up, and going across to her, sitting in the chair, feeding her and then putting her back in her cot, back to my bed and, you know, it didn't sort of occur to me for, for quite a long time really that actually that really wasn't very natural and very cosy for us and I was so awake and losing so much sleep so the advantage of having him in with us, has just been lovely because it's just sort of been part of, of the night routine, he's just there and he just has his feed and we all just stay asleep or go back to sleep if you know if there's a little bit of waking and it's been lovely so, it's much more natural yeah it's nice.
Going home was a time of mixed emotions for many, especially the first-time mothers who were both happy and daunted at the same time. They sometimes felt a bit overwhelmed at first by the responsibility of caring for a new baby and worried over every little snuffle and cough. With no health professionals around or family with experience, some women worried whether they were doing it properly. Some caught themselves checking frequently on the baby's breathing. Several women talked about the state of their house which seemed to be significant to them and their spouse. Some women, usually from non-English backgrounds, talked about not going out of the home again for several weeks (see 'Cultural aspects of breastfeeding').
- Age at interview:
- At the time of interview, this 29 year old, White British woman was breastfeeding her 14 week old son. A Retail Assistant, she was married to a Military Policeman (SIB).
We came home on the fourth day and I think I'd been breastfeeding, I'd breastfed that night and then I breastfed that morning and they let me come home. But I think because obviously I'd been trying for so long they knew I knew what to do it was just a case of getting to grips with it [laughs].
Okay and what was it like coming home?
It was actually overwhelming. It didn't think it would be, I thought, 'Oh yeah I've managed to get it down pat and now it will be fine when I get home', and my parents were still here, they left as I got home, so I managed to spend some time with them for a few hours and then they had to go for work commitments. But once it was just me, him and [husband] and I tried to latch him on and he wouldn't latch on, and I knew he was hungry and I thought, 'Well you've been latching for', you know, 'the last couple of feeds what's your problem now?' and I did get upset I thought 'oh God I'm not going to be able to do this', 'cause he just wouldn't latch on. Oh [baby chokes] choke, choke [laughs]. 'Cause he wouldn't latch on and I was just really kind of upset with it, so [husband] took him off me so that I could calm down 'cause I don't think that was helping him then once I'd started to get upset I think he could sense it, and then he was just getting more, then he started to get upset so [husband] just took him away from me, allowed me to calm down and the second he came back he went straight on. So I was like all that upset for nothing it was obviously just because he was in a new place, he was too nosy about his surroundings that he didn't latch on. And he's like that now if I'm breastfeeding him out and about at playgroups, he feeds for just long enough for him to get rid of the starvation thing that he's got going and then he's off and he's looking around and he's too nosy I think [laughs].
- Age at interview:
- At the time of interview, this 31 year old, White Scottish woman was breastfeeding her 8 month old daughter. A research Project Manager, she was married to an off-shore engineer.
It was very strange because the hospital had let me out for a couple of hours one, one day and all I wanted to do was go home and have something nice to eat because, you know, I just sort of left the house in quite a, quite a hurry because I'd gone to my routine appointment, they'd said, 'Your pressure's up, go home, we'll send somebody in the next day' so the midwife came in the next day said, 'no your pressure's still up' and I'd actually been, I'd hardly had any sleep that night 'cause I'd been up, which I thought was indigestion but I think now the pain was linked to my blood pressure and, so I just felt that my house was a mess and everything, and, you know, so to get back to it luckily enough my parents and my husband were so nice and, you know, had cleaned the house for me so I came back to, you know, the house was fine and, it was a surreal experience as in, you know, I'd left the house in a hurry and, you know, suddenly I was going back and there was three of us, you know, I'd, you know, when I left the house last it was me and my husband [laughs] all of a sudden there's a baby [laughs] there's somebody that you're now responsible for and it's, it's just mixed emotions it's, you know, you're, you're happy 'cause obviously you've got the baby, you know, you're upset, you know, 'cause you're anxious, you're thinking 'how am I going to cope?' how I'm having to do all, you know, do everything, and then, you know, life just kicks in again and you, you know, you just, you carry on and, you know, I suppose lots of people will say, you know, you can't really remember the first sort of couple of weeks that well 'cause it all just does pass in a haze and that's exactly right [laughs], you know, it [sighs], oh you know, try to remember back, you know, I suppose remember to sort of, you know, taking my daughter into the house and sort of sitting her, you know, putting her into the moses basket on the table and just sitting looking at her, you didn't need a TV or anything, you know you, forget watching anything or listening, you know, you just watched the baby [laughs], and they could keep you amused for, you know, although they slept most of the time to begin with but yes they could definitely keep you amused for a little while, when you weren't sleeping of course [laughs].
- Age at interview:
- At the time of interview, this 35 year old, Colombian woman was breastfeeding her 12 month old son. A teacher, she was married to an IT Consultant.
So you came home at eight days'
'feeling quite confident?
I don't know if I was feeling confident, I think I was very nervous maybe 'cause it's a total change in your life and I remember coming from the hospital and [laughs] I don't know why but I was like, not mad or angry but very, cautious.
Maybe apprehensive yeah my husband was driving I was, 'Take care, take care, there's a car, there's a truck, there's a bus' and the car seat was far too big for him and I thought he was breaking, it was a sunny day, and I thought he was roasting, at every single thing is our concern you don't know how to do it, you don't know if they are comfortable or not, even if he's sleeping you want them to be fine, and the world is kind of, I don't know if it is against you but at that moment when you feel that there's no midwives, no doctors protecting you, and your husband is as new in this new role as you are you feel kind of, What am I going do? Am I going do it properly or not? So every single thing is kind of, attacking you in that way. But I think when, when we arrive home I felt, safer, the street was scary, very scary.
Yeah. The world is a dangerous place'
Oh God [laughs].
'and you worry about every possible thing.
Yeah, yeah, it took me ages to take him out to be able to take him out.
What do you mean by ages?
I think, and I don't think it was in a month but it was a wee while, about fifteen, maybe almost a month I don't know, but I, and I still don't know, I mean the weather is so funny that you don't know if it is too sunny, too sunny, or too windy, or too cold and, I carry him in a pram and I was covering him because it was a very sunny summer, he's a summery baby, and I didn't know, I didn't know if I was stronger than the environment and I do admire mums who go out with their babies with, after a week, I was unable, and we went to an abbey when he was about two months and there was a mum there, it was a rainy day, and there was a mum with a new, very newborn baby, and I kept on looking at her and saying, 'How could you?' 'cause I, I wasn't able, it's not that I didn't want him to see the world but it was like, 'Oh my God what am I going do with the world?' [laughs] 'how was that, I think I am a very protective mum'.
Many of the women came home early for a variety of reasons, including a dislike of hospitals, the desire to get back to an older child or children, and because they had their husband/partner at home to support and reassure them, especially in the middle of the night when things seemed like a problem (see 'Getting support for breastfeeding'). Some described how it took time for themselves and their baby to learn how to breastfeed and how they preferred not to have anyone watching. A few women, often those with other children at home, where possible opted to stay in hospital a little longer for a rest and to get their breastfeeding started before coming home to a busy household. A few women appreciated the opportunity of transferring to a cottage hospital where they could stay longer and the staff were more relaxed and helpful (see 'Support from hospital staff').
- Age at interview:
- At the time of interview, this 26 year old, single, White British woman, was breastfeeding her 1 year old daughter. She was a trainee accountant.
So the first time the midwife attached Grace for me, and it just felt like I was a bystander watching, this woman kind of shoved my baby on my breast and it's quite, it really was like a shove and it worked and Grace sucked for about ten minutes and then she fell asleep.
I get the sense that you didn't quite like that.
I didn't like that. I'm quite self-conscious and I didn't like people messing with my breasts and things, and I was quite nervous as well, and I didn't, I like to sort things out in my own time so I, I've discharged myself the same day, the midwife was really supportive that I just wanted to go home. They wanted to see Grace feeding before, she went home but I couldn't do it in front of them, I was shaking and I was nervous and like the baby doesn't know what to do, a newborn doesn't know how to feed and you don't know how to feed, you've got to learn together and so it was only when we'd come home and I explained this and they said, 'Well as long as she is feeding' they told me to look out for their ears wiggle and they get, like you can just see there that they, that they're sucking and not just their cheeks going so that was like the advice I was sent home with, and so I went home and I sorted it out myself, just sat in bed with my baby and spent some time getting to know her and just doing it, I don't know, at our own pace with no one watching, so that we could mess it up and it didn't matter.
That sounds like a very special time to me?
It was really, really nice and, I look forward to doing that again with another baby and I think I'd be more confident to that, and to say to midwives, 'I'm just not, not happy with people watching me do this to start with, I need to sort it out first' and then just ask for help.
Most of the women mentioned the importance of having support in the home on their return. For some, that role was undertaken by their husband or partner or their own mother, while for others it was fulfilled by members of the extended family. Some women went to stay with relatives on their return from hospital, either because their own home was being redecorated or they were in the process of moving house or because it was their custom. Women from Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi backgrounds typically went to stay with their parents or parents-in-law straight after the birth of the baby (see 'Cultural Aspects of Breastfeeding'). Many of these women talked about having a lot of visitors who came to admire the new baby and pay their respects to the new mother. One woman spoke of being lonely when she returned to her own home after staying with her parents-in-law. Another said that while she appreciated the family support she was glad when eventually she, her husband and their baby moved into a home of their own with more privacy and freedom.
- Age at interview:
- At the time of interview, this 25 year old, British Bangladeshi woman was breastfeeding her 14 month old son. A Breastfeeding Support Worker, she was married.
So when you went home what did you do then? How did that work?
Of course when I went home there was more families, more people coming, relatives coming in seeing, sometimes it was a bit hard because people, it was the time for him to feed but people came to see him and you, you would be expected to go to the living room or go wherever with your baby but I'm a person that where I feel strongly, I feel strongly and I put ground, I put my feet down and used to say to my mother-in-law or to husband, whoever, my Mum, my Dad, whoever, 'No I'm feeding my baby when I'm finished then I'll come over', and they had to accept that and it wasn't, they didn't take it obviously, they didn't take it anything bad or rash or anything but it was absolutely fine there wasn't a problem, there wasn't a problem. And the only bit that it was a problem is like, I think, living with, including my husband there was four men in the house, this is the younger brothers, the youngest one is sixteen but obviously in our culture, in our religion, you wouldn't be breastfeeding in front of other men. It's a private thing, it's personal thing, so I would be going to my room, feeding him then coming back, and when I was cooking it's like, I would be cooking I'd leave the onions, I quickly feed him, then quickly go back, give all the, the spices and everything, quickly go and feed him, come back and he was like that, that bit was a bit, oh a bit hard, a bit stressful, but my Mum, my Mum used to cook and bring over, my mother-in-law used to cook, my husband used to help out. And no I wouldn't say I regret it I've had all the moments with my baby, yeah.
And yeah even now after I had my baby my Mum was hundred and ten percent supportive, she was saying, 'Good' my husband actually did buy the sterilising tank and all this and all that, and I said, 'That's fine no problem, if I have to I'll express it and I'll use it' but it's just in the box how it was bought and yeah everyone my mother-in-law, everyone was really, really supportive.
What sort of things did they do to support you?
I think being there, giving me their time, it's like maj, the way it is in our culture what people do after they have the baby, especially when you live with your in-laws is, it, is, when you have your baby that's it, you've had your baby, now you go to the kitchen, you start cooking, you do what you have to do, you do your housework how you've done it before, before you went to the hospital to have your baby. So it doesn't, and for me it was like my mother-in-law, even my Mum's like making sure that I'm not cooking, I'm not doing this, I'm not doing that. Making sure I'm relaxing and feeding my baby which is more important, and every time he cries they wouldn't say, 'Oh give a dummy, give a bottle' they go, 'oh take him and just go and feed him' and I don't know it's just support, mutual support, the mental support that I've got that's wonderful, especially husband he just wanted me to breastfeed from day one. He was, he is a loving husband and he's so wonderful, he support, supported me, and every day he used to, we used to have an argument, 'cause I'm a breastfeeding supporter and I think I know but actually he knows better than me. He said, 'You know you should breastfeed 'cause there's a benefit' I said, 'I know, I know there's a benefit you don't need to tell me', and he said, 'listen I should get this job not you' [laughs].
How does he know so much about breastfeeding?
He was also breast-breastfed, he says he was breastfed for three to four years and he knows it's a natural thing and he also, both of us when I wa
- Age at interview:
- This 31 year old, Indian Muslim (Gujarati) woman was breastfeeding her 2 year old daughter. She also had 11, 8 and 5 year old daughters and a 10 year old son, all of whom she had breastfed. She was a married, full-time mother and housewife.
When you come home from hospital with a new baby do you have help in the home'
Yeah I have a.
Like I say I have a very big family, and I, when I'm in the hospital and if with my first one it was just me in the hospital so they have, my family was having my husband, they were looking after my husband, his food and everything else otherwise it's, I was okay, but when I had my son and my husband was looking after my daughter but half of the day he'll have her and half of the day my sister or my sister-in-laws will have her, and they will look after her and when I get back from hospital and, they will take her away, they'll take her away for two or three days and they'll have her for two or three days and then we just me and my new baby and my husband and even the, food wise they'll have the food brought over from them too for me and my husband, for a, at least a week I'm looked after, and then I've, they probably want to look after me more which I always say, 'No, no we'll do it', you know, 'we'll do, actually fit and well' but I said, 'no I'll get on my feet' I found working away, you know [laughs], well what with no choice, you know, especially when you've got others to look after, you know, you have to like carry on as if it's normal, you know, and we start doing what we supposed to be doing you know washing and cleaning and cleaning and cooking and, yeah non-stop jobs.
Did you have a certain period when you didn't go out of the house?
Well, well it's, it's not in my religion, it's not in my religion that I have to stay in the house for that long, there's no way in any books is written that we read that, it says that you, when you have had your baby you can't go out, well, they say that if back home the older's, they say that, you know, it's best if you stay in the house until you are bleeding, because after you've had your baby it's like until forty days some women are, you, well forty days is the most but some women stop within forty days, but they say it's best if you stay in the house, look after yourself, look after your health, and it's, it's far best really. But there's nowhere, anywhere written to say that it in Islam, you know, for forty days you can't go out it's against our religion it's nowhere written like that. But if I, as I say, if I had my babies back home and I would have my in-laws or my family, my extended family looking after me I wouldn't be going out, definitely I'll stay in for forty days, I'm looking after myself, but because we're in this country and we have to be independent on our own self, because my husband is a full time worker and, and if I had children to drop to school I couldn't depend on my family all the time because which, they have their children as well, so I can't, I know they'll be ready to help which they always do and it's like I can't depend on them all the time, I can't just throw everything on them thinking, 'Oh here yeah you do it now because I can't go out', it can't be like that so, you have no choice, and it's like, I'd say a week like I said a week they'll even do the outside jobs for me, but then after that I have to do it myself, or my husband have to do it. So it's like the, it's just, so there's nowhere that, if it would written, if it was written in some way I think in Islam like we have then we're like we helping out each other, thinking that, 'Oh for forty days you can't go out, you can't do this, we'll sort everything out' they, what, because it's not written in any way it's like, you can, you can do what you need to do you can carry on, but if you stay in it's for the best, you know, for yourself to look after make, you know, health wise you look after your own self it's best for you. I mean there's nobody'
- Age at interview:
- At the time of interview, this 24 year old, Pakistani woman was breastfeeding her 18 month old son. A housewife, she was married to a social worker.
Right, so you came home with this new baby?
Yeah it was very nice and, like I came as a mum [laughs], new mum and it was very, everyone well, was very happy, my in-laws, I went my in-laws home.
You went to your in-laws home?
Yeah 'cause nobody was here to help me about breastfeeding, about I had got stitches and I couldn't move, move and they helped me so much, that's why I stayed here.
And is that usual for people from your culture, your background do they go to live with their mother-in-law after the baby's born?
In Pakistan or here?
Yeah in Pakistan they go, their relatives and they help them yeah, like I been my mother-in-law's house.
And in Britain is that quite common too for Pakistani women in Britain to go and live with their mother-in-law?
Yeah like yeah, I feel that many relatives go there.
To the mother-in-law's?
Oh yeah mother-in-law's or sisters, sister-in-law's yeah to help them or, having help.
And what sort of help did she give you?
Like cooking, cleaning, looking after the big children, older children, yeah like this washing.
Did you have any responsibilities there or was, were you just responsible for looking after your baby?
Yeah just I was look, looking after my baby, that's it. Just giving him milk and changing him, that's it.
And what about at night time?
At night time he's been waking 'cause he was too small and he couldn't, he didn't know how to breastfeed or, with the time he, after about two or three weeks he was good, he slept at night about half night and he wake up again, but I missed the, those days 'cause they were very lovely, everyone was sleeping and both we wake up and he's been talking, my son been talking to me when he was little, he's been waking but not too much.
So when you first came home from hospital you fed him whenever he wanted it, night and day?
At night time did you sleep with your baby beside you?
Just for breastfeeding, not with me, I put him in a cot or a little basket.
He was in a basket beside you?
Yeah, near my bed, and when I fed him, in my hands?
Yeah you held him in your arms to feed him and then put him back in his basket?
In basket when he slept again.
Right, okay. And did your mother-in-law get up to help with those feeds?
Yeah when my nipple was sore and full of breastmilk, full of milk she, massage my breasts with the oil or creams, and she helped me yeah.
And what about, what special foods, did she feed you special foods to?
Yeah soups and soft vegetables, juices, and like chicken, eggs, cheese which were good for me and for my son.
Some women did not have the support of a husband/partner or close family member when they went home. A few had a room for them and their baby in someone else's house and some lived on their own. One went to stay with a friend for a short period until she found her own accommodation.
- Age at interview:
- At the time of interview, this 19 year old, White British woman was breastfeeding her 4 week old daughter. An activities coordinator (elderly), she was living with her partner (mechanic) and extended family.
There's no offence to bottle feeding mothers but I just didn't want to bottle feed, I really didn't, from looking at other babies that are bottle fed and all the disadvantages to it and things, you know, I really didn't want to bottle feed, especially since I'd worked so hard to get to where I was, and I had, to be honest, no support from my family towards the breastfeeding and things like that, because.
Is this because they just didn't have the experience or the understanding?
Basically yeah, they didn't have that and also they've, they did, they had their own thoughts on what the breastfeeding was doing, they didn't think that the breastfeeding was doing any good for the baby, because she's also got colic, so she's quite windy and they thought that the breastfeeding was making her like that, and I tried to, I tried to explain in and out to them that you know the breastfeeding's so much better but, older generations they think, otherwise I think, not being rude [laughs].
How do you deal with that?
Ignoring them, to be honest, I'm, I've got my mind set on what I want to do, and that's what I want to do, I want to breastfeed my baby so, either deal with it or don't. Some of them actually don't like me feeding in front of them, but, that's up to them [laughs].
So you do it?
No I don't feed in front of them if I'm at his parents I'll go out in the kitchen if they're in the lounge, or I'll say if, you know, if I can't find anywhere to go, 'I'm going to go upstairs' or something to feed, they don't mind that as long as I'm not around them.
What about your boyfriend is he supportive?
Oh yeah, one hundred percent he is a diamond [laughs] definitely, and those weeks that, you know, I was having troubles, I was getting so frustrated and things like that, he was always there to, you know, try and calm me down and say, you know, 'You go off for a sleep and I'll take her away', and things like that, you know, he's, and he is, loves that I'm breastfeeding, it's so much better for her.
*Footnote 1: Co-sleeping is common. Women who co-sleep with their baby get more rest and are likely to breastfeed for longer. There are precautions that a family can take to make co-sleeping safer. However, co-sleeping is discouraged when either of the parents is a smoker, has consumed drugs or alcohol or is excessively tired. Co-sleeping on sofas or chairs is not recommended.
Last updated November 2018.