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Interview 12

Age at interview: 25
Brief Outline: Breastfeeding wonderful, easy. Demand fed even when baby was in an incubator after becoming jaundiced. Encourages other women in her role as breastfeeding support worker. Breastfed through Ramadan.
Background: 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.

More about me...

This woman loves breastfeeding and says that it is natural and if she wasn't meant to breastfeed then her breasts wouldn't produce milk. She feels a very strong connection with her baby and breastfeeding is special because it is something that only she can do for him. Born in Britain, her background is Bangladeshi and she says that all women in that country breastfeed their babies but it is never seen in public. Her Islamic religion is important in her daily life and the Koran recommends suckling a baby for two years. When she was pregnant she read a book called 'The Ideal Muslim Woman' which gave her antenatal and postnatal, step-by-step advice on things like diet and breastfeeding. After the birth of her baby she received a great deal of support from her mother-in-law and her mother that allowed her to concentrate upon breastfeeding and caring for the baby. Sadly, she says that this is not always the case in her culture, as some women are expected to pick up their household duties again while their mother-in-law takes care of the baby, often resorting to bottle feeding. In her role as Breastfeeding Support Worker she speaks to families about the importance of breastfeeding. In talking about her own experience, she mentions that her baby developed jaundice at about four days old. Her health professionals recommended that she bottle feed but she continued to breastfeed, lifting the baby from the incubator to do so and then putting him back under the lights. She also talks about going out of the room to breastfeed when men are present, having the baby sleep in her bed, returning to work, breastfeeding through Ramadan, deciding to take the contraceptive pill while breastfeeding and introducing solid foods to the baby.

 

She followed Islamic literature and the Koran that recommended breastfeeding for two years.

She followed Islamic literature and the Koran that recommended breastfeeding for two years.

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In, how you have the Holy Bible we've got a Koran and it says in the Koran, because breastfeeding is natural, Mum has all the antibodies, all the vitamins, all the protection that you can give to a baby especially when the baby just come, come to this world where there so many illnesses and so many disease and so many bacteria's about. So baby to suck on you and, for baby to take that benefit from you is wonderful thing. It's says specifically in our Koran to breastfeed your child for up to two years.

Mm-hm.

Which is very, very important, because in our religion we for, we're so, not we're supposed to it's, it's a guidance of what to do in life, how to go about it and it does say that to breastfeed, to suckle your, suckle your baby for two years. If you can't do that that's absolutely fine, but we recommend you do, it's very, very highly recommended. And obviously when I was pregnant I had so many books, I borrowed so many books from my colleagues, from the library, I got on the internet, breastfeeding networking to do a lot of research.

What language were those books and things in?

Oh English, English and I read Bengali literature also but which I've read them to also myself but I think.

Was there much available in Bengali?

There is, there is especially if you look at it in Islamic, Islamically because Is-Islam says to breastfeed your child that's why he has got be, there, I've got a this book it's called the 'Ideal Muslim Woman' and it says there like step by step ante-natally, post-natally, breastfeeding, make sure you have a good diet, step by step everything and it says how important it is benefit for the baby and for the mother.

 

As a breastfeeding support worker, she was aware of unsupportive practices amongst health...

As a breastfeeding support worker, she was aware of unsupportive practices amongst health...

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I work in hospital and there's a lot of, there's not enough support for the mums, there's not enough support. I've had so many mums crying because I only work for three days if there was a, for instance there was an, I'll give you an example, there was this mum, she couldn't speak English, she was born and brought up in this country, she works and everything. She had her baby in the weekend on the Saturday but we don't work on the weekends so we didn't have the chance to help her and support her, and she told, she honestly desperately told one of the midwives to help her but they said, 'We don't have the time we're busy, we don't have the time we can't help you', and I think she did ask a few people and no one helped her and it was her first time, it and she didn't have family close by, her parents were abroad, she didn't have a close relative, people who would be able to support her. So she was literally in tears, then when she started finally getting there then the doctor said, 'Baby's not putting enough weight on', and then she was in more tears. And then the doctor said, 'Look we just bottle feed', because she was in hospital for a week, she wanted to go home, she was desperate to go home, the baby wasn't putting no weight on. Baby, actually baby was, but baby, after the baby was born baby was really small and they presume that if you formula feed baby's going to go big, and the doctor said, 'If you bottle feed, baby will go big and you can go home.' Simple, and she was like, and I was there and I said I honestly, I did, honestly said to the doctor, 'Mum wants to breastfeed, if mum said she wanted to bottle feed then that's something, but she really wanted to breastfeed, I think what you're trying to do is like put her down, she's in distress anyway, she's in distress and she's she just wanted the support, the encouragement and then she would have been okay, that's all she needed the support and the encouragement'. And after me going in helping her and supporting her even from now I've gone to see her at home a few times, she still talks about how awful time she had in the hospital. So the health professionals weren't helpful, they didn't support her which she really needed and after, us, as a breastfeeding supporters coming in we've seen an increase in breastfeeding, we've definitely seen an increase in breastfeeding. We will, honestly this is the honest truth, we will have the midwives coming to us and asking us to go and see this, her mothers, while they won't, even though they've had all this training, they wouldn't go and help they say, 'No I'm busy' but when you go round the corner just, they're just sitting there having a cup of tea and chatting away. And it's just so sad because they're health professionals, some of their mums would not even take our word for it they think, 'No they're the midwife, they're more important than us' but they should be, that's what midwifery, all the midwifery you are delivering baby but also customer service, we should be helping supporting mums that's what midwifery's about, postnatally and antenatally and we get a lack of them, I've had so many complaints from so many mums.

 

As a breastfeeding support worker she visited Muslim families to explain the importance of...

As a breastfeeding support worker she visited Muslim families to explain the importance of...

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So are most mothers that you are seeing breastfeeding?

Majority yeah, majority first they do start breastfeeding and then afterwards they start, majority have a lot of pressure from the extended family, or some have pressures from their husbands.

Can you talk about that a bit more?

Of course, I've had so many cases when they're breastfeeding absolutely wonderful, no problem whatsoever, baby's fine, mum's fine when they're in the hospital and they go home and then afterwards when the baby gets a bit bigger then the mother-in-law wants to breast, mother-in-law sorry, wants to feed. So with breastfeeding that can't happen so mother-in-law will go out and buy the milk, and the sterilising and everything, so she'll make the milk and when the baby's hungry she'll start feeding the baby. And then the mum can't, she can't say anything then she has to go to the kitchen, then do the cooking and when the baby will cry the mother-in-law will say, 'No it's okay you do what you have to do I'll feed her, or I'll feed him' and even with the husband the majority of the daughter-in-laws have them, if they are living with the extended family they've got older mother-in-laws or father-in-laws so even the husband will feel sorry for the mother, say, 'Why should my Mum cook? Why don't you cook?', you know, 'you just had a baby, doesn't mean that you're ill or, you know, anything like that, I can, Mum can look after whoever baby he or she' so it's a lot of pressure on a, especially young mums and mums who are, who have come from abroad or something, they feel that they have to or they feel they have to bottle feed they don't have that confidence to breastfeed and even if they do breastfeed they'll breastfeed when they go to their own room or at night, but in the daytime they have to bottle feed.

What can we do about that?

That's where basically where we come in, that's where we come in, lot of support, lot of home visits, a lot of contacts, a lot of phone calls and speaking to the families, I have spoken to mother-in-laws, I've spoken to extended families and every and they understand, they understand perfectly fine and I think even though I haven't spoken to this Mum, the particular Mum I'm talking about with her mother-in-law there and her husband there, and mother-in-law she said, 'absolutely fine' she was up for it she said, 'If she wants to breastfeed she can breastfeed' but I think also, also what it is, the daughter-in-law she feels bad, she feels guilty so she says, 'Okay then I'll, you know, that's fine, no problem' then she'll say, 'okay then I'll give both, I'll start mixed feeding' and that's what we do, we give a lot of help and a lot of support, make sure that just breastfeed exclusive for six months then when you start weaning your baby, I don't say, I never to bottle feed never, I said breastfeed for two years and sometimes, the majority of times I do bring religion into it, maybe sometimes I shouldn't but I feel, I feel if you're, if you're really a practicing person and if you're fasting for the month of Ramadan, and if you're praying five times a day, and if you've done Hajji, and if you're following what it says the Koran obviously it says all the good stuff then why shouldn't you be breastfeeding for two years which it says clearly, because it's a man made, it's a God given thing which you should be giving.

Can you talk to me about Ramadan and breastfeeding?

Yes definitely, Ramadan it comes once in a year when all the Muslims are supposed to fast between dawn and dusk, it's a spiritual thing it's keeps, it keeps away from bad acts, bad speech, bad stuffs that we do night and day, watching TV, dinner
 

She lived with her parents-in-law at first. Her husband and her extended family were very...

She lived with her parents-in-law at first. Her husband and her extended family were very...

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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
 

Her baby prefers breastmilk to all other drinks and the feeling that this gives her is beyond words.

Her baby prefers breastmilk to all other drinks and the feeling that this gives her is beyond words.

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He doesn't like water much he prefers his breastmilk than anything, he still does to be honest and he's fourteen months old, he prefers his breastmilk, he'll come running to me instead of, you know, he'll, his dad will be chasing him with water in a mug but he doesn't want it. Mother-in-law, when I'm at work I'll sometimes I go home I'll see she's got fresh milk in a glass and he doesn't want it he'll come running to me start stripping my clothes off [laughs] even though he's one, he can have fresh milk but he doesn't like it, doesn't like it. But I'm happy, I'm more than happy because I have that time, I have that moment to sit with him and, you know.

How does that feel?

Wonderful. Well I, I don't know if there's any words to describe how that feels it's beyond, unless you go through it you wouldn't know, and it's just something so special that you cannot, even you can't have that with your husband, or your mum, or your father, even your best friend and you think that's your soul partner, breastfeeding is something so remarkable and so special that no one can take it away from you. And it's when I'm feeding him and he, the way he just glares at me, the way he just looks at me it's like, you know, he knows, 'Mummy I'm, you're giving me the best and there's nothing else I want more than, in this way'. First when I was doing that, it gave me tears because, you know, the thought of the bondness, the closeness I have with him. First of all I took six months maternity leave and I had one year, I mean one month annual leave then I came back to work then I think I was getting baby blues, because I used to think, 'Oh my gosh I'm going to work what if he forgets about me?' and I used to speak to my, one of my colleagues, you know, they said, 'No don't worry he should be fine' and also breastfeeding and what made it special was when I used to go home and breastfeed him we used to still have that connection because I used to think, 'What if I lose that connection?' because it's my first baby I used to think, 'I don't want to lose that connection it's my first child' and still sometimes I used to think, 'Oh forget work, forget work I don't need to work, I don't need the money', it's just, you know, time to, because I love the breastfeeding job [support worker] that's why I'm doing it, otherwise if it was anything else I wouldn't have bothered, I would have stayed home with my baby. And I used to sometimes in the evening I used to cry. My husband used to say, 'What's wrong?' I'd say, 'I don't, I feel like he's moving away from me and the only time he comes to me is because he wants milk otherwise he's more with you or the family' he said, 'No don't think like that because he cries when you go to work' and now I see that it's like when he sees me he's got the most beautiful smile on his face and he comes running to me and I would, I wouldn't never even if you paid me millions like that, that lot that Euro Million one hundred and fifty million I would never replace my baby over that, and the feeling I have with him, the bonding it's beyond, it's beyond words, I have no words to describe it I just love every moment and I think I will miss the moment I stop breastfeeding him, but hopefully but then I'm going to try for the my next one [laughs], so hopefully I wouldn't miss out too much.
 
 

Hospital staff tried to persuade her to give her jaundiced baby a bottle feed but she persisted...

Hospital staff tried to persuade her to give her jaundiced baby a bottle feed but she persisted...

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His Dad came and everyone, everyone came to say hello and everything, and it was really nice and I, it's like I was breastfeeding and the midwife came, midwife came over and got really. And, yeah and then I was breastfeeding him and some of the midwives were saying, 'Oh you should be bottle feeding' and, you know, all this and 'cause we've got some, some of those midwives are not that supportive I have to admit. But and I didn't wanted to hear it, I didn't care, I just breastfed him continuously and afterwards they, the doctor said that he had a bit of jaundice, so we was in the incubator, he was in the incubator for a good six days and, also the doctor even told me not to breastfeed, the doctor told me to bottle feed otherwise the jaundice is going to take time for it to go. But I didn't listen to them I didn't care whenever he wanted a milk I just got him out, breastfed him and put him back, I got told off a few times mind you, I got told off, they told me I shouldn't be doing that 'cause the more you take the baby out, the baby gets less what you call it?

Light.

Less light and the jaundice take time, I said, 'It doesn't I, I believe the more you breastfeed, breastfeed, the better he will get the quicker' and I ignored them, I honestly ignored them as I was doing what I had to do and after a few four days, four, five days we were out the hospital. And he was absolutely fine and he's a healthy wonderful baby boy running around now [laughs], and I love him to bits.

So that period in the hospital, you were taking him out of the incubator?

Oh yeah.

How often?

Whenever he wanted it to be honest because he was only a few, two or three days old he was on demand feeding and whenever he wanted the milk I took him out, breastfed him, and when I knew he was satisfied after half an hour or so I put him back in again, so it'd probably be half an hour, I tried to give him a good half an hour to forty five minutes on both sides, then I at least I know for an hour he'd be okay, then I'd take him out again same thing.

Did you sit there with him'

Oh yeah.

'all day?

Yeah, yeah I was there basically they kept me in too, so I my bed was then his incubator was just next to me, he didn't go to Special Care or anything, he was just next to me, yeah.

And he had colostrum?

Oh yes definitely.

You didn't withhold breastfeeding'

No.

'at any stage?

No, no, no, no straightaway he got all the colostrum then the milk came in, then the hind milk and everything he got everything from day one, yeah which I felt I had to do, it was my, I felt it was my responsibility to, as a mother, to give what he, it's for him 'cause in our religion it says it's a God-given thing otherwise we wouldn't be producing milk that's why it's important for the baby to have that.

 

She knew that if she was breastfeeding continuously she would not get pregnant. She was told that...

She knew that if she was breastfeeding continuously she would not get pregnant. She was told that...

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Yes, there is actually if you're continuously breastfeeding you won't get pregnant because, especially back home where we come from, mums they breastfeed until two years so then they wouldn't get pregnant, as long as you're breastfeeding continuously that is a contraceptive. Well, that's what my parents or my auntie's and everyone will think, there is, maybe some people medically or professionals they probably think, 'No it's not', but I even personally think so, it is, because one whole year of my baby's life I didn't fall pregnant I was just on breastfeeding, the pill that this powerful one the breastfeeding pill that's all and my, one of my sister's she was breastfeeding her child for two years she wasn't taking no pill, she wasn't doing, using anything to be honest, she didn't fall pregnant, so I think in our culture, in our generation or in people from back home they use that as a, breastfeeding as a contraception definitely, yeah, definitely.

So when did you start the contraceptive pill?

Oh I started it quite late to be honest.

I mean, after this baby.

Oh yeah.

Are you on it again now?

Yes I'm on it again now because I'm not breastfeeding, because of work I'm not breastfeeding continuously and that, I am, I'll be honest with you I'm trying to, not trying not yet, but in summer I will start weaning him off, slowly, so it helps me when I'm coming to work and like a few hours he's not having it, so for that reason, yeah.

Did you notice when you started the contraceptive pill did it affect your milk supply?

Do you know actually I did ask them, I did ask the nurse before I start and one of them she said, 'No it shouldn't effect your breastmilk supply'. It probably, because I did ask will it dry up or anything like that but I did have, because I don't want to stop feeding now until he, you know, he's proper off, I want him to come off it, I don't want to force him to come off it because I, you know, if he, if there's milk there why should I waste it? And no they said it should be fine and so, hopefully it should be okay, definitely, hopefully, no I haven't and I think that when he starts asking if there's enough milk for him, enough milk.

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