Local resident Mayani shares her breastfeeding story and her tips for showing your support
It’s National Breastfeeding Week 27 June–3 July and the theme is ‘Everyone has a part to play in helping mums to breastfeed’. Breastfeeding can be a minefield: from being unsure whether you will be able to feed in public, to not knowing who to ask for support – which is why the people and places that surround a woman make a big difference in supporting mothers. We asked local Islington resident, Mayani, who is raising her young family in the borough, about her breastfeeding experience and her tips for those who want to support their partners, family and friends
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m Mayani and I live in Archway with my husband and our two children, our son who is six years old and our 15-month-old daughter.
What was important to you about breastfeeding your children?
I always assumed I would breastfeed when I became a mum. When I was pregnant, I began to learn more about breastfeeding and its health benefits – not just for the baby, but also the mother. I also liked the fact that it allows you to feed your baby on demand and, as the baby is in control of how much they drink, you can’t over feed them, so it reduces the likelihood of childhood obesity. Knowing how self-conscious I’ve been about my relationship with food, I felt breastfeeding would be a start in creating a good relationship with food for them.
Once I got the hang of it, the convenience of breastfeeding was a bonus. I liked the idea of being able to go out and not worry about having enough bottles with me – and I didn’t like the thought of getting out of bed at night to make up formula.
How did your family and friends support you?
I’m very lucky to have a very supportive husband. He values breastfeeding as much as me. He listened to all the midwives and breastfeeding supporters and would remind me of what they said or suggested. He even took photos so I could see how I was sat, or how I held the baby, during a previous feed.
The early days of trying to get the hang of breastfeeding were especially tough, as we had the added pressure of the baby losing weight. But my husband never suggested giving up or increasing the amount of formula we were told to give as top ups. Instead, he would hold the baby while I slept and bring them to me at the first sign that they were hungry. He would also bring me chocolate, which I think is a must when you’re breastfeeding!
Our family and friends set up a rota and delivered freshly cooked dinners to our door for a few weeks after the birth of each of our children. It was wonderful, as we could just focus on having a ‘baby moon’ and not worry about cooking or wondering what was in the fridge. One of my friends would even come round with cake, make us both a cup of tea, and chat to me while doing housework, leaving me to sit and feed the baby. I felt very looked after and supported.
Did others in your support network help you along the way?
The group of friends I made in antenatal classes was very supportive. Our babies were all born close together, so it was great having people to hang out with who were at a similar stage of parenting. The shared experience made us comfortable to share any problems and useful tips, like lack of sleep or teething. We cheered each other on, went to baby groups together and walked around many parks while the babies napped.
Is there anything you would change, in terms of the support you received?
There were a couple of people who probably didn’t quite understand why I wanted to or felt a need to breastfeed. They said I should give the baby a bottle so others could ‘help’ with feeding, to give me a break or get the baby to sleep longer. Instead, I wish they would have found other ways to show they care, such as taking the baby for a walk while I showered or suggesting we meet for brunch instead of a night out.
How have you found Islington overall as a place to breastfeed your children?
Islington is a welcoming place to breastfeed in public. In other parts of London I’ve felt more uncomfortable and have experienced unnecessary comments, but have never had a negative experience in Islington. The local breastfeeding groups have played a major part in enabling me to breastfeed for as long as I want. Their support in the early days made all the difference, helping me to continue breastfeeding rather than stopping before I was ready to.
When my son was a baby, my local children’s centre had a cafe which was great for grabbing a cuppa and feeding on a comfy sofa, while meeting other mums. Sadly, when my daughter came along (after Covid and lockdown) the cafe was no longer there. Thankfully, the local coffee shops in the borough have been welcoming to me while I’ve been breastfeeding, bringing me a drink or a glass of water. It’s only when talking to friends in other parts of the UK that I realise how lucky I’ve been to have my children in Islington.
If you’d like to show your support for breastfeeding families in your community, make a pledge to play your part for National Breastfeeding Week.