Images and text by Paula Cheri Barkley.
Hi. My name is Paula-Cheri Barkley. I am from Trinidad and Tobago, a beautiful island located in the Caribbean.
I am a 24 year old mother to a one year old baby boy, named Daniel-Paul. To put it simply I love Breastfeeding. Thankfully we had no problems and both Daniel-Paul and I were able to get the hang of it pretty quickly.
While I was pregnant, one thing I was certain about was that I would breastfeed my baby no matter what. I did all the research that I could and my regional hospital held Childbirth Education classes (our version of Lamaze) where Breastfeeding was a popular topic. One of the things my research unearthed was that a boy’s healthy and well bonded relationship with his mother makes him less susceptible to juvenile delinquency. Young afro-Trinidadian males are considered the ‘at risk’ in our society, so for me having a son, I am determined to do whatever I can to ensure that he does not fall prey to gun violence, gang life and other delinquent behaviour.. Breastfeeding was a natural way to create a healthy relationship with my son.
For us in Trinidad and Tobago, breastfeeding is still pretty much accepted, and our public hospitals are STRICT no formula zones. So breastfeeding is a must!
My labour and delivery were super easy and within half an hour of Daniel-Paul’s birth the midwife said, “Mummy let us try the baby on the breast.” To which, of course, I willingly obliged. She was pleasantly surprised that his latch was perfect and, many are still surprised today that although my breast size was (and still is) tiny my supply was (and still is) perfect for him.
We exclusively breastfed for 6 months, after which he began eating solids. But breastmilk is still a major part of his diet. I am only now beginning to get some negative feedback, I guess because of his age; comments like “That big strong boy still sucking breast!” or “He aint getting nothing from that!” I pay it no mind.
I have witnessed first hand the benefits of breastmilk. Daniel-Paul has never gotten sick, the common cold just passes him over. When he has to get his shots, he weathers better than most; no fever, no eczema. He is a pleasant and agreeable, generally accepting of transitions, easily comforted, secure in his relationships, brave (too brave for my heart I think) and an overly confident little explorer. He hit all his milestones well before the stipulated time. During his crawling and, now his walking stages, when he suffered little bumps and falls, breastfeeding was right there to give him the reassurance he so desired. Not to mention our nap time and bed time routines are a breeze because once he latches on he is off to La-La land. Yes! All of these and so much more I attribute to the wonderful breastfeeding relationship we share. Let us just say breastfeeding has made our first year remarkably happy and full of love.
When the negative comments come, I reflect on the positive like, “Oh! His eyes are beautiful.” “He still nurses? Good for you mama. I wish I were in your shoes.” I am able to give so many women the confidence they need to breastfeed their babies also, which makes me excited to continue pushing forward.
As we have comfortably reached my goal, the aim from here on is to self-wean because I believe that when he is good and ready to stop breastfeeding he will decide. Additionally, it is so effortless to us now that I simply can not bring myself to take it from him.. I do not wish that day to come soon, because I would miss it too much.
Advice for new mothers who wish to embark on a breastfeeding journey:- Go for it. Breastfeeding is ALL about supply and demand. Once the baby latches on correctly, your supply WILL come.
Most of all enjoy it. Breastfeeding is a glorious perk of Motherhood!