Shanice’s Story: Breastfeeding As A Teen Parent
Shanice Lewis, Derby, United Kingdom
When was the first time I saw someone breastfeed? I don’t actually remember the very first time. It’s always been something that was normal, and my mum just did it. She breastfed six babies—the last one until 3.5 years, which is completely normal to me (and is the biological normal)—but as I grew up my friends found it weird. Adults found it weird. They threw out comments such as “She’s too old” and “You’re doing it for your own benefit” and “Give her cow’s milk.”
I was 17 when I found out I was pregnant. I knew breastfeeding was what I would do. I knew it was normal and knew I’d let her self wean. I knew that’s what my body was made for.
When she finally arrived, everyone was shocked that I wanted to breastfeed. There was no reason for me not to breastfeed, yet people doubted me and doubted my body. I had spent months researching the common problems and how to fix them, knew where my local breastfeeding support groups were, had spoken to the local lactation consultant in case I needed her help, and surrounded myself with other like-minded mums online as my own friends weren’t supportive of me.
When we came home from the hospital, we had family come round to meet her. She needed feeding five minutes after they arrived, and they left. I was offended. What is so wrong with me feeding my baby that they felt the need to leave?
I often find myself asking why.
Why is it that a mother breastfeeding her child is weird? Why is it that a bottle is now the norm in today’s society? Why is it teenage mums are automatically assumed to bottlefeed? Why is there not enough support out there? Why do people find something so natural and biologically normal weird and disgusting? Why isn’t breastfeeding taught in schools when sex education is? Why do people oversexualize the woman’s body? Why is it such a bad thing for a woman to feed her baby?
I get dirty looks when I breastfeed in public, but does that bother me? Nope.
Does it stop me? Nope.
I’ve been asked to move because “I don’t want to see that while I’m eating my food.” Do I move? Nope. I sit there happily with a smile on my face knowing I am giving my baby the best thing in the world and that it’s natural and normal.
I post photos on Facebook and Instagram because it’s nothing to be ashamed about, and the more I post the more I can help normalize breastfeeding.
I spent nine months keeping her alive and helping her grow in my body, and I will continue to do so until she self weans.
My body made a baby. My body can feed a baby.
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