With five children under the age of 10, Katoomba’s Jessica O’Connor estimates she has spent about five years breastfeeding her brood and she hasn’t finished yet — her youngest Hamish is still only eight months old.
Cracked nipples, thrush, mastitis, a tongue-tied feeding twin, two special needs children, nipple shields and sheer exhaustion, never stopped the small business owner, and she is more than happy to wear the tag of poster girl for breastfeeding.
“Even if you do have a lot of troubles you can breastfeed successfully for long periods of time,” Mrs O’Connor said. The owner of cloth nappy business, Nappy Change, fed her now seven-year-old twin girls for 19 months, despite one being a special needs child and the other being tongue-tied.
“As long as the baby is happy I breastfeed but I did draw the line at breastfeeding at a funeral recently,” she said laughing.
State MP for the Blue Mountains Roza Sage joined community health specialists and many local mothers, like Mrs O’Connor, in Springwood on Friday to mark World Breastfeeding Week. It was the third time the event had been marked in the Blue Mountains and was celebrated with a morning tea at the Springwood Community Health Centre and a photographic competition by staff from Nepean Blue Mountains Primary Care and Community Health and Australian Breastfeeding Association members.
Event spokeswoman Noeleen Horswell said the global event was all about promoting the benefits of breastfeeding “for mums and bubs alike”.
It is well-known that breast milk contains antibodies that help a baby’s immune system fight off bacteria and viruses. The World Health Organisation recommends “exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life” with solids introduced at six months “to complement breastfeeding for up to two years or more”.
A 2010 Infant Feeding Survey showed while 96 per cent of Australian babies are exclusively breastfed in their first weeks of life, only 15 per cent of babies were fully breastfed at six months.
Mrs O’Connor said there was “still a lot of stigma about breastfeeding”. “Breasts are seen as rude, there’s so much sexualisation of the female body.”
Decalie Brown, a lactation specialist with Child and Family Health Service, said society, especially workplaces, needed to be more accepting of breastfeeding mothers and not leave them to “hide away in bathrooms”.
“It should be just accepted that their babies are eating. It’s other people’s problems, not the mothers,” Mrs Brown said.
“Breastfeeding is only for a short period in the baby’s lives and what a wonderful start they are having.”
Mums who need help with feeding their baby can go to www.ilca.org to find a lactation consultant.