'It's not a shameful thing': Breastfeeding mums need compassion from public says Cork model

'It's not a shameful thing': Breastfeeding mums need compassion from public says Cork model

Serena Lee’s son Kao was born in the midst of the pandemic. While the mum of two admits this was a difficult time, she was adamant her second child would have the same start in life as her first.

A CORK model is calling for more compassion towards mothers opting to breastfeed longer as she continues to nurse her son after 15 months.

Serena Lee’s son Kao was born in the midst of the pandemic. While the mum of two admits this was a difficult time, she was adamant her second child would have the same start in life as her first.

Ms Lee said she feels attitudes to extended breastfeeding have improved since the birth of her first child nine years ago but discrimination still exists.

According to Serena who, over the years, has become an advocate for breastfeeding awareness, this discrimination often exists within families.

The mother of Kao (15 months) and Jacob (9) said she is lucky to be in a supportive environment.

“I myself didn’t stop breastfeeding until I was almost three and going to pre-school,” she said. “I was happy to give up myself at that stage and my sister was the same. I think that being in a house where there was always massive support helped.

“Formula wasn’t talked about. It wasn’t something that was even in our lives. I know that not everyone is lucky enough to have that. You might say that my family were hippies but I couldn’t imagine it being any other way now. What you know is always going to feel natural.”

The model remarked that a number of women have opened up to her about their own experiences.

“I am friends with other mums who are having formula pushed on them on a daily basis. They have in-laws who leave bottles in the kitchen and make comments that their child is getting too old to be breastfed.

“To be scrutinised for the most natural thing on the planet is mindblowing. It reminds you just how backward attitudes can still be.”

Cork model Serena Lee, her husband Andrew Jolly and their new baby Koa.
Cork model Serena Lee, her husband Andrew Jolly and their new baby Koa.

She recalled one occasion where she felt judged while breastfeeding in public.

“I had Jacob nine years ago and it feels like attitudes were a lot different up to as recently as that,” she said.

“I’ll never forget being in a restaurant breastfeeding. Even though I was completely covered and being very discreet the negativity was palpable. The vibes were so negative that it made the experience very negative.

“However, I wanted to be strong in myself so made the decision to stay. If I had been any way insecure in myself the experience could have been very offputting.”

Almost nine years on, Serena says that breastfeeding is an entirely different experience.

“I don’t have that fear of having to hide,” she said. 

“Even when we’re out for picnics at the Marina I can breastfeed without any fear of judgment. Personally, I feel that things are changing.”

Serena added that her first son Jacob stopped breastfeeding on his own accord at around nine months. Nonetheless, she is grateful to be able to experience extended breastfeeding with her second son.

“I’m just going to see how it goes and play it by ear,” she said.

Cork model Serena Lee, her husband Andrew Jolly and their new baby Koa.
Cork model Serena Lee, her husband Andrew Jolly and their new baby Koa.

“When Jacob stopped himself it was his own choice. With Kao, it’s a different journey. He is so much more into breastfeeding. It can be a little full-on at times because he’s probably taking more out of me than he is taking foodwise. Kao gets so much comfort from breastfeeding that we’re just taking it day by day.”

The mum of two said that women who breastfeed shouldn’t have to hide away.

“There are people who say ‘I don’t mind breastfeeding as long as it’s discreet.’ The way I look at it is you either mind or you don’t. A statement like that just suggests that people who breastfeed should have to hide. This isn’t a sexual or shameful thing and shouldn’t be viewed as such.”

Serena said she now makes an extra effort to support mothers opting to breastfeed.

“I think that no matter what we should be lifting each other up in life. That’s why I’ll always offer a supportive comment if I come across another woman breastfeeding.

“Recently, I came across a woman feeding her baby while walking in the supermarket. I said that it was wonderful and she seemed really happy. It’s really important that mothers breastfeeding are supported as much as possible.”

To find out more about breastfeeding supports available in Cork see www.laleche.org.uk or breastfeedingcork.ie.

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