You are the holder of the puzzle pieces.
I got all emotional last time I taught an introduction to #slings #workshop with @villagemidwife.
Talking about these puzzle pieces, made me well up with emotion, remembering one of the times I #knew I meant for this work.
As I passed around a box of puzzle prices, explained how you as the parent are gathering them all. This was my gift to them to remind them.
At the same time, in my head, I remembered meeting a parent for the second time, who told me I had changed the course of her breastfeeding journey. She said, I am here 6 months on, though all our trauma, because of this idea you gave us. I had forgotten I’d even said it, but the awe of the rippless of parent to parent support caught me in that moment.
Now I share it with you too.
Many supporters and loved ones will offer you support and advice. They offer you pieces of their puzzles, only YOU will know which pieces of puzzle you are offered, actually fit.
Some won’t. That’s ok. But please keep searching until your instincts are quiet again. They are powerful and will lead you. Keep asking new people until all feels well.
In case you need reminding, YOU GOT THIS
Another common query from parents at this time of year in the UK. It’s Christmas party season with employers and families alike.
So what’s the norm for breastfeeding families in these scenarios?
From the moment your baby was born, they began to rely on you for nourishment, comfort, safety and as researcher Neils Burgman would say, anywhere other than with you, is other to them.
We know babies grow most optimally with human milk, kept close to their parents and when permitted to feed without restriction day and night. (More on feeding intervals)
This way of parenting, isn’t the one projected in popular media & on the screens. So is no wonder that when an event calls for alcoholic drinks and late nights, parents can feel conflicted about what to do.
Things to remember
A symbotic unit
You and your baby are a symbiotic unit, you respond to each other and so in separating for more than an hour or two, you’ll need to make adjustments.
Most parents will have to pump several times to make up enough milk for one feed whilst they are away. (It’s ok to combine milk of the same temperature). More on milk storage.
Pumping whilst away
Your breasts will continue to make milk whilst you are away, you will need to express or hand express to relive discomfort. Avoiding this is likely to greatly increase your chances of mastitis. This feels like the flu & is not what you’d wish for with a hangover!
More than food
It’s a factor most of us are not used to considering, but your baby has know your voice, heart beat, smells and those in your daily environment long before they where born. You are their safe space and it’s worth considering if they are connected in the same way with the person you intend to leave them with.
Breastfeeding, as you’ll have guessed by now, is so much more than just nourishment. For both of you.
What can you do to reduce the changes? Can you help the other adult use a sling/carrier your baby is used too? Can they look after the baby at your home?
Even if your baby takes milk perfectly, sleeps and doesn’t utter a cry (unlikely!), you are likely to run though a range of emotions whilst you two are apart. This is part hormonal due to breastfeeding but also a sign of the wonderful bond you have together.
Maybe you made a different choice in the past, it’s OK to make a different one with different information or feelings.
What do other parents say?
trust your gut, say no if you want to!parent – Instagram
Bring baby with partner or parents and you can nip off for feeds.parent – Instagram
The days with baby are short. Stay with baby, there will be many more parties!parent – Instagram
Baby won’t take a bottle? Try an open cup or sippy cup with an older baby.
Go for just the party and travel home.
or ask the care giver to stay near by for regular breastfeeding breaks.
Take the baby along with you! If you are bold, pop the baby in a sling on your front and enjoy the cooing coworkers. Igorne the nay sayers who seem annoyed.
Lastly, you could just skip the event altogether. There will be plenty more in your lifetime, but the baby days are fleeting.
This list is for those super interested in my background, for most parents knowing that I am a UK registered Paediatric nurse and experienced breastfeeding specialist is enough.
If you have any suggestions for my further training do let me know !
Royal College of Nursing – (2007 – present day)
Lactation Consultants of Great Britain (associate membership) – (2018 – present day)
Awaiting exam results for
IBCLC – Due end Dec 2019
Everywoman Doula – Breastfeeding through vulnerability (summer 2019)
1-2-1 Doula – Black Breastfeeding Week celebration CPD (Aug 2019)
Deborah Robertson’s Breastfeeding Specialist course – (June 2018 – Oct 2019)
St Johns Ambulance – First Aid (Summer 2018)
Kimberly Seals Allers – Writing for Social Change (Spring 2019)
Private Hospital & NHS – Ongoing Hospital mandatory training (Yearly)
Slingababy – Babywearing Consultancy Training (2015)
School of Babywearing – Peer support training (2014)
Milton Keynes Breastfeeding Festival
La Leche League Great Britain
Lactation Consultants of Great Britain
National Breastfeeding Helpline
Training planned in 2020
Pre visit questionnaire
Just after we have agreed a time and place for our session together, I will send you a link to the pre visit questionnaire.
Questions are about you and your baby, any health issues I should know about and some logistical concerns.
My preference in payment at the time of booking
You can pay on the day via cash or check if we have agreed in advance. Currently I do not accept card payments, but I hope to in the future.
Payment plans are also available to spread the cost & I would also accept skills swaps towards payment. Please talk to me about this, I would love to help you access skilled support.
I will usually text you to re confirm our appointment the day before & I will always let you know if I am running late on the day.
Unless otherwise discussed, I will aim to be with you for 1-2 hours.
This is so that we have time to fully explore your challenges and find workable solutions. If I am coming for feeding support, this usually means there will be one feed during my visit. Please do not worry if you baby feeds just before I arrive, I would always want you to meet your little peoples needs FIRST.
Some parents show me videos of feeding behavior that concerns them, in case they do not do it during the feeds when we are together.
Sometimes we run out of time, in this instance, a follow up visit (in person or online) will be warranted. This will usually be a shorted appointment and at a reduced fee. This could be because your baby has low tone and you both need intensive support, or it might be because I have made a few initial suggestions and we need time to see if they are the right fit for your unique situation. I have many tools in my helping kit (literally and metaphorically) and I will support you until you are confident again.
Dust if you must
But I will tell you not too! Other than making sure I can enter, sit and have somewhere to wash my hands, I do not need a polished home.
Please concentrate on compiling your questions, feeding yourself and NOT on making sure you home is clean and tidy for my visit.
A note of refreshments, I will of course accept a glass of water if you offer but please do not be offended if I refuse any refreshments. This is due to a range of my own allergies, and not intended as a rejection of your hospitality or culture.
I aim to create a safe space for us to work within, inclusive of all needs & abilities. If there is something I can do, specific to you needs, please do say.
This might be a cultural adjustment, having our consultation in you bed in the early post postpartum, or a practical like needing information in writing, or an emotional adjustment as a survivor of trauma.
For some families I work with, knowing my pronoun is important (she/her), some wish to be called parent over mother. However your fmaily is set up, please know I am looking forward to meeting you & willing to take any steps I can
to have you as comfortable as possible.
Sometimes, you might need help beyond my training or scope of practice. I might do a formal referral to a specific person (tongue tie specialists, birth debreif), or I might suggest you have a find someone with that skill set (counseling, holistic therapies).
Please place your pets in another room for the duration of our visit.
This is for two reasons, the first being that some pets will be protective of their families, specifically with a new baby to protect. The second is help me with my own allergies.
Who am I ?
Sometimes, family and friends can be intensely in interested in who is coming to visit, or you might just be wanting to see my face so you know who to open the door too 😉
I am continuously updating my training and education & every family I work with, teaches me something new (read more here).
If there is something you think I could work more on, I welcome feedback & suggestions at any time.
Usually I’ll give you a link to some information or a video covering the most relevant part of our session together, on the day.
I will write up what we have talked about, including links to further reading, and email it to you within a few days.
Any other questions..
Please get in touch if you have any other questions or need to change our appointment.
How often have you thought, this problem is unique to just me, my family or my kid?
You might find out that issue or situation actually it’s quite common but many parents get stuck without knowing how to gain realistic expectations and norms.
As I type up another follow up email about just this, I wonder what fuels this feeling in the people?
Is it the disconnect with nature, instincts and western ideals? Disconnect with normal infant behaviour.
Is it that we no longer live in large communities where not only is breastfeeding is the norm, but parenting is seen and experienced by muti generations, in all its realistic glory.
So many parents fall into the traps of other people’s, rather idealsic experiences and it’s do unhelpful to parents.
What if we re constructed the parenting villages? What if we knew from first hand experience, before we have our own small people, the realities of parenting.
Maybe then we might live happier lives, with happier healthier kids..
So your partner is about to have your child and you’ve heard a lot, (how could you not?) about how breastfeeding is the best.
Thing is you’ve also heard it has disadvantages, heard not everyone can do it and your worried. You want your kid to get all the good stuff, you want your partner to get it too. It’s a tricky mind space to be in.
Human milk champion
So what can you do? What if you make yourself a pretty awesome repository of information about human milk and breastfeeding? Have you heard it takes a village to raise a child? Some of that is information, and you are well placed to be the one to consume it and replay it when needed.
New parents are filled with doubts, there isn’t a handy guide that comes out with the baby after all. But breastfeeding, there are lots of principles that when learned, can cut away lots of worry.
The vast majority of women, when well supported and informed, can fully feed their babies needs. There are some things that might delay the full milk coming in, why not start reading about them here.
What if you learn the mechanics of milk production? Remind your partner when they are confused about their breasts feeling hard and full, that they need to empty them to make more milk because the fuller they are, the more messages are sent back to the brain to make less milk.
When the baby wants to feed hour after hour, remind them they are literally growing a human from their body & how much you appreciate them riding the growth spurts. Then bring them cake.
When your baby or partner is struggling, don’t be afraid to get them skilled support. There is lots of help out there, if you know where to look. You can also search ‘breastfeeding support’ and ‘your town’ to find services near you. There are different roles, some are free, some are not, read more the types here. .
Many parents feel that without a bottle to feed, there won’t be a special time with your baby?
Understanding that neurology, your baby needs your partner more than you (mostly) to grow that big brain as big as it can be but that doesnt mean you have to be left out.
This research shows early skin to skin with your baby can help YOU to bond, some research suggests it changes your brain and lowers YOUR chance of having postnatal mood disorders.
Although I have been careful to assume how you identify, the world lags behind, replace father for whatever phrase you identify with, the effects are likely to be true for us all.
Some patents make bath time their thing, or baby massage. Some partners do an early morning walk whilst their partner rests. Some pop on a sling and teach their baby about their hobby.
If you want one to equal the warmth and comfort of milk and mum, get your hands on a sling or carrier (carrying matters sling guide) and master it now, before the baby comes.
When carried, babies cry 43% less (stats) and adding movement & the familiar sounds of your voice usually = a quiet content baby. Find out more about slings here – from a GP and carrying expert.
So if you come home to a frantic partner and frazzled baby, you know what to do!
You are a team
Stand up for your partners goals if you have a family member or friend undermining you. Maybe you will even have the fact to disabuse uncle bob, that your baby is not using your partner as a dummy.
This time in your child’s life is fleeting and the extra care of your partner now, will pay off for decades to come. If you have a girl, your grandchildren will one day benefit from your partner breastfeeding as her eggs are already within your unborn child.
Mostly, remember you are a team and when times get tough, remember you both want the best for you all.
We do the best you can, with the info and resources you have available to us at the time. We all have our limits, if you need extra support, seek it.
Your baby, and your partner don’t need you to be perfect, just good enough.
Are they selling the right message?
There is a baby show in the county I work within, this month. I remember visiting one, heavily pregnant with my first born son and I thought of the type of help I needed then.
I didn’t know what I know now, two babes later. At the time, like many of us, I thought I needed the latest X or Y and the reality of it is, I didn’t need any of it.
What might have actually offered improvement on newborn days, would have been meeting a Doula, meeting other breastfeeding mothers, meeting the people who would go on to support me for many months after my breastfeeding struggles smoothed out.
I had to email
So I decided to email the person running the show, find out about a stall and I had so many visions in my head about being the antidote to some of the madness at the events.
The response was generic and the price of £75 a stall had me reeling.
At that price, what local support service for parents could afford to come?
So this was my email back.
Dear generic baby show,
I have had a look though your exhibitor pack and it all looks lovely.
I notice that your shows tour all the large towns and I wonder if have policy for local community engagement?
Whilst I understand that as a business model you are working with big businesses and generating revenue, but as a breastfeeding supporter, I know the impact that parents can experience by being linked up with their local support systems before they have their child. I believe you are well placed to increase many of these services visibility.
As you may know, many of the NHS infant feeding support services are being cut around the country and parents are being left with little support and this is where specialists like myself are trying to fill the gaps in provision with paid and voluntary run services.
Many of the products being sold at events like yours are not essential parts of parenting, they are luxuries. To balance the ethics of this, I urge you to consider engaging with members of the local support communities to balance this out.
I am unable to book a stall at £75 at this time due to finances. Parent support like I give, is not a lucrative business, but it is an essential one.
What are your thoughts?
What do you think? Should baby shows have an obligation to engage in community services? Would have meeting support services in pregnancy made a difference to your post postpartum days?
When babies enter the world, they expect to be, and need to be carried by us.
Be this in our arms or with the aid of slings and carriers, the positive effects are wide reaching for baby, parents and society as whole.
Positive effects for baby
- Encourages bonding
- Helps to regulate body systems and growth
- Promotes and encourages breastfeeding
- Reduces crying, often calming for fussy babies.
- Encourages social and language development
Positive effects for parents
- Heightens awareness and responsiveness to baby
- Help with perinatal mood disorders
- Increase Paternal confidence and family connections
- ’Hands free’ for tasks and getting out the house.
- Provide comfort and nurturing for older children
Positive effects for society
- Strong bonds are linked to more resilient children
- Carrying keeps families active
- associated higher breastfeeding rates
- Carried babies have less ear infections
- Improves perinatal mental health, good for everyone!
Read more (link)⠀⠀⠀
If you want to read more positive effects, read the original article here by Dr Rosie Knowles @ Carrying Matters.
Read more (Book)
If you want to know even more about babywearing, it’s history, the science and why it matters to everyone that we carry our babies.
Try Why Babywearing Matters
It’s written by Rosie, a GP who is also a bit of a babywearing community legend and I love love love this book. Well done Dr Rosie Knowles!
In many respects, the bulk of what parents need to know is as old as the sky’s are blue. There is however, a growing need to evolve with the birthing population of today.
Take the toy pictured, not quite as old as the hills but sturdy enough to pass though generations of children to my own. It’s capable of entertaining children, parents recognise it with fond memories but would it hold any relevance to a family of today with all it’s digital trappings.
I review the texts that I have trained with in with the benefit of all the learning I have done since and I am struck constantly by one glaring assumption.
These books, that many health care professionals, breastfeeding supporters and mothers alike, gleam their technical knowledge from are all based from an assumption on writiters norm being the norm. As these authors are mostly white, mostly privaiaged, there is are whole sections of our birthing population in the uk who would be poorly served by theses resources.
I think next about the services that are run, in the ways they have usually been run, with shrinking or demonishing budgets. They offer a fabulous services in many places around the UK but even some of these are closed without warning as money is needed else where.
So maybe it’s time we get out thinking caps on and we rethink the way we support families who want to breastfeed and deserve support for the entire journey of lactating.
The digital age brings many trappings but also more opportunities. Some of the underserved members of my own local community do not feel comfortable to come along to a group, but are willing to pick up the phone.
Others might send a pm on Facebook or follow an influencer on Instagram gleeming information from their peers comments.
What if we rebuilt services from the ground up and adjusted how they run to great equitable care. This is different that it being available to all, this is activity accounting for barriers to services and making it easier for these families to get the same level of care. This isn’t just a nice thing to do, but what NEEDS to happen.
I meet so many people who say they wish they knew x, y or z when their littles ones where small. If I had a time machine I would happily send the information back to them but alaalas, I do not.
Time for change
So instead I shall build my services from the ground up, adjusting for those less served whilst also utilising the technology of the age.
For me this means asking if those who can afford the fee to attend a session run by me, to pay for a second for someone who is less able to afford or access support.
It means meeting in a neutral place, where many members of my community are used to meeting. It means not asking the local health care team to join in just now. It means trying something new, probably at a cost to me, to better server the wonderful families I meet. Many of whom don’t need much, but asking your questions to someone who will listen and help can be the make or break in breastfeeding journies sometimes.
So if you are local to High Wycombe or can get here by public transport, I hope my soon coming Sunday Sessions might be start of that change.
More to come soon.
Every year, all around the world, from 1 to 7 August is World Breastfeeding Week. Individuals and organisations alike, are encouraged celebrate, collaborate and empower parents to get more families breastfeeding and for longer.
This year, I was able to bring something new to my local town and community.
For The Big Latch on & Workshops, we met at the local Library for a 2 hour session with workshops from myself, a local independent Midwife, a Doula and an early year educator to help with the children.
For good measure, we added in a Big Latch On and the result was a whole lot of love and fun. See photos and read more about it here.
Breastfeeding Myths and Questions
All of the parents in attendance where given an index card and asked to write either a myth about breastfeeding that they have heard, or a question they had and give them back to me. We then discussed the answers as a room, with input and ideas from other supporters in the room too.
It turns out, the 20 mins I allocated myself to answer the questions was woefully short. We got through a few but honestly, we could have talked about most of them for 20 mins alone. and some, many hours!
So my promise to those in the room, was that I would blog the answers to their questions (see images bellow) and share. It also turns out, that I don’t know how to do a quick answer 😉 so here is part one with more to follow soon… ish.
Part 1 questions
- Can I drink wine when feeding?
- How do I know if I have mastitis if I don’t have pink nipples of white breasts? ( I can’t see a red mark on dark skin)
- Can you REALLY make breast milk if you are adopting a newborn and haven’t had kid previously? How does it work?
- What to do when baby has tongue tie? What else about the physiology of a babies mouth can hinder breastfeeding / other issues?
I could write a separate blog on each of these questions as there is so much to say on them all. Your interests might not run so deep so I have tried to keep to the main points for each but if you want to know more, or have information/experience to share, please do get in touch!
Can I drink wine when feeding?
The guidelines on drinking alcohol in pregnancy has swung backwards and forwards over the course of the past years so I wouldn’t blame you if you where confused about if it is safe to drink Alcohol whilst breastfeeding.
The short answer is yes, you can. A glass of wine, with your family as you eat your meal is A OK. However, if you feel to drunk to parent, you are probably also too drunk to breastfeed.
Whilst not feeding, you might need to express to relive engorgement during, but you need only wait until you feel sober again to breastfeed as your blood and milk have the same levels of Alcohol in them.
Knowing this Pumping and dumping for one drink is over the top but do not just take my word for it, see bellow for the science.
Dr Jack Newman, rewound IBCLC, explores the science and he reckons the perceived rules around drinking alcohol act as a barrier to longer breastfeeding and better all round health for everyone (due to lower disease rates, not more alcohol ;)).
This Blog by UK IBCLC Philippa Pearson-Glaze is also very comprehensive.
How do I know if I have mastitis if I don’t have pink nipples of white breasts?
( I can’t see a red mark on dark skin)
This is a fabulous question and related to many questions being asked since the 2018 MBRACE report starkly pointed out the difference in perinatal mortality rates in the UK for black and brown parents. ( see link for more information).
When asked, most health care professionals and supporters will tell you the common text book answer and then look puzzled when I point out theirs and the books assumption that the lactating person is white.
The lady who wrote this question told us her story of mastitis and miss diagnosis, another mother in the room told a similar which had a hospital admission for sepsis. Everyone was shocked by the experiences they had, a few of us though, where not so surprised. That could be a whole other blog post so back to what to look for when your skin comes in a different colour that the text book, when you suspect mastitis.
You might see..
- Swollen breast due to poor/non existent drainage.
- You might notice a painful, hotter area on your breast
- You might feel a harder area, a lump but this is not always present.
- Some parents report feeling like being hit with the flu all of a sudden, others others mention vertigo and feeling dizzy.
If a milk duct is blocked, unless there is milk at the tip of the nipple, this will be only a subtle, if at all visible difference. There is often nipple pain when you press where the suspected blockage is, and a small swelling might be visible after a feed/pumping session.
Read more? Plugged Ducts and Mastitis – Kelly Mom (US IBCLC)
A book worth waiting for (2020)- I am Not your Baby Mother by Candice Brathwaite
Black Breastfeeding Week Celebration – Breaking Barriers & Uplifting Education – 1-2-1 Doula
Why are black mothers at more risk of dying? – BBC News 2019
Can you REALLY make breast milk if you are adopting a newborn and haven’t had kid previously? How does it work?
The short answer is, yes you can! Many of these parents are experts at defining their own success with a range of options and a range of amounts of milk supply reached.
As we know even a few drops, at any stage of lactation will contain thousands of immune factors. It literally is liquid gold!
Some parents will choose to offer comfort at their breast/chest and not try to induce a supply specifically, where as others will embark upon a regime of simulation and sometimes hormones before the baby is due. Just with anything in life, parents do what works for them and their family.
Sweat Pea Breastfeeding support is run by a US IBCLC, she also co-hosts a fab podcast, Breastfeeding outside the box
Breastfeeding Without Birthing: A Breastfeeding Guide for Mothers through Adoption, Surrogacy, and Other Special Circumstances – Alyssa Schnell
Where’s the Mother?: Stories from a Transgender Dad – Trevor MacDonald . A compelling read.
What to do when baby has tongue tie?
What else about the physiology of a babies mouth can hinder breastfeeding / other issues?
Breastfeeding with a Tongue Tie, is a complex subject and one that often requires specially trained individuals to diagnose and ideally ongoing skilled help to help you both re learn how to latch and attach more effectively.
All of this is best done 1:1, with a skilled helper and this is also where other physical issues (differential diagnosis) can be explored. You can read more general information in the links bellow.
Some general tips
Research and talk to other parents who have been affected too.
Many parents find the flipple or exaggerated latch helpful
Ask for help when you need it.
Tongue-tie in Babies: A Guide for Parents - Sarah Okley (IBCLC) a direct pdf download.
Tongue Tie - La Leche Leauge
Association of Tongue-tie Practitioners to find trained individuals (Link ATP)
Supporting Sucking Skills - For supporters and medically minded parents.
Flipple - Milk Meg (IBCLC)