I hear the breath catch in your throat, of course, it is you think! ⠀
But is it? I ask you.⠀
You’ve read it in all the online info you accessed for your own #breastfeeding journey. ⠀
You’ve read it in all the textbooks you used to study to help lactating parents. ⠀
Yet this diagnostic indictor (redness) doesn’t work for everyone. ⠀
For a large group of people, it’s unhelpful and even damaging to their health. ⠀
The reason why is ‘text book’ version of mastitis centres the experience of lighter skin tones. ⠀
When those supporting parents with feeding difficulties, focus on signs of redness to assess for mastitis, parents with darker skin tones are at a disadvantage. ⠀
More universal indicators of mastitis are heat, soreness, localised swelling that is often hard, & generally feeling unwell.⠀
Now you know, what other things might you need to double-check are universal?
Honestly, with 5 years to think about reaching my goal to become an IBCLC, this bit has
taken me by surprise!
I studied for hours on end on the many permutations of human lactation, but I didn’t consciously think about the world of business that I was joining!
A world of marketing, adverting and business ideas. This didn’t feature too heavily at all on my mind!
I know I am not alone in this, there are an ever growing number of women in business who are finding this all out by themselves.
But we don’t have to do this alone.
An IBCLC friend and I have teamed up to start a new Facebook group, for IBCLC’s to figure this stuff out together. Maybe one of us who understands Instagram, doesn’t get twitter, or someone has a local referral network set up but doesn’t get how to use Canva.
because supporting those in need whilst also navigating the world of business, doesn’t have to be a lonely place!
Last week, I was talking with a friend and human I admire, about their internal wobbles surrounding sitting the Lactation Consultant exam. As I only sat the exam in October 2019, I remember these feelings well, right here, in the pit of my stomach.
During our chat, the title of the blog appeared in my brain. I told her, this is literally a job we have given ourselves.
Both of us have come from the voluntary sector, intending to help families within their own homes, under our own names. That means, there is no external validation available via a job interview or offer letter of a job.
We are literately crafting our own jobs, and then giving them to ourselves. Its no wonder then, that even at the different stages we are in, impostor syndrome strikes us both daily.
Time has flown..
So its been a while since I have released a blog as honestly, since becoming and IBCLC, I have been a little over whelmed with all the things. Impostor Syndrome has hit hard and my writing has mostly been too personal to share.
I realise now, all the time I had waiting for the IBCLC results, I could have been doing some of the things I am doing now. But I did not. Because a small part of me expected failure.
Thursday is admin time
This brings us to the present, where I am sat, in my favorite spot in the local University Library, designing my own customized paperwork, & it strikes me how this is my favorite time of the week and I wanted to share it with you.
There is a serious lack of support out there for new Lactation Consultants within the UK.
I honestly didn’t realise the realities of giving my self and job and not having daily company of coworkers and seniors to look to for examples and guidance.
In the USA there is lots of support but many, like me, find their brains zoning about when this talks about insurance pay outs an regulations that don’t translate into UK law.
This got me thinking about the people who send me messages, have you got a second Tessa?
Out of habit, and often friendship, its a yes, let me get the kids distracted and ill call you.
I started tracking these calls, making notes and what I see is no surprise to me. These people not only benefit from being listened to, just like the parents they support, but they need it. not just once, but often. I speak to approx 2 people a week who want this from me, and I seek it from others just as often!
We don’t need a spangly, industry leading experts to have their feelings and concerns heard. We don’t even need someone in the same exact industry, but what we do need is someone a step or two ahead of us in the same journey.
Someone who gets the whole package, of being your own boss.
If you want to know more of the when, how and why you might want to, check out this link from an NHS trust (direct PDF download).
Here are some tried and tested tips for you..
Get the oxytocin flowing
stroke, relax, time your time and roll fingers towards the nipple. Light touch, like a stoke, not like a hard massage, is what helps the hormones trigger the milk to flow. Sometimes experimenting in the shower helps, or a warm relaxing bath.
You can collect the drops on a clean surface like a tea spoon! Then transfer in small amounts to syringes if keeping.
You can freeze these with a label showing date & your name. If later used within a hospital setting, this very helpful to all.
Take your time
It’s not a race, take your time working out what works and doesn’t for you.
What you get during these sessions, is not an indicator of your future milk supply.
A skill in your tool kit
Many a parent struggles with the technical side of this, it is a skill. Practicing this now means if you are engorged, you already have the technique down. Feel like mastitis is coming on? You already know just how and where to stoke and massage to get your milk flowing.
You got this 😉
Update March 2020 – many of these organisations will have an online offering, do still get in touch whilst physical groups are closed
NHS please ask your midwife/health visitor for the most up to date clinics. The flyers on this link are nessiasrily the most up to date. I will upload more as I get them 🙂
Run by Breastfeeding Counselors (free)
Weekly drop in alongside HV weigh in clinic(BFN, Maidenhead)
Run by IBCLC’s (free)
Tongue tie assessment appointments
Luci Lishman (Chiltern Partnership, Princes Risborough)
Thursday, Weekly drop in
Julie Carden (Carmenta Life, Berkhamsted)
Weekly drop in
Sarah March (Lotus Midwife, Eaton)
Monthly drop in
Tessa Clark (Beyond Babyhood, High Wycombe)
Parenting support groups (free)
Run by bump & baby businesses
The Positive Birth Group
Volunteers (PBM, High Wycombe Birth Centre)
The No Sleep Club
run by a midwife (Prestwood near Great Missingdon – The Village Midwife)
also a WhatsApp group
run by hypnobirthing teacher & Pilates teacher (Amersham – Local partnership)
Sling & Cloth Nappy Libraries
Trained babywearing consultants – (Across bucks )
NCT Bumps & babies
Run by an Antenatal teacher – Hazlemere
👇Being edited 👇
I’m adding new bits here that might not look so pretty 🙂
Want to keep in touch?
I learnt the hard way round.
On these squares, you can be forgiven for thinking life is rosey in others worlds. It’s not common for health care professionals to share their personal stories, and I am calling time on that!
Breastfeeding my children was the hardest thing I have EVER done! I didn’t even know what an IBCLC was before I desperately booked one. It as been a long bloody (literally!) road.
I was suspicious of the diagnosis of a tongue tie as a way to make money off of me and yet, I found the money and I booked that appointment that honestly, changed our lives.
Roll around to the next baby and I had many supporters on speeddail and my only regret was not reaching further into my pocket to get that home visit. Instead, I packed my 24 hour old baby up for a 3 hour round trip to see the IBCLC I knew and trusted with another tongue tied baby.
Most of my investing in endless study days, conferences and even training to be an IBCLC, have been to unpick ALL of the issues we experienced as a breastfeeding family. It has been hard. It has been emotional but it has been worth every tear if I can help YOU shed one less that I did.
I will be there, in your home if you need me. I will take a payment plan, I will find child care for my home educated children so I can come, I will stand in your corner as you fight hard to achieve your #goals
You are fierce, you deserve support that recognises that.
And this is why I do what I do.
#breastfeeding # support #motivation #journey #life #lessons #investment #wortheverypenny #makeingchange #diversityininfantfeeding
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)
#1 thing parents of many babies misunderstand (inc some health professionals).
😭crying😭 is the last hunger cue, and consistently missing it can affect your milk supply.
If you wait for crying or consistently settle a baby in a way other than breastfeeding them (dummies, rocking, slings), the supply and demand system gets disrupted.
Less milk removed = signals to make less milk = problems!
It’s not uncommon to meet mothers with plugged ducts, mastitis who have fallen into this trap.
You can’t over feed breastfed babies!
If you are avoiding feeds due to cracked, sore nipples, it’s time for face to face skilled help. Most problems can be helped if not fixed with attention to positioning and attachment alone.
Or feeling touched out? Find someone to talk to, there is always a new #breastfeedingsolotion to try out 🙂
#beyondbabyhood The hunger cues get a bit more obvious, with tapping breasts, all the way to shouting ‘BOOBIES’ in the supermarket.
How does your little (or not so little) one tell you that they are ready for milk? I’d love to know 🙂
Here are my top 6 sleep resources, good for parents and professionals alike.
I use these often and found many of them helpful personally too. Is your favourite here?
Reasons why night waking is the biological norm by LLL Greast Britain
Baby Sleep Information Scource (BASIS) –
This website presents research evidence about biologically normal sleep for human babies.
Why your baby’s sleep matters by Sarah Ockwell-Smith
A pocket sized, both filled with research and real stories to empower and erasure you.
Sweet Sleep by LLLi
How to get more sleep, safely, what ever stage you are at.
Holistic Sleep Coaching by Lyndsey Hookway
Alternatives to sleep training, aimed at supporters.
Boobin’ all nigh, boobin’ all day by Meg Negal
Normaling nightime patenting from the Milk Meg.
Once we’ve agreed upon a date and time, I’ll send you a previsit questionnaire. This makes sure I know a bit about you before I come also helps us both plan what we are going to cover.
We start in your home, where you are comfortable and sessions last between 1-2 hours.
I’ll bring my bags with resources and slings with me and we’ll use which ever one’s seem to fit your situation.
Often support people are around too, to share in learning and support you.
But what do you actually DO?
Are you are wondering what just can you cover in a session with me?
What am are you going to get from it?
How is it really different to what is available for free locally?
No, you are not failing at this. Yes it is this hard and yes it will get easier (eventually).
Every family I help, get’s to tell their story. The highs, the lows and somehow the deepest darkest fears about parenting always make their way to the surface. This is a result of my honed listening skills and experience and training. Many of us rarely experience the true gift of being listened too, with out judgement or suggestion. Often, parents I work with discover the answers they need, where already inside of them!
The complex mix of hormones during the first months of parenthood, literally compel you to seek support and find the answers to your problems but many of us do not find the skilled support they need and its not uncommon to feel confused and conflicted by all the conflicting information presented to us by loved ones and professionals.
You might be feeling lost, overwhelmed or struggling to cope with the intensity of your baby/child’s needs. What ever their age, what ever led you to me, I shall meet you with love and work with you to honor your unique situation.
You might feel like no one has ever experienced your problems, or can understand the complexity of your scenario. It’s quite normal to feel this way and I would say that it is unlikely that there aren’t familiar themes within them that I have come across before.
I will say that every family I work with do teach me something new, sometimes this might be reaching medical conditions but often it related to the wonder of the human spirit and the resilience of families.
I am not an expert in anything, not even myself! But I am a specialist, I have read many books, studied for many hours so that you do not have too. I can give you a short cut to the answers you seek, and suggest ideas you might not have come across before.
Sometimes I might need to seek further answers from others, this is the wonder of being a chatty person with a huge network of other breastfeeding supporters to ask. Either way, you will never hear me say, I don’t know, I give up. If you chose to work with me, I will help you find the answers you seek, beyond babyhood.
Many parents feel a bit abandoned after the intense monitoring and supervision during their entry to parenthood. Breastfeeding support services are often targeted at newborns and it can leave you a bit lost.
I remember the loss of intense support so hard, especially when I felt most in need. So my services are different. Not only can I help you with problems you are experiencing now, we can stay in touch for as long as you need too, beyond babyhood.
If you sign up for one of the packages, you can join a clients only Whatsap group and The Quintessential package has monthly video meetings and you can keep on accessing skilled support alongside other parents who share a similar determination as you.
See also Babywearing Consultation
Antenatal breastfeeding preparation
Stretchy Wrap with newborns
Newborn breastfeeding support
Complex breastfeeding challenges
Introduction to slings
Troubleshooting your own slings
Refusal to breastfeed
Return to work
Toddlers and food
Night time parenting
Woven wrap skills
Preparing for Adoption
Debriefing breastfeeding experiences
and much more