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?
& interplay with religion.
I found this set of videos so interesting, most of this is relevant to many modern parents entering parenthood.
What was new to me, as a non-religious person, was to hear more about the interplay with depression & religious beliefs/culture (This is the best terminology I have for this, please tell me if there is a better phrase).
It makes me think of the complexity of others lives, when sat with my helping hats on, and the invisible lines of thoughts, we don’t know about..
I hope it is interesting to some of you too.
Real mums talking about real postnatal depression, it affects so many of us.
Ps. If you can get to Slough, UK @cafemamaslough
is incredible support with Amelie & Muslim mamas 💞
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..
Except, about breastfeeding and human lactation, there really really is.
When I am seen carrying around my text books, whilst I study for the IBCLC certification exam, and I am asked all the time why there is so much to know about breastfeeding.
You just pop your baby on and hay presto right?
Not quite, and when the collective wisdom does not include breastfeeding, parents, (including me), have to seek those who do know.
The other day, I poped on an old music album I loved as a young person and I was singing away with the exact lyrics some 15 years later without missing a beat.
In places where breastfeeding is 100% normalised, this is how it is for the breastfeeding dyad. There is no need to read, consult and be confused about the ins and outs of there normal course of breastfeeding because it is lived, seen and known in all corners of life. The questions don’t even form, its just normal.
New baby feeds for hours in an evening? Normal.
Baby feeding little and often in a heatwave? Normal.
Breastfeeding in public? Normal.
So then, much like my intermediate knowledge of Steps songs, the breastfeeding wisdom is there, ready to be applied quietly in your mind and that worried phone call to a helpline never even occurs.
Your post person, as much as your aunt is able to speak from experience and offer helpful suggestions.
This is not how it is for many parents in the UK.
We have lost this wisdom and breastfeeding is a forgin thing to many people.
It means pareents are scared to meet their babies needs, children are growing up unsure how babies are fed and all the while pregnant familes are cramming all they can into their lives before the baby comes.
In a perfect world, we’d all know about the basics of breastfeeding long before pregnancy.. but we don’t so until then we need parents supporting parents, skilled breastfeeding supporters and breastfeeding specialists.
And if you want to do thing about this gap in your own experiences, why not see if there is an antenatal breastfeeding workshop like mine, near you?
And if you are in High Wycombe and want a friendly face to answer your breastfeeding questions, PM me to find out how to work 1:1 with me.
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.
Can you do it? Yes you can! This episode and links aim to empower you, get in touch if you want to explore your options further or share your experiences 🙂
Unicef – beyond 12 months
Kellymom – milk components beyond 12 months
La Leche Leauge – breastfeeding and working
More information about your working rights from Maternity Action (not ACAS)
Direct link – on Anchor / Anchor app
This blog is born out of the conversations I have had / seen about about Black Breastfeeding Week in September 2019.
If you have thoughts like these, read on.
- Black breastfeeding week is a USA thing.
- I support everyone who seeks my support.
- I do enough, this week does not apply to me.
It is uncomfortable
If you meet me in real life, or online, you will know I am willing to have the uncomfortable conversations and as such, I have had requests for resources from others like me, who want to work through the issues around undeserved populations and parenting / breastfeeding support in the UK.
I do not write this blog to stoke my own ego ( although it is cathartic!), I write it to share things that helped me on my journey of self discovery so far. Please do share with me what helps you on yours, let us learn together and change the unacceptable.
From the beginning
Familiarize your self why black breastfeeding week has come to the UK.
Bais (see video) needs active self reflection to unpack – this is NORMAL and a continuous process & takes time.
Understand the lack of representation in supporters affects us all, from the angle of the text books to the ‘accepted wisdom’ of breastfeeding support.
Now, if you are ready, read on.
Last year, the first UK black breastfeeding week caught my attention. I was transfixed but unsure of it’s relevance to me, confused by what it all meant and still wrapped comfortably in my own privilege.
I read blogs about why black breastfeeding week was coming to the UK and I felt unsure what I could do to effect the change needed. I started conversations that met walls. I retreated, for a while.
Roll forward to the 2018 MBRACE report, and I was firstly aghast at the statistics before us. Black women where 5 times more likely to die in the perinatal period than white women, and for no obvious reason.
I repeated steps above, hit walls and retreated again. As time passed, I became confused by the lack of public outrage. I saw more voices in the circles I enhabit, talking louder and louder about bias, racial in equality and it just couldn’t keep it in along longer.
It became clear to me that I needed to know more and so began my own personal journey into the world of my own bias, privilege as a white, middle class, woman in the UK.
In April, I poured my energy into a poster about bias, I took it to a a place with many breastfeeding supporters and I met silence. I cannot know what this means, but I assume that it means, they where not ready to do the work. You can see the poster in its full glory, by downloading it bellow.
Maybe now you are a bit further along and think..
- I don’t know where to begin
- I want to fix this
Here are some things I found helpful and you might want to look at ;
Blog – a 2019 piece, with lots to think on. Good if you feel you need to ACT NOW.
Dear white women are you behind whats suppressing black breastfeeding rates by Kimberly Seals Allers
Food for thought
Why people of color need spaces without white people by Kelsey Blackwell
Work book – Unpacking White Privilege in her book (formally downloadable workbook) – Me and White Supremacy by Laya F Saad
Book/ Audio Book – Fabulous book about the UK perspective of being a person of color, in the UK Why I am no longer talking to white people about race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
In person events
Attend a Black Breastfeeding Week event near you, this one is streaming online for £5 tomorrow !
One to wait for…
I am Not your Baby Mother by Candice Brathwaite
To sum up…
When we stop and examine our own behaviors, we can check ourselves having different expectations of and reactions to people who do not look like us. It is unethical, once a harmful practice or action has been pointed out to us, to continue to act in the same wayTessa Clark April 2019
Social Media accounts to follow..
Nov Reid – Anti Racism speaker
Abuela Doula – Doula trainer for BAME familes
1-2-1 Doula – Doula, educator, running BBW 2919 in London
Podcast episode 3
Supporting loved one in their own feeding journey can be emotional.
It can be hard.
Sometimes your passion for breastfeeding can even backfire.
In this episode I discuss my 3 top tips for doing the best by you and the other parent.
1. Listen – Listen and listen again.
2. Love – nurture the mother.
3. Empower – with reputable information and support.
Stream online @ Anchor