a mum of three daughters and grandma to two grandsons, who inspire me every day. I gave birth to my first daughter in 1993 as a teenage mum and knew immediately I wanted to breastfeed her. This is my story…
I had a difficult labour…
That resulted in an emergency c section and she was whisked off to the NICU but she was back with me and breastfeeding before I knew it. She just seemed to know what to do – certainly more than I did.
However, our journey was relatively straight forward and she flew up the weight charts until I was informed at six months that breastfeeding was no longer suitable for my baby. I was given details of where to take milk tokens to get formula for her. As an 18 year old, I suppose I just did as I was told. After being introduced to formula she screamed for what felt like weeks and I couldn’t understand why she was so unhappy – it was a really low time and looking back, I believe she had a milk protein intolerance.
Roll forward ten years…
My second daughter was born prematurely and again was whisked off to the NICU. She had all manner of problems breastfeeding. Once she was able to leave her incubator, she couldn’t latch; she screamed if I tried to latch her on and my anxiety used to build with every attempted feed. No one talked about skin to skin back then and cuddles weren’t encouraged. I expressed around the clock and no one told me the small amounts I was expressing were enough. I felt inadequate.. I didn’t stop trying – that’s what it felt like at the time. What happened was that I didn’t get the right support and information.
Roll forward another five years and I had my third daughter. My first baby that wasn’t whisked away. She seemed to know what to do and breastfeeding seemed to get off to a good start. Then began the painful, damaged nipples and the fall down the weight charts. I dreaded weigh in day as no one could tell me how to change it. I watched my baby become very thin. Every time I asked, if it normal for her to feed all day every day. I was told yes – but I truly meant feeding all day, 24/7. I still remember the pain of latching on and somehow managing to get through it.
I remember the feeling of her feeding from me whilst I felt just empty of milk and trying desperately to keep her content. No one around me knew how to help me or what direction to point me in. Facebook was very new back then – in fact, I joined it the week she was born but there was no such thing as online support groups. Everyone told me I had tried hard enough and maybe it was time to give up. Looking back there were so many basic changes I could have made but no one knew what to suggest. I got to six months. Somehow.
Not long after the end of my journey…
I became very ill and was subsequently diagnosed with lupus, an autoimmune disease. As part of that journey, I decided to make some changes in my life and I discovered volunteering. I trained as a volunteer doula and breastfeeding support and the light bulbs switched on. I suddenly knew why I had struggled to breastfeed and today it still breaks my heart. I decided right then that I would go on a journey to ensure the mums I came into contact with, had as much support as I could offer.
It truly takes a village
The breastfeeding support environment has improved dramatically since I had my babies – from lactation consultants in the hospital and NICU locally to The Goodwin Trust training volunteer doulas and breastfeeding supporters in the city. I like to think I complement those services as an independent lactation consultant. It truly takes a village.
The main thing I offer
The most important thing I offer is the reassurance that I will believe you if you tell me things are difficult. If you think there is a problem, I will support you to find a solution.
I hope that is what you would expect from your relationship with your lactation consultant.
you do not have to be alone.
I know you’re doing the best you can,
I believe in you,