There are only around 500 International Board Certified Lactation Consultants in the UK, so it’s not surprising that I hadn’t even heard of them until sometime after the birth of my second child. I have always loved my job as a Paediatric Nurse so what made me want to make such a big change and train in this little-known profession? Well, lots of things really, so I thought I’d share them with you in a blog post.
For me there was never a question on whether I would breastfeed or not. Even before I was pregnant with my first Son it was just a no brainer to me. I was fortunate enough to be around lots of breastfeeding Mums throughout my childhood and I guess that’s why, how I was to feed my baby was not even a decision that had to be made.
Lack of good quality breastfeeding support
I was also lucky to have a wonderful, straight forward home birth with my first son which got feeding off to a good start. The 2 of us did have a few hiccups along the way. His weight gain was poor and he used to projectile vomit daily. We had a lovely breastfeeding group and I was encouraged the whole way by the health visitor and midwives that ran it. But when my son was 8 months old I was diagnosed with a underactive thyroid and I started to piece together the weight gain issues with my GP. I decided at that point to slowly drop the breastfeeding and change over to formula. I had no idea about the World Health Organisation or UNICEF guidelines of breastfeeding for 2 years or beyond at this point, and actually thought that feeding beyond 6 months was pretty good going.
Looking back at that experience I so wish somebody had been able to look into his poor weight gain and vomiting with me. I also wish I had realised that it didn’t need to be all or nothing and I could have given extra milk and continued to breastfeed for as long as we had both wanted to. I wish had known just HOW amazing breast is milk for older babies and children. Because if I had sought out this information and if there was expert help nearby, I no doubt, would have wanted to continue.
Fast forward 3 years and I had 2 little boys and a had just finished feeding my 2nd Son. Our family was complete and I wanted to go ahead with surgery that I had been putting off for several years – a breast reduction. It’s hard to put into words how life changing this surgery was for me. It solved some life long health problems and although the recovery was tough with 2 small children, at the time I felt like a new person and was very happy I had had it done.
A challenging breastfeeding experience
Another year later I found myself pregnant with my 3rd child and I felt really positive about everything including our future breastfeeding relationship. I knew we may have challenging times ahead – I had read plenty in preparation to the surgery but I was still hopeful that I would have a similar experience with feeding as I had with my last 2 babies.
At this time I trained to become a Peer Supporter and volunteered at our local children’s centres helping Mum’s to breastfeed their babies.Once I started working in community breastfeeding support, it became obvious to me that good quality lactation support was still lacking in many areas. Even in a county where Mums can see a Lactation Consultant on any day of the working week, Mums were struggling to find this help and were not being referred by other professionals. I also discovered that not all families were comfortable with coming to breastfeeding groups and needed one to one support and more than 20 minutes with a Specialist . As a peer supporter I was able help Mums understand what normal breastfeeding and normal behaviours were for babies. But when it came to complex issues I didn’t have the training or knowledge to support them. .
The journey feeding my daughter was a difficult one. It was very emotional and for quite some time and I felt a failure that I couldn’t meet her nutritional needs. I fed her with a Supplementary Nurse Device from 10 days to 9 months and the highs and lows during this time would shape my outlook on life and at the same time help create a ferocious bond with my daughter . I was lucky to have support from a NHS based lactation consultant but the sessions were busy and I would have benefitted from seeing someone privately. However I couldn’t find anyone locally to help me and certainly not a specialist in feeding after breast surgery. That’s when I decided to extend my breastfeeding work and train to become an IBCLC. There clearly was a need in my area, and actually in many places throughout the world for good quality breastfeeding support.
Lack of expert knowledge
During my paediatric nurse training we received one lecture on breastfeeding, yet there were new Mums and babies learning to breastfeed on the children’s wards that I cared for every day. Paediatricians and GPs also have a very limited amount of training in breastfeeding. This has to change. But in the meantime I’m glad I can do my bit and offer my services to Mums wherever they may be.
Coming up…….. How to become an IBCLC and what we actually do!
If you want to know more about the services I offer then go to www.mammalia.co.uk
If you want to know more about local groups in Kent then go to www.kentbabymatters.org