#KBBF2013: The Importance of Breastfeeding Support
As I mentioned previously, the importance of breastfeeding support seems to be debatable. As a new nursing mother, whether for the first or fifth time, having support available to the mother and baby is crucial to ensure the relationship is nurtured and healthy. Yet there is very little actual, decent provision for this support.
I know first hand how difficult and painful breastfeeding can be if something isn’t quite right. I have a fast let down, and possibly even over supply issues. My first baby was a low birth weight and my second had latch issues due to a short tongue and possible lip tie (this bit hasn’t been medically confirmed but is obvious to see from the gap in her front teeth).
With my first daughter, I worried that she wasn’t getting enough milk as she would only feed for very short bursts of around 5 minutes at a time. This went against everything I’d read and I was very worried.
I sought out help from a breastfeeding support group attached to the local hospital. The midwives in attendance weren’t very friendly and kept nagging me to wake my baby up and force her to feed when she fell asleep immediately after her usual short feed. This wasn’t possible – she was asleep and not interested in any more milk. I know now that she was getting all that she needed in those feeds, but just a bit faster than other babies do. No-one checked her latch or took any notice of the fact that she was having lots of wet and dirty nappies (we used cloth so we were certain of this!), and was steadily gaining weight, albeit at the bottom of the charts, but always following her centile.
I continued visiting different consultants and professionals but never found any advice to be helpful. My daughter continued to feed in short bursts every couple of hours and I continued to suffer from unexplained feeding pain. I breastfed her for 13 months but was glad to give up when my return to work and a 2 hour commute made it too difficult to carry on.
When I got pregnant again, I was determined to have a happier experience and had done a lot of research before she arrived. I was better informed and more confident in my approach. Things started well but then the pain set in and I was close to giving up with each agonising feed. But I was determined not to let this ruin my plans to do better this time and went along to my local Children’s Centre to speak to the lactation consultant and midwife that ran the breastfeeding group. She checked our latch, looked Bear over and gave some great advice, including a fantastic print-out on identifying feeding issues – pointing out the fast let down one as being most likely. She also queried a tongue tie and referred us to the hospital then and there and we were seen within a week. The consultant diagnosed a short tongue but no tongue tie, so there was nothing that could be done. But it was so reassuring to be getting help. With practice, and continued support at the group, we made it through and I began to actually enjoy breastfeeding at last.
Not long after this, the midwife began running a baby massage group which then carried on into the breastfeeding group. It was wonderful. Everyone would stay on afterwards and we’d eat cake, drink juice and just chat about our babies. It was a very inclusive group and despite officially being a breastfeeding group, non breastfeeding women were welcomed too. It was here that I heard some of the horror stories that had led to mums that had wanted to breastfeed giving up and having to resort to formula feeding. The midwife that led the group was wonderful and never sought to judge anyone on their choices or reasons for not breastfeeding, but gently went out of her way to educate us all on the wonders of breastfeeding.
As a result of this wonderful experience, I went on to become a breastfeeding peer supporter and am still nursing my nearly 23 month old now. I am so thankful for the support I got by going to that group and I believe that it should be the norm, not just luck. I have a meeting in a couple of weeks with my fellow peer supporters and hope that I can continue to provide support to local mums in this role for the foreseeable future. I really do believe in the importance of breastfeeding support, especially now we are less likely to have extended families around us to give the support that would have been provided to previous generations.
If you haven’t already found a group that gives you support, then keep hunting. There are many different types, even a breakaway from a baby and toddler group can work. Or why not set up your own group – with Facebook and Twitter, it’s easy to share meeting times and places and is a wonderful way to meet other mums and babies.
This post is part of the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt.
Here are some more bloggers involved in the Scavenger Hunt:
And these are some of the companies that support breastfeeding: