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Guest Blog – Emma Barden the Lactavist: My journey to becoming a Breastfeeding Peer Supporter

Guest Blog – Emma Barden the Lactavist: My journey to becoming a Breastfeeding Peer Supporter

breastfeeding

This week is a wonderful guest blog from the lovely Emma proclaimed Lactivist about her breast feeding journey and how she became a peer supporter!

I never thought I would be writing a blog post about breastfeeding and my experience as a Peer Supporter; but I am! By the way I’m Emma, an APUK Facilitator, and part-time working mum to 21-month-old Tabitha. When our breastfeeding journey started may moons ago, I didn’t imagine I would still be nursing so far down the line. I didn’t even know that people breastfed past the very first few months of babyhood. I had planned to breastfeed for the first few weeks and slowly introduce formula once my supply was established, (my NCT teacher said that this would be ok), and then keep doing that for six months, when I would then switch exclusively to formula and reclaim my body, having lost all the baby-weight I was assured would fall off from nursing.

But Tabitha had other plans, she was jaundiced and we returned to hospital, where numerous midwives and breastfeeding supporters checked out her latch, offered me a hospital grade pump and a kindly nurse offered a bottle of formula to keep her going whilst we sorted ourselves out. As a first-time mum, I gladly accepted and Tabitha discovered feeding from a bottle was so much quicker and didn’t require any effort on her part.

As the days and weeks went on, the number of bottles she had gradually decreased, until one day she refused the bottle! That was when she was 3 months old – things weren’t going as I had planned. It seemed Tabitha thought my milk was super tasty and nothing else would compare; fortunately, I was enjoying the time sat snuggled on the sofa nursing my little girl. (The multiple night feed not so much.)

By the time Tabitha was approaching one, people were starting to ask when I was going to wean. Suddenly, I couldn’t see an end to our breastfeeding journey, she still seemed like my little baby and neither of us were ready to give up the special / sometimes annoying being kicked in the face moments that nursing offered. I started reading more and more about the benefits of ‘extended’ breastfeeding (or breastfeeding to term) and instinctively decided it was something I would like to attempt.

Around the same time, I moved from Buckinghamshire to Somerset and decided to set-up an Attachment Parenting group, to support like-minded caregivers (and to meet a new tribe of parents to be my friends). With this I decided to train as Breastfeeding Peer Supporter and got my own knitted boob for demonstrations.

I made a conscious decision to promote best practice, and there is no doubt that breastfeeding is the best practice when it comes to feeding our infants. (But I’m not a #BreastIsBest advocate, breastfeeding is not best, it’s just biologically normal.) On that note, I feel it is important to take the time to say that sometimes formula feeding maybe in the best interest of an individual or family, and that not all mothers / babies can breastfeed. Additionally, there are those who simply decide they don’t want to breastfeed. These mothers aren’t any less loving, intelligent or devoted to their babies, than the ones who want to make breastfeeding work; they too need to be supported in their own way. After all, all women deserve respect and choice. (Maybe there should be a #SupportedIsBest revolution!)

Whilst training as a Peer Supporter I learnt so much; from the importance of skin to skin contact, to how a newborn’s stomach grows from day 1 to day 10, from positioning and attachment to how to hand express, from the anatomy of the breast to the roles of FIL (feedback inhibitor of lactation), oxytocin and prolactin. It was reinforced that breastfeeding is so much more than food. As I read in one article “mama milk, is the elixir of love that bonds, binds, and sutures until our young outgrow its need.”
I also learnt about First Steps Nutrition, who work to ensure families have accurate and unbiased information about infant formulas, allowing them to make to make an informed decision about the formula they use; something which I feel is very important when we are all subject to marketing of follow-on milks. Which incidentally is something the WHO’s Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes works to regulate in order to ensure mothers are not discouraged from breastfeeding.

Statistics show that breastfeeding rates in the UK are the lowest in the world and that improving breastfeeding rates could save the NHS an estimated £40 million in prevented health problems. Yet if we continue to only recite the benefits of breastfeeding, rather than inform people of the risks of formula feeding, we are not allowing people to make an informed decision when it comes to how they are feeding their infants. #InformedIsBest

It is such a pity that breastfeeding is not currently the cultural norm in the UK; when there is no doubt that it is the biological norm. I want to work with others to change the cultural norm, to #NormaliseBreastfeeding and support more women to breastfeed. Too often, as in my case, formula was given as an unnecessary solution to my breastfeeding problem. No mother fails at breastfeeding – society fails mothers, making it harder for them to reach their breastfeeding goals. In most situations, ‘perceived’ breastfeeding problems can be overcome without the need of formula. All that is needed is a little bit of support!

So with this in mind, it has become my feminist ambition (as a Lactivist) to defend the motherly love of nursing and support informed decision making. I am proud to be a devoted mother, taking the time to make a normal process work for so many other mothers – it has been both rewarding and encouraging to support other mothers to have the breastfeeding journey they want.

Thank you, Emma, for your wonderful piece. To find out more about breastfeeding support contact:

Your Health Visitor who can direct you to breastfeeding clinics
Attachment Parenting UK – https://attachmentparenting.co.uk/groups/
Le Leche League – https://www.laleche.org.uk/
Association of breastfeeding Mothers – https://abm.me.uk/about-the-abm/abm-breastfeeding-support-titles-and-others-you-may-come-across/
The Breastfeeding Network – https://www.breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk/about-us/

Photo credit: Mel from Lavender and Sage photography http://www.lavenderandsagephotography.co.uk/

Guest Blog – Emma Barden the Lactavist: My journey to becoming a Breastfeeding Peer Supporter

If you have any further questions please feel free to contact us here or on 07399 405578.

Bucks and Berks Hypnobirthing delivers one-to-one and group Hypnobirthing sessions in Buckinghamshire and Berkshire.

Areas covered in Buckinghamshire include: Marlow, High Wycombe, Bourne End and Beaconsfield

Areas covered in Berkshire include: Maidenhead, Cookham, Windsor and Reading

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Bucks and Berks Hypnobirthing delivers one-to-one and group Hypnobirthing sessions in Buckinghamshire and Berkshire. Areas covered in Buckinghamshire include: Marlow, High Wycombe, Bourne End and Beaconsfield Areas covered in Berkshire include: Maidenhead, Cookham, Windsor and Reading

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