Saturday, 26 May 2012

What Women Want

When I started as a Breastfeeding Counsellor, I used to cram as many things as I could into my antenatal classes.

A year later and some more direct experience supporting brand new mothers in their early breastfeeding experience and I find my classes to be a bit different.

I used to go to great pains to tell parents how they could do it properly, not quite step by step, but almost. I'd justify this approach by thinking about how I would have appreciated the information before I breastfed my first child.

It took being on a postnatal ward with a brand new mother with an hours old newborn to remind me in exquisite shock just what it is like to be a new mother. It took me right back and I started to think long and hard about just how I felt in those first 24 hours. Morphine induced haze aside, when the mist started to clear, I was overwhelmed with the enormity of the task ahead and the minute and beautiful creature in my arms.

The realisation that all the information I'd been given before birth about the future... about labour, birth itself, the postnatal period... are all fairly abstract concepts because nothing really, nothing truly prepares you for what motherhood brings you.

So these days I have stripped back the instruction manual.

1. Milk supply is still there - one of the keys of success. Basic economics - the more you feed, the more milk you will have.
Also - newborns have tiny tums! Colostrum in its tiny amounts is perfect!

2. Your baby has natural instincts to help him/her to breastfeed - learn to recognise and 'use' them. They are called infant feeding cues. Given the opportunity, a baby can self attach.
Also - Glean confidence from this knowledge - its a pairing, you're not on your own

3. Cuddle your baby - Skin to skin at birth and then continue facing your baby while feeding - aka tummy to mummy. Nice and close
Also - Baby needs a wide open mouth - nose to nipple will help to trigger this

4. Support is paramount - Partners, friends, family, HCPs? Who is it that you derive the most support from? Who cares about you?
Also - this is certainly not limited to the babys biological father

5. What if its not working? Many people have heard of Thrush, Mastitis and other pain - how do you deal with these?
Also - many of the problems come back to a latch issue

In a 2.5 hour class thats about half an hour to deal with each section. Is 2.5 hours even nearly enough to re-write the cultural norms of Britain? I do sometimes get the distinct impression that if some people could get their antenatal education in a Twitter party then they would. People want snippits, little nuggets they can file away. But they also want it all.

So welcome to the world of breastfeeding counselling, the daily balance of what we think parents need to know, what we think parents want to know, what parents tell us they want to know, what we wish we had known, our hopes, their fears, joys, anxieties and the heady priviledge of being involved in this extraordinary part of a new mothers life.