As part of our Saturday Stories series we wanted to try and focus on success stories as well as bad experiences, firstly to reassure ourselves and others that it isn’t all bad. Secondly, we wanted to highlight positive examples of how people’s feeding experiences can be transformed when the right help and support is there at the right time.
In both positive and negative experiences our aim is always to try and highlight what went wrong or right, and also what can be learnt that might improve feeding experiences for other families.
This week’s story is a breastfeeding journey with a very positive outcome.

My Breastfeeding Journey – From Mum A.
“I didn’t really intend to breastfeed for very long. I had heard it was hard and wanted to give it a go, try to get to 6 months but not get hung up on it if I couldn’t for whatever reason.
The staff in hospital were great at helping my little boy latch on initially but he fed constantly in the first few days. He was doing well, but I was getting very sore and very upset so my husband got nipple shields for me, however using nipple shields was affecting baby’s latch and I couldn’t get him to feed.
Help came when the midwife came out to the house and gave us practical help and support. She was really down to earth and straight to the point in addressing the problem. She just put him into position and helped him open his mouth properly to latch on. It didn’t take long but made such a huge difference. I don’t even think she realised how much she’d helped me but without her practical support it might have been too painful to continue… I went on to feed for 2 years and it was the most special experience I’ve ever had.
Local breastfeeding support groups also really opened my eyes to feeding for longer and normalising feeding in public, as well as feeding older babies.
I started going to breastfeeding support group about 6 weeks after baby was born after being told about it by the health visitor. The council run one at the Children’s Centre wasn’t running due to staff sickness so the local breastfeeding peer supporters took it on and met in the pub for coffee (decaf!) and bacon sandwiches. and we communicated via their Facebook group. Without them I’m also not sure I would have fed for so long.

Breastfeeding a Toddler

Their experiences feeding toddlers really opened my eyes. I’d never considered feeding beyond 6 months before. I also met a mum friend with a baby the same age as mine. We both ended up feeding for 2 years.
I was looking forward to breastfeeding my second child and, again, the hospital staff were great at helping position him and get him latched on straight after my Cesarean section. This time though it was as if he knew just what he was doing and as if my body remembered.
So far 10 months in its been just as wonderful and I’m grateful I’ve had such amazing experiences with both my boys.
It was such a lovely journey and I’m really passionate now about breastfeeding”.

Mindset And Miracles
I love this story and thank heavens for that visiting midwife who identified the problem and sorted it out in a calm, practical and supportive way, and also how lucky was it that the local breastfeeding support group were able to take over the health authority clinic when it closed.
It sounds like without both of these, this mother might have had a very different feeding experience.
I also love the mother’s initial mindset. She knew she wanted to try breastfeeding but wasn’t going to get hung up on it if it didn’t work out. Keeping an open mind like this is very important when planning anything to do with your birthing, feeding and parenting because nature has a way of doing its own thing and all we can do is make sure we are properly educated and prepared for all eventualities, and to be ready to adapt without feeling like a failure.

Are We Expecting Too Much From New Parents ?
This was the question I found myself asking after re reading this story.
When my mum gave birth to me it was normal practise for new mums to stay in hospital for 1-2 weeks which gave them chance to recover from the birth, but also gave them chance to get feeding sorted out.
In the case of breastfeeding, they would have had support and advice for several feeds a day, over several days. They could learn from the midwives and nurses, and the less experienced mums could learn from the more experienced mums on the ward.
They would arrive home well rested and confident in their baby care and feeding skills.

Are we expecting too much from new parents ?

Things are very different today however, with many mums being discharged the next day, or sometimes even the same day as the birth.
As well as being on an emotional roller coaster, they are often exhausted, in pain, confused and overwhelmed.
Even if every woman did receive absolutely amazing breastfeeding support whilst in hospital, is it likely, or even possible, that 2 or 3 supported feeds so soon after the birth would be enough to properly equip the parents for their breastfeeding journey ?
Could anyone in this situation take in, process and remember all the advice given ?
In an ideal world wouldn’t it be a good idea to prioritise a ‘next day home visit’ from a midwife or an Infant Feeding Advisor (an ideal job description that we would love to see instated everywhere) to help establish the parents chosen feeding method in the calm and comfort of their own home ?
In this relaxed setting, after trying feeding on their own overnight, they could ask questions, make notes, take pictures, or record their session with their midwife/feeding advisor.
This way they would get a much better start to life with their new baby, and their midwife/feeding advisor would get a much clearer picture of what the parents goals were, and what problems they might be facing in their own particular situation.

Why NHS And Local Authority Fund Allocation Needs Re-Thinking
I know something like this would require more funding but perhaps if policy makers placed useful, inclusive projects like this over and above expensive breastfeeding promotion campaigns they would have more than enough money.

Instead of doing what we have always done, maybe its time to look at the situation with fresh eyes ?
Surely it is better to redirect funds towards providing practical and consistent feeding support for everyone, rather than waste it on trying (and failing) to persuade people to aim for an unrealistic target of 6 months exclusive breastfeeding which is only possible for, and the preferred option of a minority, thus excluding and ignoring the majority of parents ?

What are your thoughts on this ? How would you like to see funding used ? What would have helped you establish breastfeeding ? What changes would you like to see ?

If you have a feeding story you would like to share, good or bad, please get in touch either in the comments, or via Messenger, or our ukfedisbest@gmail.com email address.