What led you to become a lactation counselor?
I have been supporting families with infant feeding as a pediatric nurse for over 20 years now. My passion for breastfeeding grew when I became a Mother to my 2 eldest and I volunteered as a Breastfeeding Peer Supporter in my local children's centre. After having a tricky time with feeding my 3rd, I felt inspired to become an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and studied hard for the next few years whilst providing breastfeeding support in my local community. It wasn't easy training to become an IBCLC, but in 2015 I qualified and set up The Mindful Breastfeeding School, providing unique breastfeeding support and education to both parents and professionals.
Tell us about your own breastfeeding journey?
With my 2 eldest, breastfeeding was fairly straightforward. Although we did experience common issues like oversupply and mastitis, for the most part, it was enjoyable and such a wonderful way to parent. It wasn't until my daughter was born that I discovered how very hard breastfeeding can be for some. Not having enough milk for my daughter was extremely hard on me emotionally, but luckily for me, I was surrounded by support. Although I was never able to provide all the milk that my daughter needed myself, our breastfeeding relationship continued for 2.5 years. What I learned from that experience was that our emotional well-being is so important as new parents, and especially important when things are going badly. Having a low supply also taught me about how important the mind and body connection is when it comes to breastfeeding.
What advice would you give to a mom beginning her breastfeeding journey?
Breastfeeding is natural but still a learned skill. Give you and your baby time to get it right. The more that you can prioritise it in the early weeks, the more flexibility it will give you later on. Ask others to look after you so that you can focus on feeding and don't wait to seek out good quality breastfeeding support if you are struggling at all. Using relaxation and mindfulness tools can make a huge difference to your experience both physiologically and emotionally. Just putting aside 10 minutes a day to focus on relaxing your mind and body can have a big impact. If you'd like to know more about how to use Mindful Breastfeeding to have a more calm and connected feeding experience, my book, The Mindful Breastfeeding Book, is available worldwide from Amazon.
What is one of the most common struggles you see moms go through in their breastfeeding journey?
One of the biggest struggles I see is that new Mothers lack trust in themselves and their body to feed their baby. The early days and weeks can be a time of high stress, uncertainty, and sometimes pain whilst Mother and babies are both learning. Getting support around how to latch a baby on deeply can help a huge amount - we often don't have personal experience as new Mothers, of what breastfeeding REALLY looks like until we try it ourselves! Having someone show you how and reassure you about what is going well can make all the difference.
Are you familiar with breast massage? Have you found it to be a helpful tool?
It's been 8 years since I was breastfeeding a little one so massagers weren't really around. However, I do have some private clients who find them useful for blockages.
You can find Anna on Instagram at @mindfulbreastfeedingcoach where she provides so many resources for moms and courses and information for Lactation Support Specialists.
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