How long have you been practicing as a midwife/IBCLC? What led you to this career?
My nursing career began in paediatrics, but I had always dreamt of being a midwife. As a young child I loved my baby dolls and if there was a real baby anywhere in sight I’d be desperate to have a cuddle. So around 24 years ago, I studied further and became a Midwife, 5 years ago a Maternal and Child Health Nurse and then around 3 years ago an IBCLC. My midwifery career has been mostly in the postnatal area, so I have had many years of supporting and guiding new mums with establishing breastfeeding.
Now having my own business, I offer in-home support to families helping them navigate the challenges that not only breastfeeding brings, but also guidance around normal patterns of newborn behaviour, and sleep and settling. I visit families with babies of all ages. As I often discuss, the scenario always changes. And with breastfeeding this is so often the case. It's pretty easy to get back on track if you reach out for support early.
I also teach baby massage, both in small groups or one on one in homes. Baby massage is a beautiful way to connect with your baby. I find that parents feel daily interactions with their baby becoming very “task” orientated, so baby massage is the perfect way to connect and enjoy time with their little one.
Covid lockdowns and reduced face to face opportunities opened a new world of online and phone support for families. This has actually been a positive in this space of Lactation Support as families are now more open to exploring support on these platforms.
What is the most common breastfeeding issue you encounter? What is your advice for overcoming the issue?
In the early days definitely tender, grazed, cracked, and damaged nipples. The answer is early support and guidance that ensures optimal positioning of both mother and baby to ensure a deep latch is achieved. Holding the baby close, chest to chest, with breasts sitting in their natural position, nipple lined up below the baby’s nose and most importantly waiting for the baby to open its mouth wide as you then forward the baby in towards the breast, supporting between the shoulder blades and NOT pushing from the baby’s head.
Antenatal breastfeeding education is also vital. Knowledge around milk supply and how the body goes from making small volumes of colostrum to larger volumes of milk as well as an understanding of hand expressing prior to birth, and normal patterns of newborn behaviour is so beneficial in those early days.
Have you heard of breast massage? Have you found it beneficial?
Breast Massage is something I talk about during every feed I observe. Either using the pads of the fingers or a handheld device such as the Lumama Breast Massager is a great way to help the milk flow towards the end of the feed as the baby becomes more relaxed and not so efficient. “Poke the breast not the baby” is what I often say! Also gentle massage whilst in the shower or bath to help relieve full breasts or blocked ducts is beneficial in preventing mastitis.
How do you help moms overcome their birthing fears?
I encourage all Mums and their partner or support person to attend an antenatal class either face to face or online. Knowledge is power! Being open and honest, and encouraging mums to talk about their concerns and previous experiences enables others to offer words of reassurance and support.
What postpartum advice do you have for moms?
Reach out for support early. There doesn’t need to be a “problem”. Reassurance and guidance in those early days and weeks, really can prevent the introduction of bottles and early weaning. You will be given lots of varying advice that can become overwhelming. Take in the information you may be given and use what works for you. Also remember the scenario always changes so when you aren’t sure, or you’re losing confidence re-access your support.