An open letter to those who have supported me breastfeeding

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It’s Unicef’s National Breastfeeding Celebration Week 2017 this week and this year’s theme is breastfeeding support. I thought this would be a great opportunity to thank all the wonderful people who have supported me for the past 5.5 years that I’ve been breastfeeding my two children.

There are many people, who have either helped me, inspired me or without their support, I would not have succeeded in breastfeeding as long as I wanted to.

Those who I wouldn’t be breastfeeding without

  • Papa Ginge – he’s been 100% supportive of me at all times. He’s never complained about me breastfeeding, or for doing it to natural term weaning. He’s helped me in any way that he can. He held me when I cried when it was too much in the beginning. He listens to me complain about it when it’s getting to me. Most of all, he understands that me being frustrated with it doesn’t mean that I want to quit. I know he has my back and if I choose to continue or stop at anytime, he knows that’s my choice and his role is to support me however he can.
  • My sister – my sister was a first time breastfeeding mam to a 3 month old when I had my first child. I was utterly clueless about breastfeeding and should have been more prepared. I went to the NHS breastfeeding class which was utterly pointless and I had done some reading but I should have done so much more (like I write about here). My sister was really patient with my ignorance when I asked irritating questions like did her baby need to feed AGAIN already etc. Then, when I was in my 17 hour labour with my son, my sister was there all day and night in the hospital canteen, pacing with her infant on her breast, ready to help me if I needed it (spoiler alert – I did). When it all went wrong and the alarms went off she was there calling the midwives on the emergency button. Then, when I came out of my emergency c-section and no midwives were there to help me, it was my sister who showed me how to breastfeed and helped get my son to latch for the first time. She showed Papa Ginge how to help me too. It meant so much more it being my sister and not the midwife. In the cluster feeding weeks (of hell) following Arlo’s birth, it was my sister who listened to me cry on the phone and gave me ‘it will get better’ and ‘this is normal’ pep talks day and night. She knew how hard it could be as she had just gone through it herself and it was all still fresh in her mind. My sister is blessed with an extraordinary amount of empathy. That empathy saved me in those early days. She shared her nursing logs with me so I could be reassured by how much her daughter nursed too. I will always be grateful to her for being there for me in this way.

To my sisters online

  • Women online – those who are friends, became friends and those I don’t even know – thank you to all of you who have taken time out of your busy days to offer me advice or reassurance. Whether its been a ‘oh I’ve been there, that sucks’ or a ‘have you tried this’ – I would have been lost without your wealth of knowledge and 24/7 accessibility. When the government has systematically underfunded breastfeeding support (all while telling us that ‘breast is best’), we women have taken to the internet to make sure no woman is left behind. I give back to by commenting in these groups and trying to support any friends I can who are starting or struggling on their breastfeeding journey. Women have to be there for one another.
  • Specifically, my ‘hens’, ‘mom friends’ and ‘secret friends’ you guys have always been there for me and have inspired me. Hannah Lablans Pass – without your inspiration and support, I’m not sure I would have continued to nurse my son after I found out he had a milk allergy in 2012. You showed me by example that it was possible and you helped me on my journey. Erika Beers – for every pep talk you’ve ever given me in the depths of the night when I’ve felt desperate. You inspire me to be a better mother daily by your shining example. I want to be you when I grow up.
An open letter to those who have supported me breastfeeding...

To those who have helped me with specific problems

  • Local International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) Amanda Dunbar. Amanda works for Milk and Mums in Washington. She is not based in my area but when I was finding breastfeeding painful following the birth of my daughter she came to my home, the day after I had given birth, on a Sunday to help me. Bringing her daughter and going over and above just because she lives her life to help women breastfeed. She also came back a week or two later. She would not accept any payment from me. I’m forever in her debt, the little gifts I got her to say thank you will never be enough. If the world was full of Amanda’s it would be a goddamn utopia. She didn’t just inspire me to continue breastfeeding, she inspired me to be a better woman.
  • Dr Jack Newman and his amazing international breastfeeding centre. When I had persistent blocked ducts, mastitis and milk blisters for months with my first child and was getting nowhere with NHS support (having met with doctors, health visitors and breastfeeding counsellors for months) in this country, I emailed Dr Newman, renowned breastfeeding expert. Dr Newman (or a member of his capable team) responded to my email on a Sunday evening. We had an email exchange that helped me finally resolve the issue. His book (amazon affiliate link) is fantastic if you haven’t already read it.

To those who have supported me practically

  • To my workplace and various managers over the past 5 years who have made arrangements for me to bring my baby in to work with me, or for me to have access to a room so I can express. The work place culture and managers who have allowed me to go part-time and work flexibly making it easier for me to nurse my kids through toddlerhood. I wish every woman had these options.
  • To the NHS workers who have tried to help me. The NHS and breastfeeding support has been massively underfunded by the Tory governments over the past 7 years. Breastfeeding support is a bit of a postcode lottery and it could be WAY better. Despite all this being against you, you are doing the best with what you have. Women (usually) within the NHS are going over and above to do their best to support other women to breastfeed. I thank you and I will never stop campaigning for you to get the policies and funding that you require.
  • The shops or public areas that make accommodations to breastfeeders – keep that shit up! It’s cool AF.

To those who have inspired me

  • To every woman who has ever gone outside her comfort zone and nursed in public. Thank you for paving the way for us all, thank you for helping to normalise breastfeeding.
  • Every woman who has posted a ‘brelfie’ online. I know you don’t do this for attention, but to normalise breastfeeding. You help people to see that breastfeeding shouldn’t be hidden. Every time I see a ‘brelfie’ I feel a connection to one of my nursing sisters. I feel supported and inspired on my journey. I know you get shit about it but you do it anyway. In a formula feeding culture, you realise its necessary and importance if we are to carve out space for ourselves.

#treeoflife #normalisebreastfeeding

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I’m sure you agree that the Unicef theme of breastfeeding support for National Breastfeeding Week 2017 is such an important one. My story shows that it really does take a village. We all need support.

In part, because of the wonderful support that I have received, I vow to always support other women to breastfeed. As an experienced breastfeeder I feel its my duty. I will always nurse openly in public, I’ll post my brelfies, you will see me breastfeed on my insta stories and my vlogs. I will write about my experiences here. You will never see me leave a struggling sister behind.

I hope I’ve not forgotten anyone in this post. If I have I’m really sorry but Lena keeps distracting me with a highly irritating singing car and I’ve had about 2 hours broken sleep so you’ll have to forgive me!

Did you get enough breastfeeding support? Have others made a difference to you? How do you support others? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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4 thoughts on “An open letter to those who have supported me breastfeeding”

  1. I know our “hen house” is is quieter now then when our babes were little- but you girls kept my sanity nursing in the middle of the night!!!

  2. It sounds like you had/have an amazing support network, day and night. I think I got better NHS support while I was pregnant this time around, but I spent a lot of time on google in those first few days and weeks answering my questions!!
    You’re doing a great job helping to normalise breastfeeding, thank you x


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