I’m a peer supporter with Baby Umbrella precisely because I remember the emotional and physical challenge that breastfeeding can present. I trained as a peer supporter because I wanted to play a small part in replacing the “village” that we all need when we become parents - especially breastfeeding parents. It can be a lonely place if you don’t have the right support around you. And when it goes well, it is such a joy and so rewarding so I wanted to help other mothers find their way with it.
When I had my daughter ten years ago I hoped to breastfeed but knew very little about it - I think we had one or two sessions on the subject. Only one of my NCT friends breastfed and it was a lonely journey. I struggled with bleeding nipples and a strong, painful let down but hung on in there after seeking telephone support from the National Breastfeeding helpline. I remember the terror of that first public feed - it wasn’t part of my culture back then and there were no local face-to-face support groups that I knew about. Two years later I had my first son, and was still feeding my daughter all through the pregnancy. I had a home birth with him, breastfeeding was simple (I had simply never stopped) and I have lovely memories of tandem feeding the both of them, even when I was pregnant with my third child. It was very special indeed, being able to have all three so close. By then I had trained as a peer supporter and knew much more about the art of breastfeeding and where to access help if I needed it. I was also part of a local community of women who breastfed which helped a lot. My third child was born when my eldest was 4.5 years and had just naturally weaned. My toddler stopped at the same time. I was absolutely shattered by the third pregnancy and birth and the demands of three small children. Our initial breastfeeding journey was difficult because I was still trying to do all the things I’d done before he was born, while caring for a newborn and recovering from what was for me a traumatic birth. We had also fairly recently relocated and I didn’t know many people. I had real trouble latching him comfortably, he was uncomfortable and I kept wondering why I couldn’t do it “properly” as I felt I should’ve known what I was doing by then. I did at least know enough to call on the help of a lactation consultant who visited me at home and told me to stop trying to be everything to everyone, let others help, and focus on feeding my new baby. I also spoke to Jane Gerard-Pearse on the phone who gave me sound advice about how to counteract for us both the effects of the strong IV antibiotics I had been given during the birth which were causing him intestinal discomfort. Within days, the breastfeeding issues resolved themselves and I could focus on dealing *just* with being incredibly sleep deprived and having to manage a school run for the first time with a toddler and a newborn! I’m so grateful for all the people who were supportive during that time. I’ve breastfed three kids for a cumulative total of nine years now and although I’m proud of that, it was also a team effort 😊 I love it when I can help other women find a slightly smoother path on their breastfeeding journeys.
Stories of early parenthood
One of the things parents often say when they’ve recently had a baby, and even more so when they've had a difficult journey, is why did nobody tell me that this was going to be so hard? Why did nobody tell me the truth about breastfeeding, or birth, or sleep, or the emotional transition, or the physical recovery? If I'd have known some of this, I could have prepared myself... and maybe I would have known better if something was wrong.
We'd like to start to tell some of these stories. Every story you will hear here is unique, but it can still be helpful when you’re going through a difficult experience to realise that you’re not the only person who's been through this, that someone else has been here before. That somebody else might have some thoughts about how to solve this problem, or get through it, or how to cope.
So we want to open up the floor to you all and give anyone who would like to a chance to tell their story of early parenthood - both the joyful parts and the challenges you faced. Not just the shiny story on Instagram or Facebook but the truth of the things that were beautiful and delicious and wonderful as well as the difficult things, the things you might have struggled with, the things you miss from your old life, the things you regret or you wish you'd known.
If you’d like to contribute to the series we would be really happy to hear from you. We hope you enjoy it and do let us know what you think.