My breastfeeding journey began in 2013 when I had my first child. I was young, living in an area of outer London where I had no friends or family, with only my husband for support. I was the first in both my and my husband’s family to breastfeed, so when I started having difficulties, everyone’s advice was to “just give him the bottle”. I spoke to both my health visitor and my GP, and eventually the health visiting team referred me to one of their breastfeeding specialists. Unfortunately, the person I saw had no more breastfeeding knowledge than I did and the GP thought projectile vomiting and weight loss was normal for a 10 week old baby! So I turned to an online parenting forum for advice. Someone recommended specialist formula which seemed to work, but I found combination feeding really confusing, and coupled with a lack of support and knowledge around expressing, my breastfeeding journey ended at 12 weeks postpartum when I started using formula full time. Nothing made me happier than seeing my baby finally gaining lots of weight, but the whole experience was distressing and mentally scarred me, leaving me with a lot of guilt and an overall feeling of being very useless.
My second experience was much happier, not only because I was able to feed for over two years, but because I felt confident in breastfeeding. I had moved to Sevenoaks by now, and made an amazing network of fellow parent friends. Almost everyone was breastfeeding children of various ages, and we met up multiple times a week to offer each other moral support and a friendly face after a tough night. Having a ‘village’ of parents in the same position as me was invaluable and made my breastfeeding experience much more enjoyable.
My third and final child was another entirely different experience. He was born during the pandemic, and the only opportunity I had to socialise in person outside of my household was a weekly walk with my sister-in-law. I had joined a baby activity group and that had paused after 2 sessions due to lockdown. That’s when I found out that Baby Umbrella were offering zoom social groups and I enjoyed joining a couple of meetings, although I did miss the face to face contact.
I had to stop breastfeeding my third child at one year old in order to go on medication for MS. The emotional detachment was much harder at that age than any other I’d experienced, for both my baby and me - even with a gradual withdrawal. It was around this time I decided to become a postnatal doula as well as train as a Breastfeeding Peer Supporter with Baby Umbrella.
I am a yoga teacher but struggle to teach classes around the children at the moment, and I wanted to provide the support that I wish I’d had with all three of my children. Becoming a postnatal doula offered me all of the things I enjoy, cooking for people, cuddling babies, and providing emotional and informational support.
I really enjoy volunteering as a Breastfeeding Peer Supporter through Baby Umbrella too. Having found my village after my second child and knowing how much I struggled without breastfeeding support and without a village myself, I wanted to be able to give other parents the help that I missed out on. I love meeting all the new parents and squidgy babies that come through the support groups, I love giving parents the opportunity to just chill with a cuppa and homemade brownie, and most of all I love seeing connections being made.
Training to become a peer supporter can support so many other career choices, just like my doula work, and has made me evaluate what my career path will be. I’ve just completed a pregnancy and postnatal yoga training course, and look forward to supporting pregnant parents and parents in the postpartum period, complemented by my ongoing learning in breastfeeding peer support.
@edenpostnatal on Facebook and Instagram
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.
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 our stories of early parenthood we would be really happy to hear from you. Please email or message us and we would be delighted to hear from you.
We hope you enjoy the series and do let us know what you think.