Please tell us about you! My name is Lucy. I’m an IBCLC in private practice, covering the South West – mostly Dorset, but I’ve been known to travel as far as Taunton and The New Forest. I have 2 boys, Alfie who is 6 and Oliver is 4. I also live with my husband Mike, who is a farm worker.
What was your history before becoming an IBCLC and what made you decide to follow that path? I’m a trained Early Years practitioner and spent 15 years working in preschools and then Sure Start Children’s Centres where I ran groups and supported parents. I’m trained in baby massage, baby sign, and child psychology.
What are the biggest factors to help breastfeeding to go smoothly? I think being prepared is so important. We prepare for birth in many ways, but many people somehow expect that breastfeeding will just happen, or they think they won’t mind if it doesn’t work out…. and that can quickly change once the baby is in their arms! Classes, support groups, and evidence based, up to date books are great ways to begin to prepare for breastfeeding.
A support network is equally as important. People around who won’t suggest formula at the first hint of a problem, without hearing mum’s wishes first. I often arrive at someone’s home to find dad cooking dinner and topping up water, having organised the consult for Mum. That’s just amazing support.
What do you think of the theory that tongue ties are over diagnosed these days? I think there are some fascinating studies into this, and one which stands out to me discusses how about 50% of tongue ties actually don’t need frenotomy, but that symptoms improve drastically with skilled lactation support from someone like an IBCLC. My own experience is if I perform an oral assessment at the beginning of a consult and tell mum that I’ve noted some flags that indicate assessment by a tongue tie practitioner, we often don’t seem able to improve her pain score. If I keep my observations to myself until a little later, we can usually improve pain scores at least a little before I talk through what I noted orally. There’s also interesting research appearing around the power of cranial work instead of, or before frenotomy. We need to take tongue tie seriously, but I think it can be blamed for any breastfeeding pain instead of other causes being explored first.
Do you have any words of wisdom for those suffering aversion or DMER? Don’t even take it one feed at a time – take it one moment at a time. Your feelings are not in your head, and you are allowed to feel weird, sad or even angry during breastfeeding. It doesn’t make you less of a mother AT ALL. The website Aversion Sucks has some interesting information regarding supplements which may help, and some mums report that distraction is very helpful, especially once they understand that the feelings are short lived. Never feel bad for needing to step away for a moment – you are important.
Your very passionate about relactation, where did this come from? And what is your best advice for mums looking to relactate? This comes from my own experience! I relactated for Alfie after I stopped breastfeeding him very early on. We went on to breastfeed until he was 18 months old.
Relactation is a simple theory but the realities of life can make it really challenging. I often suggest families try to act as though there is a newborn at home again. – get in support, order pizza on a regular basis, try to let the housework slide if thaton’t drive you crazy. Find like minded parents… peer support groups are a sure fire space to find others who think you’re a total legend for even thinking about relactation!
What’s the best and worst thing about being an lBCLC? The best thing is when I’ve been working with a mum for maybe an hour and we’ve tried different things but despite mum saying “it’s better than it was…” There’s been a kind of feeling in the room that we aren’t “there” yet. Then, all of a sudden we tweak one more thing, and I watch mum visably relax – the oxytocin is tangeable and I know right there that together the 3 of us (mum, baby, and myself) have figured it all out. It’s the best feeling in the world.
And the hardest? The hardest part for me is walking into a faltering growth situation, where mum has been overly reassured by lovely, well meaning people that everything will be fine if she just keeps offering the breast. Breaking it to mum that her baby does actually need extra milk from either pumping, donation or formula can be so emotionally challenging, especially if I then need to feedback to a HCP that the situation needed more input from them than was given. It all makes me feel sad, worried for Mum and baby, and frustrated!
You provide a huge amount of support, information and guidance online for free, what’s different between this volunteer role and your role as an IBCLC? It took me a while to figure this out myself! As a volunteer, especially online, I don’t make recommendations or give instructions, but I share evidence based info I can back up if asked, and I share experiences and stories. This is because I cannot give anything personalised to one person without a full maternal and infant history, and details of a HCP I can feedback to if needed. I’m also trying to reach a more general audience online, whereas when I’m speaking with one mum on the phone or in her living room, I’m only speaking to her. We have a relationship which builds over our 90 mins or 2 hours together, she trusts me, and I know her thoughts on things like supplements, shields, pumping etc.
We have a new Milk Bank opening locally and one of our amazing hosts is facilitating potential donors from our group, what is important for these donors to know? That they are amazing, amazing people, making a massive positive difference to not only the baby receiving their milk, but the mother, and also in the future, to how that baby views breastmilk when it comes to their own children.
Why do you believe mum2mum peer support is so important? It’s essential. It’s so essential I give up my Friday afternoons to provide free mum2mum support locally. Another mum gets it. She’s in it with you. She can meet you for coffee or play dates, and text you at 3am. Deep, lifelong friendships are formed at peer support groups, based on unlimited positive regard, trust, and mutual understanding. The peer supporters who saw me through relactation were just the most incredible women. To this day I count myself very lucky to have been able to access such warmth and love.
If you could give some words of wisdom to an expectant mum what would they be? Look into antenatal expression. This is an amazing way to figure out how to express before baby arrives (It’s not a fun skill to learn at midnight while your baby screams at you.) It’s also a lovely insurance policy, as you can freeze the colostrum, and then if you are asked to top up baby in hospital, you can make sure it’s with your own milk!