Why a Lactation Consultant? This is my story.
Get a cuppa...this could take a while!
I've been asked a lot recently what made me decide to study to become a lactation consultant so I thought it was time to share my story.
Three years ago I became a mum for the first time. Our beautiful boy Jack came into our lives. Truth be told, I thought I'd get the hang of breastfeeding pretty easily. My sister had learnt a few months earlier and had no trouble. Surely I'd get the hang of it too. Well, in actual fact, I struggled. A lot. I couldn't seem to get Jack to latch well, to the point where I’d dread, (and I mean dread), every feed. My husband would say "he needs a feed" and I'd burst into tears. My breasts were battered and I was defeated.
At 3 weeks of age, Jack was thriving. Big at birth (4.2kg) and gaining weight each week, he was getting enough milk. But I was not coping.
My mum (a midwife) decided enough was enough. Mum called upon her midwife friend, also a lactation consultant, to come to our house and give some advice. She watched me breastfeed and said it would be worth getting Jack checked for tongue tie (also known as Ankyloglossia). She observed that Jack was struggling to latch due to a tight lingual frenulum (the membrane found under the centre of your tongue). She also commented that he had a very heart shaped tongue (see here for instagram video post). If these issues were addressed, all my pains, blisters, grazing and trauma associated with breastfeeding may be resolved.
I was so excited to have a plan that we contacted the obstetrician and booked an appointment. He took one look at Jack and said it was a tongue tie and cutting it today would likely resolve breastfeeding problems, lessen nipple pain and trauma.
At 3.5 weeks, Jack's tongue tie was cut. The first feed felt instantly better. Jack could latch fully and maintain the "vacuum seal" that is OH so important when breastfeeding. I can do this. For the first time in 3 weeks, I felt so empowered, reassured and ABLE to breastfeed.
What I learnt in my experience is that tongue ties + breastfeeding appears to be a very political issue. What I also learnt is that if we want to improve breastfeeding rates and truly support women to breastfeed, then we also need to listen to mum's. The trauma and pain they are experiencing when learning to breastfeed is real. Just because a baby is ‘thriving’ doesn't mean mum is.
Truth be told, if it wasn't for the lactation consultant suggesting tongue tie, I wouldn't have been able to continue breastfeeding. What I was doing was not sustainable. So I urge you - whether you are a medical professional, midwife, husband, sister, grandparent, friend - to listen to the new mum's and support them on their breastfeeding journey. Breastfeeding is not easy. It's not innate. But there is sooooooo much support out there, we just need to know where to find it.
Breastfeeding Support Services:
- Australian Breastfeeding Association https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au, including a breastfeeding hotline service
- Lactation Consultants of Australia and New Zealand https://www.lcanz.org/find-a-lactation-consultant/
- International Affiliation of Tongue Tie Professionals https://tonguetieprofessionals.org
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