As a first time expectant mum, I find the term ‘Breastfeeding’ used very carefully – often along side a string of equally carefully chosen phrases, such as ‘but you don’t have to breastfeed… bottle feeding is perfectly fine… some mums find breastfeeding difficult…’, and so on.
We chat about it in antenatal classes; have our options for feeding outlined. Most emphasis put on ‘formula feeding is ok, if you give breastfeeding a go and it doesn’t work out…’. My confidence is swaying, regarding breastfeeding.
I have the stash of formula and bottles and steriliser – which brand? Well, I base it on which one they sell most reliably in our nearest supermarket, of course. Because, what if I ‘fail’ at breastfeeding? This seems to be another phrase I hear a lot. Better be prepared, I think.
Fast forward, and baby has arrived. There is talk from my midwife of an excellent breastfeeding support group not far from me. It’s run by a retired health visitor who has dedicated years to helping breastfeeding mums. Since I made a go of breastfeeding when baby arrived several weeks ago, I’ve been working through some challenges. Husband and I googling like mad – cluster feeding? Green poo? DO THEY EVER SLEEP?
I’m keen to try out this group thing.
What do I think of when I think of a ‘support group’? Mums sitting around in a circle, needing help with feeding? Mums who don’t need help with feeding? Mums feeding? People like me? People not like me? I’m not sure what to expect. I can take my pillows, the midwife says reassuringly. I’m up for giving it a go.
To my astonishment, support comes from all directions the minute I set foot in the door. I sit down around a broad table, with my now 5 week old baby, alongside another mum. It’s calm and friendly, and welcoming.
My baby has a catastrophic poo-nami minutes after we are seated, forcing a code red nappy change into the lurid pink patterned velour baby grow (she’d never wear, hence it being the back up). A mum smiles reassuringly mid chat, and carries my change bag to the changing table for me. She’s done it all before. She holds her larger baby with ease and seems to be able to focus on helping me. I’m grateful beyond words, at this point.
Once settled again, someone brings me a cup of tea and sits biscuits in front of me. I’m given a pen and a form and kindly asked my details. My baby falls asleep in my arms, and I listen.
Mums speak of breastfeeding, of their individual experiences, of expectations,
of realities. Concerns, triumphs, more questions and more experiences. There is something I can’t put my finger on that has me going back every fortnight for more. The peer supporters are tremendous, so knowledgeable. So understanding. So open minded and calm. The mums of older babies, so wise. So caring. So encouraging. So inspiring.
Was this the true effect of support? Being amidst like minded women who support each other by being able to chat openly about something that has seemed so ‘delicate’ before?
Fast forward again, I’m a year down the line. I still attend the support group, and I watch new mums go through some challenges of their own. Some familiar by now, some not familiar at all, but I listen eagerly to the support and information given. I find I am giving support when I can relate. It feels worthwhile. My baby is big! There are mums feeding older babies. I feel inspired to feed on, it feels right.
Fast forward again, and we are in a pandemic. Face to face groups have been halted. That regular source of support cut off. The new mum at home, wondering how to get these questions answered, these concerns voiced. How to feel supported?
Zoom groups come into action first, then walking groups begin within the year, reigniting the delivery of face to face support – at a safe distance. Zoom doesn’t suit everyone, nor does online support via messages.
Walking? That sounds inviting. I’ll try it.
Accessible for anyone with a sling or buggy. No tea and biscuits brought to you, and online registration via a Facebook Messenger page.
But since restrictions have eased, there are coffee outlets near both walking venues to get that caffeine or sugar hit. (Power through, mama!).
Getting to an outdoor group could create some of that all important feeling of connection, not to mention getting out in the fresh air and space. I miss that. To feel supported with the presence of others in the same, or similar position, as me. It’s tailored to be long or short, I hear it depends on what mums want on the day.
It’s led by those amazing peer supporters: so knowledgeable, so understanding. So open minded and calm. The mums of other babies: so wise. So caring. So encouraging. So inspiring.
For more info on walking groups in Midlothian, please follow the link above to register, or send a message to ‘Midlothian Breastfeeding Support’ via the Facebook page.
Other useful links: