Was that a diagnosis I heard?!

I’ve heard a few people getting quite hot under the collar because individuals are “diagnosing” conditions in mothers and babies who are just not qualified to do so.  But I can’t help wondering – are those people really making a diagnosis or are they just talking openly to parents about a variety of situations and conditions before suggesting that they visit a GP or other medical professional to get a diagnosis?

Imagine you are a stressed/tired/anxious (all of the above) parent of a baby and things are just not going well.  You visit your well-child provider, peer supporter, LLL group, breastfeeding counsellor, a n other person, and talk about what’s going on.  They listen well, they encourage you to explore how you are feeling, what’s happening now, what happened prior to the current situation, they show empathy and understanding of how you are feeling, they discuss things that could be going on with you and/or your baby, and suggest you go to your GP/other medical professional to find out one way or the other if a particular condition exists.

So, you go away feeling relieved that it’s not all in your head or because you are doing something wrong.  You visit your GP/medical professional and they say “oh yes, that thing you discussed with that person – yes, that’s what’s happening, we can fix that”.

Yay!  Someone who listened suggested a couple of things to you and that enabled you to have a discussion with a medical professional about the situation, who then pinpointed the problem and helped you fix it.  Thank goodness that lovely person who helped you first could tell you what was wrong… thank goodness they were able to diagnose the colic/reflux/thrush/vasospasm/tongue tie/lip tie/food intolerance etc….

But they didn’t actually diagnose anything.  They listened, they discussed options, they gave you some space to air your concerns and talked about the things that can sometimes happen.

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard a parent say “but they told me I have to do xxx, and it’s not working” or “she said that my baby should be sleeping xx hours/feeding xx times/putting on xx grams…”

We humans sometimes hear things in a way that wasn’t intended when it was said.  Sometimes that’s due to poor communication skills and sometimes because different words mean different things to different people.  Most people try to clarify understanding when they are working with parents, but even then there can still be misunderstanding.

Next time you hear or think someone diagnosed something when they shouldn’t have done – maybe they didn’t.  If, like me, you are working with mothers, remember that what you say isn’t always what is heard… and accept that sometimes you can’t do anything about that, but be aware and just keep trying… I try to remind myself often, but I bet I often get it wrong too 🙂

This is a fabulous article written by Diane Wiessinger in 1996.  It’s all about the language used in relation to breastfeeding – Watch Your Language



Holidays interrupting breastfeeding?

As the holidays start and visitors arrive many people find their normal “routine” goes out the window and you seem to spend time rushing around after everyone else more than usual.  It’s easy with all the festivities and visitors to attend to, to find that you just don’t have as much time to sit down with your baby/child to cuddle and breastfeed as you would normally.  It’s often a time when children don’t behave in the way the would do at any other time of year and older babies especially, get very distracted by all the interesting activity around them.

Most babies will breastfeed beyond a year old; if a baby suddenly stops breastfeeding before a year old it is quite likely to be a “nursing strike”.  A nursing strike doesn’t mean your baby necessarily wants to stop breastfeeding but it does mean something has got in the way of, or made him want to stop breastfeeding right now.  Sometimes it’s not possible to ever find out exactly what caused it, but time and patience will often solve it.  It might be a sore ear, stuffy nose or something else physical that is making breastfeeding uncomfortable, or it might just be that there are so many distractions and delays in breastfeeding for a couple of days that your baby just stops asking.

So what can you do if it happens?  Well, as this most often happens to babies from 7 months upwards, there is no rush to replace the lack of breastfeeding with lots of other drinks and foods – your baby is probably quite a strong little thing by now and eating some solids.  You can express your milk and give it to him in a cup if he wants it – expressing will also help to maintain your milk supply and prevent engorgement, blocked ducts etc.  Avoid bottles and pacifiers though as these will just satisfy the urge to suck with something other than your breast.  Some mother’s find that trying to feed when their baby is sleepy or drowsy works, others find feeding in the bath, while standing or rocking, trying a totally different position than your baby is used to, and sometimes just leaving it for a day or two so there is less tension and anxiety around breastfeeding.  Usually after a few days, but sometimes as long as a couple of weeks, things return to normal for no apparent reason.

Young babies don’t enjoy being passed around from one person to another but it can be difficult to deter excited family and friends.  Using a wrap or sling is an easy way to keep your baby close and calm during these times, and means that your baby can remain peaceful and relaxed… feeding in a room where there are less people can be useful too.  You might feel more relaxed and your baby is less likely to be distracted.  Young babies are so beautiful that people just can’t resist touching them but it is very distracting for a baby to have his or her head touched – especially when they are feeding.

There is very little food that is banned now your baby has been born, but if you have concerns over your supply it might be best to avoid too much sage or peppermint as both are reported to reduce supply in some women.  Alcohol can suppress the milk letdown reflex and make baby’s sleepy so best avoided if possible.

Finding time out for peace and quiet with your little one can be hard though at this time of year, and can lead to frustration and worry.  Over the holidays most organisations are closed so don’t forget to check out where your local La Leche League leaders are.  You can also check whether there are Peer Counsellors in your area, national breastfeeding helplines and lactation consultants.  There’s nothing worse than feeling you are on your own with a problem and there is no one available to listen or help… and sometimes the “help” and “advice” from visiting relatives and friends is, well, unhelpful :-)

The Breast Room specialists are available all through Christmas and the new year holidays.  You can find their details on Facebook  You can contact them on or 027 476 1339.

Happy Holidays every one!  🙂

Peer Counsellors

One of the things I have been involved in this year is training Breastfeeding Peer Counsellors for HEHA (

Peer Counsellors are trained to support women in their community during the “normal” course of breastfeeding.  There are lots of people you can contact to help you with breastfeeding:  Lactation Consultants (worldwide), Plunket (in New Zealand), your midwife, various charities such as La Leche League (worldwide) and NCT (England) and other medical and health professionals, but talking to another mum who has been where you are, had the same concerns and worries, understands how tired you are, what it’s like to try to manage a house, other children AND a new baby, is “real”.  Just because it’s not a medical problem, or an actual problem with your baby, doesn’t mean you don’t need someone to talk to, and that’s how Peer Counsellors fill the gap between no help and “professional” help.

Peer Counsellors receive training in the normal course of breastfeeding, how breastfeeding works, how to get things off to a good start, the common problems that mothers face, normal newborn baby behaviour, and where to good, referenced information to share with the mothers they meet.  They also know how to listen – really listen, not just nodding and saying yes, and then telling you all about what happened to them when they were breastfeeding!  Everyone else you meet in the supermarket does that 🙂  Peer Counsellor also treat everything you say with the utmost confidence – they don’t discuss anything you say or do with anyone else.  They also know what they don’t know, so if they are not sure they know how to get help to help you.  That might mean they suggest your contact a medical professional, or they might call their supervisor to discuss the general details (with your permission) – they won’t share your name or personal details, just the details of the concern you would like information about.  Other than that, Peer Counsellors don’t tell you what to do.  They will help you consider your options, find good information, provide a listening ear, work out what you want to do (or not do!).  They won’t tell you that you must keep breastfeeding – only you can decide, and it is nothing to do with anyone else.

I consider it a privilege to train Peer Counsellors.  I have trained young mothers, women who have grown children and grandchildren, maternity nurses – a wide range of women.  Next year I will be training some student midwives too.  The more people who understand the normality of breastfeeding, who can support mother’s through their breastfeeding journey, the more likely it is that breastfeeding will return to being seen as the  way to nurture a baby.  This doesn’t mean that everyone must breastfeed, just that if you choose to, you will be supported with good information and there will no longer be concerns about whether it’s “ok” to feed in the local cafe, the park or on the bus!