National Breastfeeding weeks runs from 27th June to 3rd July 2022 and this year's theme focuses on mothers having wider support with breastfeeding.
Mum Chantelle shares her breastfeeding journey; the challenges she faced and the support that helped her to overcome them.

"I’m a first time mum to seven month old Luca, born in November 2021. I was prepared for a lot of things to change when Luca came along - the lack of sleep, early morning starts, having less time to myself, changing dynamics among friendships but I was not prepared for how difficult breastfeeding would be. My antenatal course mentioned a few of the issues that could crop up but the take-away message was that it would only happen early on, and that six weeks post birth everything would settle. For me it took nearly four and a half months before I could breastfeed easily and comfortably. I had mastitis twice, months where I had engorgement every week that would take up to three days to clear each time, nipple pain, thrush and blocked ducts. I also struggled with Luca’s latch since the beginning, always trying to remember ‘nose to nipple’ (a common phrase dotted around in breastfeeding resources) but failing miserably to align Luca’s mouth in this way.  

Why did I keep going? There were stretches of two or three days at a time that were lovely, where I enjoyed watching Luca feeding, pressing his little hand against my breast, making cute little cooing sounds to suggest that he was enjoying it - my breast seemed to be his happy place, somewhere he went when he was unsure of things, sad, tired or just wanted a bit of comfort. I didn’t want to take this away from him by stopping. I’m also a psychologist so the psychologist in me, who often thinks about the latest research and why I should or shouldn’t be doing something, was also mindful of the research highlighting the many benefits to breastfeeding both in the short and long term which gave me another good reason to try to continue if I could. But breastfeeding is challenging. I’d say so far the most challenging journey I’ve had as a parent.

So if anyone is thinking of stopping, or if your mental health is suffering as a result (mine certainly did!) please don’t beat yourself up about it and don’t put pressure on yourself to make a decision about whether to stop straight away.

I sometimes felt overwhelmed by the idea of stopping because then I’d have another challenge to manage - how do I get my baby to take a bottle? What do I do if I get engorged in the meantime while stopping? What if all I needed was another week and then it would be fine? What if there’s a magic bullet out there, one other strategy that I just haven’t discovered yet? So many questions. Sometimes it was easier to just take it day by day. What’s right for you one day might not be right the next day. Some days I expressed more or gave Luca formula so that I could have a break. I also tried to get practical advice from professionals with each issue and help from friends and family so that I could take a break when I needed it the most.  

I found the Best Beginnings pregnancy and parenting app, Baby Buddy, a really useful resource for help and support. It signposted me to many helpful organisations, including The National Breastfeeding Helpline and The Association of Breastfeeding Mothers - two organisations that I hadn’t heard of before browsing through the app. Baby Buddy also has useful articles and videos on breastfeeding. One of the most recent articles got me thinking about whether I will / should stop breastfeeding before I go back to work."

Other resources I found helpful included:

Le Leche league breastfeeding resourcesdirectory of helpful information on any issue relating to breastfeeding, and is where I looked whenever I wanted a detailed breakdown of why the issue occurred, symptoms, and what I could do about it. 

Oxfordshire breastfeeding support - in person weekly sessions with a lactation consultant. These sessions were invaluable at helping me to find new breastfeeding positions to try at home or when on the go. And taught me that breastfeeding positions are fluid and can change as your baby gets older, so a position that works when your baby is one month old might not work when they are four months old.

Lactation Consultants of Great Britainyou can find a list of registered lactation specialists in your area and this helped me to get more personalised support.

Health visitors - I called my health visitor almost every week when things were really challenging just to get another opinion on what I should do and also to have the space to problem solve. 

Friends with children - I have quite a few friends with young children who I would go to for advice, particularly the friends who had children recently or friends from my antenatal course.  

Other breastfeeding support available:

The Breastfeeding Network