World Breastfeeding Week is an annual celebration which is held in more than 120 countries. The goal, to encourage breastfeeding and provide support and education to families across the world.

According to the World Health Organisation, breastfeeding promotes better health for mothers and children alike. In fact, they say…

“Increasing breastfeeding to near-universal levels could save more than 800,000 lives every year, the majority being children under 6 months. Breastfeeding decreases the risk of mothers developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. It is estimated that increased breastfeeding could avert 20,000 maternal deaths each year due to breast cancer.”

It’s pretty strong stuff. But unfortunately breastfeeding your baby isn’t always simple and despite it being your legal right to feed your baby anywhere you need to in the UK, not everyone is super supportive of breastfeeding in public places, even when done discreetly.

But we are!

We run twice monthly breastfeeding support cafes at Rowan House (on the 1st and 3rd Friday of each month) where pregnant women and mums can come along and get support from our pregnancy and parenthood team. Leading the way is IBCLC Lactation Consultant Sian Aldis.

We sat down for a cuppa and a chat about how Sian supports families in Norfolk and beyond and the amazing benefits of breastfeeding.

So Sian, tell us a little about what you do?

“I run No Milk Like Mama’s and provide Breastfeeding and Holistic Sleep support to families. I am a qualified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) which is the highest international standard for breastfeeding support.

I am also a Mindful Breastfeeding Practitioner and use mindfulness techniques in both my antenatal and postnatal work. I am also qualified to deliver holistic sleep coaching to families, enabling me to support families through sleep challenges whilst maintaining their breastfeeding relationship.”

Why is breastfeeding so important? What benefits does it bring for mothers and babies?

“There are so many wonderful benefits to breastfeeding… for starters breastfeeding can help to reduce the risk of many infections in children, such as gastrointestinal illness and respiratory infections. It is shown to be protective against SIDS, childhood cancers and long term health disorders such as heart disease and diabetes. Mothers also benefit from breastfeeding, with research showing a reduced risk of female cancers and osteoporosis.

Importantly, breastfeeding also contributes to creating a close and loving relationship, through the responsiveness of feeding and the release of the hormone oxytocin in both mother and child.”

As a Lactation Consultant, what sort of issues do the mums you support present with?

“Everyone’s experience of breastfeeding is different, so the support required by mothers is incredibly varied. It might be support with painful feeds, something that no mother should have to just put up with. I also support parents whose baby has never latched to breastfeed, those who have issues with latching, tongue tie, weight gain concerns, the list is endless!”

What’s the most common issue you encounter when supporting breastfeeding mums?

“The reason for support is so varied, I don’t think there is a single issue that I can say. However, every mother I support benefits from reassurance and understanding what is normal for their baby. The pressure on new mums can be pretty immense so often managing expectations makes a big difference, regardless of what the main reason they might have requested support.”

How do you provide support to those mums who might be struggling with breastfeeding?
“I mostly see mothers one-to-one at home (clinic and online consultations are also available). This gives them plenty of time to discuss their concerns and talk about their journey so far. We go over practical steps to make things easier for them and a lot of emotional support is given also. Breastfeeding is such an emotional thing!”

Are most issues to do with breastfeeding easily resolved?

“Something I love about this work is that the outcomes are usually pretty quick. I often meet mums who struggling in pain and by the time I leave she is cuddled up with her baby enjoying her first comfortable feed. However, different situations require different solutions.”

“Some issues take longer than others. As such I would never say that things are easily resolved. Mothers are incredible and it is their determination that resolves things. Not that they need to remain with pain or other concerns, but to continue breastfeeding through any difficulties takes a lot of courage and perseverance.”

So how does a mum know if she needs help?

“I have a free breastfeeding guide on my website with details of when to know things are going well and when to seek support. Typically I would encourage mothers to seek support if breastfeeding is painful, feels unmanageable or if their baby is struggling to latch and/or does not seem satisfied at the breast. We must listen to mothers and invariably they know when something isn’t right. If they feel they need support, then they need it, regardless of how many times someone has told them their latch is fine!”

Download Sian’s free Breastfeeding Guide here.

Any top tips for mums looking to breastfeeding their infants? How can they get prepared?

“Coming along to our twice monthly breastfeeding café when pregnant is a great thing to do. It’s on the first and third Friday of each month at Rowan House. Women rarely get the opportunity to see a baby breastfeed prior to having their own. If you are able to attend an antenatal breastfeeding workshop or consultation this is a great idea also.

I would also recommend Emma Pickett’s book ‘You’ve Got It In You – A Positive Guide to Breastfeeding’ and Dr Amy Brown’s book ‘The Positive Breastfeeding Book’.

And of course, if you feel you need help then reach out for specialist breastfeeding support. You can also join my online community for support here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/497464664090004/

I would encourage new and pregnant parents to always look at the credentials of any authors of resources they read and always look for an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) qualification when reading anything about breastfeeding.”