Alison Blenkinsop, RM, DipHe, IBCLC and Infant Feeding Advisor.

Alison Blenkinsop

In 2003 I attended a conference in Canterbury and heard Suzanne talk about the instinctive way some mothers hold and feed their babies, and saw video evidence of self-directed feeding behaviour.  When Suzanne spoke in 2004 at another seminar, I was fascinated by how babies did not need to be fully alert to feed well.  Now I have a way of seeing what the baby would prefer!  My help has become much more a facilitation and a working with mother and baby, encouraging them to tap into their instincts. 

If baby is more comfortable, feeding becomes much better, and less help is needed-thus empowering the mother.  Babies often appear more comfortable when mother lies back, as their weight rather than the pressure of mother’s arms is holding them to the breast.  They are much freer to move around and show a preference for one side or the other. Mothers are often amazed at how well their babies can move their heads, and become more instinctive themselves as their need to hold the head subsides. The pressure on their perineum is also relieved!  I encourage mothers to offer the breast frequently and not to wait until baby is fully awake – as by the time he is at the breast, he may be too stressed to feed well. 

The result is that many babies attach themselves as they are waking up, in a more instinctive way.  With the right tongue movement, and with the chin buried in the breast, there is no slippage and tension on the nipple, so the breast drains better

Ella Jackson, Infant Feeding Advisor Brighton

I work as infant feeding advisor at Brighton. I heard your presentation in London at the Royal College and I was left feeling totally inspired and overjoyed to find that my doubts regarding some aspects of breastfeeding advice and communication are being highlighted and assessed. I had started to feel that my obsession with the precious Oxytocin needed more support… needless to say your name has been used in subsequent training sessions for staff and during my antenatal sessions.

THANK YOU. Prior to training as a midwife I had been a teacher with a passion for effective and embedded communication/knowledge. This has been invaluable for my breastfeeding sessions. I had started to concentrate more and more on sharing the joys of hormones particularly Oxytocin with the parents and spending less time on positions for feeding. My motto being “it isn’t rocket science” I attended the recent Breastfeeding co-ordinators day during which you again inspired many of us. I am conducting an audit of the women who have attended my sessions and am finding to my joy that these women are so relaxed and aware of oxytocin and less obsessed with rigid feeding rules that they are automatically nurturing the babes. I have stripped the advice down for staff too. Emphasising that holding cuddling and loving should be our buzz words.

For breastfeeding awareness week I launched my CAKE AND CUDDLES tea parties. These sessions are for both ante and postnatal women… emphasis on sharing and smiling. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR BEING A BEACON OF INSPIRATION.

Liz from Birchwood Breast Start

I was moved to the post natal ward a few hours after the birth – it was horrendous. Nurses standing guard and scrutinising every move I made breast-wise! It was here that the I heard the mantra ‘tummy to mummy nipple to nose’ spoken aloud – I had read about it before the birth but didn’t realise it was almost treated as the law! I hate those words now, I found myself repeating them in my head and didn’t dare deviate. I was also urged to told to sit bolt upright …I was intimidated to say the least when a line up of 3 nurses stood in front of me watching me trying to force Mack to latch on – they said I couldn’t go home until I could manage to feed him ok but I so wanted to be out of there. I tried to let Mack find his way to the nipple and was immediately berated for it! They came back to witness him happily nestled against me & feeding quite happily – I had sneakily let him find his own route there as he clearly didn’t like the ‘approved’ position or having a nipple shoved at him!

Liz first feed
Here is a photo of my son following his first feed. He was placed to my breast shortly after the birth and fed for about 35 minutes and it was fabulous.
The midwife was very relaxed and simply placed him there and let him do his own thing while I laid back and relaxed! I decided there and then that breastfeeding was definitely for me but was very apprehensive as I had heard so many negative things regarding it and I did not know anyone who had been successful for any length of time.

After much battling I was allowed home the day I had him but I felt like I had ‘cheated’ and that I would have to learn the ‘proper’ way once I had got him home or I was doomed. Once home, however, I was frustrated that I wasn’t enjoying feeding ‘correctly’ and was almost embarrassed to let the midwife or health visitor see me feeding as I felt awkward and uncomfortable but as a first time mother with no baby experience I stupidly took the ‘advice’ given without question and didn’t say anything to anyone about it! Night feeds were awful at first as I perched on the edge of the bed almost falling asleep and in danger of falling off the bed – looking back it was ridiculous!

After a few days I decided that I just needed to go with the flow and started to lay back on the sofa to feed with Mack across my chest. Night feeds were transformed when I propped myself up on a couple of V shaped pillows and just let him get on with it. I could relax without falling asleep and I immediately felt we were both gaining a lot more from the experience! I feel stupid now when I think about it all but at the time I was also concerned I was doing things wrong as I had no pain at all from feeding and I didn’t suffer with engorgement when my milk ‘came in’ on the dreaded day 3! He was born during the heat wave so I was naturally concerned that he was getting enough milk – books I had read had led me to believe he should be feeding for at least 20-30 minutes at a time but Mack never managed more than 10 although he was fairly regular! He had plenty of wet nappies (7 or 8 a day) , was gaining plenty of weight and seemed very content so I tried not to worry but, again, I felt I was not ‘conforming’. Anyway, I’ve rambled on enough I think – Now you can see why I would have appreciated simply being told that there are alternative ways to breast feed! The hospital staff were obsessed with breast feeding without seeming to offer any practical advice except for the instructions printed in the government leaflets. I have learned now that, as a mother, your instincts CAN be trusted and that your baby is well equipped to feed himself given half a chance – I just needed someone to tell me this at the time!

Thanks again for the great presentation and advice – it has given me so much reassurance and a lot more confidence about things – I hope I can pass this on to any new mums I come into contact with through my peer supporting role in the future.

Feeding in public – Liz from Birchwood Breast Start

My first public breast feeding attempt was hilarious when I think about it now – I was overly embarrassed but realise now this was because I was so obsessed with sitting correctly and him being in the right position etc – I used a pashmina to afford us some privacy which was a complete disaster – Mack’s rooting routine dragged the pashmina down over his head and caused him to panic – I adjusted us and we got going again but every wriggle moved it again – he got wrapped up like a mummy while I tried to prevent strangulation – the end result was me sitting there with my breast completely exposed, a crumpled pashmina on the floor and a hot and sweaty baby wondering what on earth was going on!

After this I decided just to be as discreet as possible and if someone caught a glimpse of nipple as he latched on well hey! That’s just tough!

Night time feeding – Liz Birchwood breast Start

The next battle was me trying to top-up feed him last thing at night when I went to bed. I had read that the baby should be gently roused till he was fully awake and then should be fed with no talking or eye contact. After a couple of nights of this I just felt plain cruel and decided to chance my luck at just lifting him out of the crib and seeing what happened when I tried to feed him – I was amazed to notice that within seconds of being lifted he was still sound asleep and ‘pecking’ towards my breasts regardless of the fact my clothing was in the way. Simply allowing him access let him feed quite contentedly without waking and this was a lovely experience for us both.