What Do We Class As Normal…..?

What do we class as normal…..? By Beccy Hooper

When you start looking into the world of breastfeeding it’s not always as straight forward as we think. Nikki came across an article about transgender breastfeeding, or chest feeding as some like to call it. Having read the article I then started researching more information. It seems that really it’s only showing up in America and Canada – but this doesn’t mean that we won’t come across a parent that needs support in England. 
So the information I found about chest feeding is that a transgender man or women is capable of physically producing milk with the right help. This includes people that have had chest surgery or never given birth, it is quite possible that many transgender people won’t want to experience feeding…they may have gone through a massive mental battle to have got where they are today, but for those that do want to experience every aspect of parenting there are ways to get there. 
Chest feeding can occur due to taking hormones to start producing milk, or expressed milk can be used to supplement-feed a baby, rather than producing milk themselves. 
This is supplement-feeding…
Both transgender men and women take hormones to suppress their natural physical being. To be able start the process to produce milk these hormones would need to stop. Trans women would normally take anti-androgen which suppresses the female hormones, so these are stopped and oestrogen is prescribed. Trans men take testosterone which stops the menstruation and ovulation, and brings out the male characteristics so again this is stopped and it may be that they need to start female hormones to help. 
A particular story that comes up while researching this is about a transgender women and her partner were having a baby and she wanted to share the experience. The lady took several hormones to start the production of milk. This included Domperidone, estradiol and progesterone. After just one week she was able to pump droplets of milk and after three weeks was pumping 8oz. Once the baby was born she breastfed exclusively for 6 weeks. 
These drugs are also given to women that are adopting babies so that they are able to breastfeed, this helps so much with the bonding of a parent and child.
Obviously this might not happen in all countries as not all doctors will offer these hormones, but it might be that using the breast pump helps bring on the milk. 
I guess this might not be liked by all but what we have to remember the most important thing for our children is to feel loved and comforted and how amazing that we as parents, no matter how we stared in this world, can have the opportunity to feed our babies.


Sadly, As A GP, We Get Minimal Or Zero Training In How To Support A Breastfeeding Mum… By Nicky Wilson, Trustee & GP.

Sadly, as a GP, we get minimal or zero training in how to support a breastfeeding mum. For some of us we become better GPs once we have a family and experience the highs and lows of being a breastfeeding mother. Our own experiences also impact on how we support mothers going forward.

I think as a GP, the most important thing is to first of all ask the mother what they WANT to do. Then it’s a case of supporting them on that journey.

As a GP it’s important I know where to signpost mothers for support.  It is also vital that I  know resources such as run by the amazing Wendy Jones to check any prescriptions I feel a mother may need. Sadly most generic medication resources normally just say ‘caution in breastfeeding and pregnancy’ which isn’t usually helpful.  

I would recommend to all breastfeeding mothers to always ask your GP (or other healthcare professional)  to check Wendy’s website if you are told you can not feed on the chosen medication, or is there an alternative that could be used?

The Breastfeeding Network also have great resources you can either bring with you to an appointment, or send as a link during a telephone consultation.

Doctors want to do their best for their patients but we don’t always have the training so please feel free to guide us, if needed to reputable resources.  

In Gloucestershire we are lucky to have two brilliant charities offering support, and infant feeding leads who are IBCLC qualified in our Midwifery and Health Visitor Teams.  

As a Trustee of GBSN I have been fortunate to train as a Peer Supporter. I work with our local Infant Feeding  Strategy Group to try and ensure mothers are resourced and supported to breastfeed if they wish. This year we are also starting to deliver GP teaching sessions around breastfeeding, the challenges and normalising breastfeeding until a child naturally weans. These sessions have a Midwife, Health Visitor and Dietician as well as myself, so we can normally help with questions on any topics.

The most important thing for me is that mothers are supported and informed in what they wish to do. The effect on a mother’s mental health if _*their breastfeeding journey ends earlier than they planned *_has big consequences.

However we also need to recognise that breastfeeding isn’t always straightforward, and as with driving a car, we and our baby need to learn this new skill. Seeing a car isn’t the same as being behind the wheel driving. Without good quality support and normalising of breastfeeding we are potentially failing new mothers. For me, I will keep talking to my colleagues about babies and boobs, they will upskill and as a minimum will signpost that mother to the best person to help them if they cannot.  

Although I had a tricky start with my daughter, I am very grateful that we had lovely breastfeeding relationship. It helped to heal me physically and mentally after a difficult birth. I am sure the oxytocin stopped me developing postnatal depression and I feel it allowed me to parent intuitively. It wasn’t always easy but I managed with amazing support from my Husband, my Mum, friends and Breastfeeding specialists. Without them all I could have stopped before we were ready.


Bloody Hell! Can You Believe It’s Been A Year Of What Has Possibly Been The Strangest Year Of Our Lives?? By Beccy Walsh.

Bloody hell! Can you believe it’s been a year of what has possibly been the strange year of our lives??

Who would have thought we would be living through a pandemic? What we class as the norm is no longer for parents, it has all changed. Homeschooling became an everyday occurrence, no more baby groups or toddler groups have been happening. Everything became reliant on Zoom.

For mums with new babies it’s been particularly tough not having that support at your fingertips. Being able to share about sleepless nights and sore boobs is exactly what mums need to make them feel normal.
At GBSN we have been offering 1:1 video sessions with BFCs which last Friday saw us having offered this for exactly 52 weeks, and 974 calls being made. We also have been running weekly Zoom chats for each group so that mums can talk through their weeks with other like-minded mums; not everyone wants to join another Zoom chat but for some it’s been a lifeline.

No new parent ever thought their maternity leave would look like this. I keep trying to think about the positives in this time, dads have had more time with their new babies, it’s possible that breastfeeding has been easier to establish as there have been fewer distractions. But I’m sure for many of you the lack of being able to see people and have grandparents to help has been super tough.

Not having the daily contact with others is definitely taking its toll on most people’s mental health. It’s so nice to know that this will all be changing in our near future, and although I’ll take no holiday abroad I can at least look forward to hanging out with my friends and not just walk in the park.

This has not just affected the parents though, it has had an impact on the babies and children over the year too. Last year a survey was put together by HomeStart, Best Beginnings and Parent Infant Foundation.
5,000 parents took the survey and the findings showed that babies had become more clingy with their stay-at-home parent and that only 1 in 10 under twos had seen a health visitor face to face.
The survey also found that not only have parents found this situation generally difficult but they had felt they did not receive the correct information through pregnancy and childbirth and that 1/4 of the mums breastfeeding had not received the support they had been looking for.
The hardest findings were that yet again the BAME (Black Asian and Minority ethnic) community have been affected the most.

With the NHS working so hard to vaccinate as many as possible life will slowly go back to some form of normal and both parents and children can start spending more time with others and receiving the support they need in this time.



Today is World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD) And We Couldn’t Let It Pass By Without Joining The Celebrations!… By Kirstie Clarke.

Today is World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD) and we couldn’t let it pass by without joining the celebrations!  

People with Down Syndrome have one extra chromosome, which makes them that little bit extra special.  

Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation out there too.  One myth is that babies with DS can’t breastfeed.
Whether direct from the breast, via NG tube or expressed via bottle, it’s certainly possible for breastfeeding to be a great success. Over the years, GBSN has been privileged to help many mums and babies with lots of different additional needs, including Down Syndrome, to achieve the breastfeeding journey they want.

Tiffanie is mum to Alfie, now 8, and they had support from GBSN Mobs Stroud in their very early days, while Alfie was still in NICU.  

Tiff says:
“I’ve heard many parents of children with Down syndrome have been told baby can’t or won’t be able to breastfeed. However, in many cases, just like any baby, with the right support they can and do breastfeed well. 

Alfie was able to breastfeed straight away but he tired easily so needed more frequent feeds. It was discovered at 5 days old that he needed oxygen to help him and he had O2 for 9 months. Once we had that, he fed well and gained weight.  While he was on NICU I pumped milk to administer via NG for a few days and then cup fed him, which was tricky but doable. Once he was stronger he went back on the breast and I exclusively breastfed him for 11 months. 
Some children might need extra support to feed well and grow stronger but if you want to breastfeed your baby with Down syndrome it is possible. Many can, many do, many thrive.”

The extra copy of chromosome number 21, when magnified, looks like a sock, hence #lotsofsocks for WDSD which is celebrated on 21st March each year.  We’ve got our funky socks on, have you?

If you have questions about breastfeeding support for you and your baby, whatever their needs, please do reach out to us.  Our qualified breastfeeding counsellors have a wealth of experience and would be happy to chat with you before or after baby arrives.  Please book a free 1:1 video call via our website
This blog is written by Kirstie Clarke xx


Periods and Breastfeeding… By Beccy Hooper

Periods and breastfeeding…..

Well this is often a bit of a taboo subject but like many things we are becoming more open about our bodies and how they work. Sharing information about our periods should not be a difficult conversation. Pretty much all women have them, or stop them by taking that magic pill!We should be more open so that our children don’t go through what we have been through. Having our periods mean for most of us that we can have a baby at some point in our adult life. That monthly visit is a priceless moment, we are only able to conceive because our bodies release that golden egg each month. We are not like men who pretty much could conceive a baby any day of the year into their 70s. Our eggs are precious!

But saying all this it’s quite nice not to think about it, and while you are breast-feeding you may not have a period for some time. For me once I got pregnant that was it for about two and a half years, while you exclusively breastfeed your body inhibits the hormones that release the egg, therefore your body doesn’t go through the process of preparing itself for pregnancy. This can be for the first three months or longer depending how long you exclusively breastfeed for; for most of us this is great one less thing to think of while we are breastfeeding our babies. 

As time goes on this can change, if your baby starts sleeping up to six hours at night, you start introducing solid food, perhaps use a dummy or introduce a formula feed this may mean that your hormones change and you may not have regular periods but could start ovulating again. You must remember that this means you are fertile again.You are less likely to start ovulating again if you co-sleep or sling wear as your baby is more likely to be feeding on demand.Exclusive breastfeeding does not guarantee birth control so if feeds become more spread out you may want to start tracking your cycle through the natural cycle app which uses your temperature to see the hormone changes in your body. Remember you can get pregnant while exclusively breastfeeding. 

When your cycle does return you may find some changes in your milk, your supply may vary while you have your period due to the levels of hormones in your bodies changing. Some babies may feed less as the milk tastes slightly different or it can be the opposite with babies feeding extra as the supply isn’t as high so therefore having to feed more frequently to get what they need. 

If you know you’re not ready for another baby you will need to think about some form of birth control. As I said before you could use a natural cycle app, this might be what you prefer rather than adding more hormones to your body or you may need to go to your GP and ask about options while breastfeeding, you have to wait till you have had your six week check. But they may offer you a form of contraceptive to prevent pregnancy. 

During our cycle remember our bodies are amazing we may not like having periods or even become quite grumpy when we have them but we are producing that golden egg that is very special.