Pippa’s story – breastfeeding my tongue-tied baby


Pippa and Toby, a few hours after his birth

Not too long ago, we published a blog about tongue-tie and how it may impact breastfeeding. Today, we give you the very personal, honest and emotional story of our MummyNatal teacher from Gateshead Pippa and her husband Ad, both sharing their experience with their first son Toby.

Remember that each experience is unique, and we are not sharing this story to show you that IF your child has tongue-tie, it means that this is going to be your story too! Continue reading

Tongue-tie and breastfeeding – can mums and babies experience difficulties?

tongue tieWhat is tongue-tie?

The correct term to describe this condition is ankyloglossia (but we can stick to tongue-tie, can’t we?), and it’s a congenital anomaly that can reduce mobility of the tongue tip. It happens because the membrane connecting the underside of the tongue to the floor of the mouth (called lingual frenulum) is just a bit tighter and shorter than in most people. Although this is just proof that we are indeed all different, tongue-ties can vary in degree of severity – this is also due to where, under the tongue, the frenulum is attached (either towards the tip of the tongue or towards the back of the tongue). Essentially, tongue-tie has the potential to have different effects on different people, and difficulties in breastfeeding (and then later on in life, if the tongue-tie is severe and not corrected), eating and speech are the most common effects. Continue reading

“I’m here for some breast milk”, said the Biker to the Plumber – a story of breast milk donation

milk donation 1It was a normal Thursday morning… well, as normal as it gets when your 3 children are at home and poorly, the plumber is busy working in the garage, and your front driveway is being dug up. At some point a man in a motorbike stops outside the house, sees someone outside (the plumber) and says: “I’m here for breast milk”. A stunned, embarrassed plumber comes ringing the doorbell saying: “Ehm, there’s a delivery for you?”. Like a meerkat, I try and see who he’s pointing to, but the skip outside the house hides the man from my view. When he’s finally off his motorbike, with his helmet off, I recognise him as the volunteer from the hospital who’s here to collect my 2 litres of breast milk. “Oh, hello! Come in!”, I shout. The plumber is more puzzled than ever…

ukamb_logo2This was my second (and probably last) donation of 2 litres of breast milk to my local milk bank. There are currently 17 milk banks in the UK, and information and contact details for these can be found on the UKAMB website (http://www.ukamb.org/). Donated breast milk is collected by the milk bank, pasteurised and mainly given to preterm babies and babies recovering from gut surgery.

I first picked up a leaflet about milk donation in the summer of 2012, and I remember getting in touch with my local milk bank to see if they would accept a donation of about 500ml of milk I had in the freezer and didn’t really need for my baby. That’s when I found out that you can only become a milk donor if your baby is younger than 6 months, and if you do, you can then donate milk up to when your baby turns one. This is because the composition of breast milk changes as your baby gets older, and the milk is no longer adequate for the needs of a premature or sick baby. So I made a mental note to get the ball rolling at the right time, should I have another baby in the future.

And that’s what I did. When I went on maternity leave, a few weeks before having my third baby, I got in touch with my local milk bank again to find out what I had to do become a milk donor. I had to answer some basic questions about my lifestyle, read quite a few leaflets, and I was told to fill in a form once my baby was born, with questions about myself, my health, my lifestyle, the labour and birth of my baby etc. I was also informed about the fact that I would have to have blood tests done, and once they had the results back, I would then be notified as to whether I had been accepted as a donor and could start expressing.

At the time I thought they should probably make it a bit easier and more straightforward for someone to become a donor. After all, you’ve just had a baby, you may have older children and quite a few other things to sort out when a baby is born, but then I put myself in their shoes, and in the shoes of the parents of those babies who receive the milk, and I thought it made sense to be thorough.

Once I managed to fill in the forms I had been sent (about myself and my baby), I received a blood test kit to take to my GP. I arranged for an appointment to have my blood tests, had my blood taken (after being moaned at by the nurse at the GP practice, who wasn’t happy to have to use the equipment and container provided by the hospital), and I sent the blood sample off to the hospital to be checked. When the results came back, the milk bank administrator confirmed that they were happy to accept me as a milk donor and sent me a batch of labelled sterilised bottles to fill up.

The requirement from my local milk bank was that you should donate at least 2 litres (or about 70oz), and the milk should not be older than 3 months. I started expressing milk a few weeks after my baby was born, and the only reason for me to do so this time round was purely to donate it to the milk bank. It took me about 3 months to actually get to the required 2 litres, and when I did, I contacted the milk bank to ask to arrange for a collection. It was then that I met the volunteer for the first time.

A few hours after he collected my milk, I received an email from the lady at the milk bank informing me that my milk had been received, still frozen, and everything was ok. I don’t know what happened to my milk after this point, but I do want to believe that the time I spent sterilising my breast pump and expressing, labelling and storing, was all worth it for someone. I want to believe that I took a little bit of stress away from some parents out there who are worrying about their little ones, and that their babies have benefited it from my baby’s milk. (I don’t really see it as MY milk – it’s there because of my baby, and I hope he didn’t mind sharing it with some other little ones).

milk donation 2Milk banks are not the only ways to donate breast milk in the UK. If you are on social media, you can also access a volunteer-only network called Human Milk 4 Human Babies (http://hm4hb.net/), which allows families who wish to share milk or wet-nurse to get in touch with each other. It’s a non-profit organisation that doesn’t receive any kind of funding or financial support. Families receiving breast milk don’t necessarily need it for preterm or ill babies – they might just want some or additional breast milk to feed their babies. Donors don’t go through blood testing, but the whole community works under the assumption that families want to help each other out, rather than do anything that could hinder another baby’s health, so a little trust in the intentions and health of donors and suitability of their milk goes a long way.

In the interest of being balanced here, donating breast milk is not the only option for mums who have excess milk in the freezer and perhaps missed out on becoming donors through a milk bank (or never considered it in the first place). There was a story in the press around Christmas about a lady who donated her breast milk and made about two thousand pounds out of it, which she said she used to buy presents for her children. There are a few websites out there where people can place ads for selling or buying breast milk – the choice is available if it’s something you’d want to consider.

So when the milk bank volunteer left on his bike, I had to face a still-puzzled plumber, who clearly wanted to know what all that was about. “It was a pick-up, not a delivery!”, I said, and then explained the in’s and out’s of it. Feeling a bit better after I gave him the full story (who knows what he was thinking!), I asked him if he wanted a tea or coffee. “Coffee”, he said, “but make sure it’s without milk” 😉



Sara is a mum of two and BabyNatal teacher for West London. 

Find out more about Sara on our main website here.

Breastfeeding Top Tips

Sleepy-Breastfeeding-babyBreastfeeding your baby is natural but it is also really normal for it to take some time for you and your baby to work it all out, as after all, it is a new skill which you are both learning.

As a mum of four who is currently breastfeeding her 10 week old baby, and having worked with thousands of new parents, I know that breastfeeding can have its challenges, however, I also know how rewarding and easy it can be too!

So here are some of my top tips for supporting you and your baby to get off to a good start when it comes to breastfeeding:

1. Be prepared to feed, feed and feed some more! Getting your milk supply established can mean frequent and long nursing sessions – in the early days it may feel that it is all you do! This is completely normal so get comfy on the sofa with your essentials (drink, TV remote, etc) to hand!

2. Make sure dad/your partner knows how to help – research shows that the more supportive of breastfeeding they are, the more likely you are to continue feeding. They can take your baby for a walk or a bath, so you get a break and they have some bonding time. It is also handy if they can make sure you are stocked up on drinks and snacks and have them to hand, as feeding can be hungry and thirsty work.

3. Get your boobs measured after your milk has come in to make sure you are wearing a well fitted bra, one which is the wrong size could cause you discomfort and pain – and you don’t want to make breastfeeding more challenging than it needs to be!

4. It is not unusual to be a little apprehensive about feeding in public when you are getting to grips with it, but most of the time it will just look like you are giving your baby a lovely cuddle! The equality act 2010 made it illegal for anyone to ask a woman to leave a public place if she is breastfeeding, so you do not need to go into the toilet to feed your baby, you can feed them wherever feels comfortable for you and them.

5. If you do feel uncomfortable feeding in a certain situation though, you can consider using something like a breastfeeding scarf, a sling or a muslin cloth which will allow you to feel more covered up.

6. Try and get to know other people who are also breastfeeding – having the support and understanding of others who are also going through the same things as you can be really helpful! Look out for Baby Cafes in your area (see link below) where you can meet others who are breastfeeding and get support.

7. If you are having any difficulties do ask for support from someone who is specially trained in supporting breastfeeding mums – sometimes feeding can be more challenging and it does not mean you are ‘failing’ as a mum if you need a bit of support. Sometimes getting a different idea of how to hold your baby for a feed, or having someone check your baby’s latch can be really helpful (see the links below).

Useful links:

National Breastfeeding Helpline
Helpline – 0300 100 0212

Association of Breastfeeding Mothers
Helpline – 0300 330 5453

Baby Café