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Saturday, 4 January 2014

Help!

***BLOGPOST UPDATED 08-01-13***

I was going to wait until I speak at the ABM conference in June to make this plea, but I'm afraid I don't think it can't wait any longer.

DBM has grown to over 37,000+ 'likes' and is now in severe danger of becoming a victim of it's own success.


How so?

Well I'll tell you. If I didn't care about the ethos and quality of the support available through DBM then I wouldn't be writing this at all. I'd use the page as a platform for advertising as well as a 'support group'. I'd go all out for sensationalism, numbers and a 'bottom line'. You might not think that happens elsewhere, but let me tell you that it does. And hats off! Running a page as big as DBM (and much bigger in some cases!) is a massive commitment, it's a huge undertaking. I don't blame any page owner who makes money out of advertising one little bit - I totally understand. Why shouldn't they be paid for all their hard work? 
However, my problem is that I am an idealist, and I'm passionate about keeping money OUT of breastfeeding support. I have always felt it was important to grow DBM as a forum where peer support and effective signposting can (and do!) function side by side - without the possibility of any sort of interference or 'angle' from sponsors. 

Online breastfeeding support is absolutely essential in the C21st - as so many of you have testified. That the main breastfeeding organisations do not seem to have fully engaged with online social media-based support is a disgrace in my opinion. They may have facebook pages, but they will rarely get involved with individuals. They use social media largely as a shop front. Where interaction does take place, the aim seems to be to redirect mothers as quickly as possible elsewhere, and this misses much of the (crucial)  social aspect of online communication. Smaller (local) support groups do exist but these can often be hard for a new mum to locate or the group is 'closed' - meaning new members have to request to join and are denied the option of learning through 'lurking'. 

At this point I must acknowledge the really positive steps towards online engagement made by La Leche League GB*(see below - thank you for clarifying these for me!); however there seems (to me!) to still be a very long way to go across the board. Perhaps if nothing else, DBM can assist by helping to publicise what support *does* currently exist so that more women are likely to find their way.

I understand the many pitfalls of 'online support' honestly, I really do! That's part of the reason I'm writing this post. I worry that I cannot guarantee the quality of the moderation and support on DBM anymore. It's just too big now. I would need to be glued to the group 24/7 - and that's just impossible. This means I have two choices: 1/ ask for help or 2/ close down the page. 

Yes, I have admins, but I'm already asking a lot of them to expect them to give up their precious time for DBM. I don't run a rota, and I am relying purely on their honesty and goodwill. It has all worked reasonably well up until now - but it's no longer a long-term solution and it won't help DBM to grow or to improve. 

Just because online breastfeeding support has potential pitfalls and is hard to navigate does NOT mean that it's not something the main breastfeeding organisations shouldn't be actively engaged in. For goodness sake, BFCs working on phone lines are not dealing with women in person either, but they are listening, offering support, and they are signposting - and you can also do that online! DBM has been doing it - to the best of it's ability - for three years now. It has also provided a platform for women to come together to engage in peer-to peer-interaction which has a reputation for being genuinely supportive. Many women are nervous about picking up the phone, but are far less nervous about writing a message on a social media site (rightly or wrongly).

In my opinion the main UK breastfeeding organisations are currently failing to engage fully, and transparently with these women.

Think about it, I'm only trained to peer support level and when I started DBM I had no previous experience with social media. So HOW ON EARTH could I ever have grown an online group to this size (with a budget of £0) unless there was a genuine NEED for it? 

So here's the thing. I have two small children, I'm self-employed in a number of different roles, and  I also volunteer. The facebook group - and you all - deserve better than I can offer now. 

I want to ask the four main breastfeeding organisations to come together and give serious consideration to using DBM as some sort of National Breastfeeding Support Page - perhaps training some of their volunteer BFCs specifically in online support - and running it in conjunction with the National Breastfeeding Helpline. 

There are over 37,000 people who 'like' DBM on Facebook, and 1,400+ people following on Twitter - surely that's a platform which can (in the right hands) bring about real improvements in the breastfeeding support available to women in the UK and further afield? DBM also has a presence on Google+ which has yet to be fully exploited and with that comes the possibility of moderated Google hangouts in the future... DBM is not the largest breastfeeding support group online, but it is the largest based in the UK (as far as I'm aware!). It would take a passionate social media manager a long time to build up a community of this size - and cost a fair bit of money in the process!

Breastfeeding support will always be best done in person, woman to woman. However, thanks to generations of formula feeding and the billions spent on marketing breast milk substitutes, we are a fragmented lot. Online support is key in re-connecting women and improving breastfeeding rates into the C21st. In my opinion the main breastfeeding support organisations have ignored the elephant in the room long enough.

When DBM was new, someone told me I was foolish to get involved in online breastfeeding support, because of all it's potential pitfalls.. My local health board (for whom I was a volunteer at the time) were positively phobic about it when I told them. I took all that feedback seriously, absolutely I did. 
However, I came to the conclusion that these concerns need to be weighed against the very great deal of GOOD that can be done by facilitating support online, by sharing information, generating discussion, and by signposting. 

Knowledge is power, and the internet is a very powerful resource. I am in a fairly unusual position in that I think I am able to appreciate both sides of the 'internet support' coin better than most. I have made lots of mistakes, and I think I also have a good understanding of what helps too. I will be talking about some of the things that I have learned at the ABM conference in June, and by then I hope to have a better idea of what will be happening next for DBM. 

Please leave me a comment on facebook explaining how online support has helped you. Post on the facebook walls of the main bf organisations. Share this blog, and discuss my proposal amongst yourselvesYour input will be powerful, and it's essential if DBM is to continue. If it's a dumb idea I'll hang up my mouse satisfied that I've tried my best. If it's a good one, then everyone wins.

Change is needed. So much of the potential I know DBM has is going to waste due to lack of time and resources. I don't want anything in return, except to know that this resource I have invested so many hundreds of my hours in will continue to grow, and provide genuinely supportive, high quality online breastfeeding support.

x anne


*Following a statement from La Leche League GB concerning some of the content of this blog I have made some alterations, and I'm happy to clarify that LLL GB do offer online support to women via their facebook page (Breastfeeding Matters), and that they also provide support elsewhere on facebook, have a Twitter account and maintain an online forum

Saturday, 12 October 2013

International Breastfeeding Week Giveaway!

It's International Babywearing Week, and to celebrate I'm very grateful to SaSaSlings for sponsoring this giveaway! 




Babywearing keeps babies close to their mums (or dads, grannies, grandads etc) and in my experience it just makes life with a new little person a whole heck of a lot easier :) It's naturally soothing and calming for both your baby and for you, wearing them upright can help to reduce the symptoms of reflux naturally, and it helps you get back into shape gently after having your baby... It makes it possible to hug your baby with both hands still free, it's easier to negotiate stairs and escalators and generally get about, and you can take your baby to places you'd never be able to get to with a buggy! All that close contact helps to boost oxytocin too - and that helps with breastfeeding :)

SaSaSlings are donating a GORGEOUS Storchenwiege Ring Sling like the one below (more details here) and the winner will gets to choose the colour! The giveaway will run until Sunday (the last day of International Babywearing Week) and entries received after 12 midnight UK time won't be eligible. 




To be in with a chance of winning, just leave your name and email address as a comment under this blog post, and LIKE the SaSaSlings facebook page! I'll draw the winner next week and ask Sandra to share the details on her SaSaSlings facebook page. 

PLEASE NOTE (with apologies) that this offer is open to UK and EU residents only.  

Good luck!

x anne

Friday, 4 October 2013

Why I hate the 'Boobie Beanie'.

I really hate nursing covers. I mean, in an ideal world no-one would feel the need for such a thing, they're a total faff and to me they just draw attention to what you're doing.  I dislike an industry built up around the notion that breastfeeding is shameful, BUT I totally defend a mother's right to use some sort of cover if *she* prefers to. At least these products serve some sort of function.

Lately I've had a number of posts on the wall - and also private messages to my personal account - showing pictures of the 'boobie beanie'. 




I think the folk who shared the 'booby beanie' with me thought it would be right up my street - after all, I am a BREASTFEEDER (!)... Well, please don't send me any more links folks, I'm putting it on record that hate the darn things. Ok, initially they may look a bit amusing - for about a minute. But to me they actually come across as pretty smug and perhaps even offensive.

If a person is going to be offended or upset in some way by the sight of a woman breastfeeding (!), then it seems very likely to me that they're going to be even MORE offended when you put a fake 'breast' on your baby's head. Are they likely to need reminding that your baby is being breastfed? Are they likely to appreciate it? Is your baby some sort of 'weapon' in a war? What is the function of your boobie beanie?

Even if you're not putting the hat on for any other reason than because you think it's cute and amusing, can you see things like this might make breastfeeding into a BIGGER deal? Something even *more* unusual than it already is... To me it's the woollen equivalent of standing up in the middle of a coffee shop and shouting
 'Look at me everyone, I am a BREASTFEEDER!'.... 
I KNOW you have probably overcome huge challenges to breastfeed. Medical, cultural, perhaps emotional and physical too. I know. I know. Ok? I know how hard it is and I AM PROUD OF YOU! I think you're wonderful. But...

If you want to put your baby in a hat, why not buy something cute and unlikely to cause offence like this?


I know some people are likely to be annoyed by this post - sorry - but I needed to get it out there... I've been breastfeeding for a long time now (nearly 5 years!). I have seen the highs and lows and I've seen how rubbish our healthcare system and culture is at supporting women to breastfeed. As a peer supporter and now as a doula, I've seen other women struggle with family pressures, emotional issues and major physical problems in order to try and breastfeed. I've completely understood when it all became too much for them... More often than not they knew nothing about breastfeeding to start with, they probably didn't get the right help in time (perhaps after a tough birth), and they've completely lost faith in their own abilities. They might have started out fearing they were likely to fail, and then they had their confidence knocked further by a difficult start. Our culture does this to women ALL. THE. TIME. Those women didn't want to end up formula feeding, but it happened. 

And then there you are with your breastfeeding baby and your boobie beanie and - rightly or wrongly - it doesn't help.

We need to break down the barriers to breastfeeding which exist for all women, and for me that means making a point of treating breastfeeding as normal. No gimics, no covers, no big deal, no need to apologise, shout, explain or gloat.  Just feed your baby.

x anne



NB - this blog post represents my personal opinion - I know not everyone in the DBM facebook group will share my view. I'm fine with that - I'm just putting it out there.