Bf counsellor - how to be a good one?(48 Posts)
I qualified as a bf counsellor in the last month and am very excited about hopefully starting to help people.
What do you think makes a good bf counsellor?
If you had a really good bf counsellor why were they excellent?
What should I avoid doing?
Any tips greatly appreciated - I want to avoid as many pitfalls as I can.
This is a tricky one but I had real problems breastfeeding. I really wanted to be able to do it, but it was so painful that I ended up dreading my DD waking up because I didn't want to have to feed her (so not really the bonding experience I had hoped for!). The thing which finally made me stop trying was when I spoke to a counsellor who told me that it was perfectly normal for it to take 6 months to establish - and 12 weeks in I just couldn't face the thought of it taking that long. Maybe they were just being honest but when it is that hard then every day feels like it lasts so long... Anyway, it was fine for me because it took the pressure off in one way, and I think we both did fine after that, but it was the thing which finally put me off breast-feeding - which presumably wasn't the desired effect! (I think it was meant to be reassuring!) So, not sure if that is helpful (at all!) but maybe that's an example of what not to say - perhaps focus on small steps to improve things rather than talk about the length of time it might take to get right... Good luck. It's a great thing to do and maybe if I had had more help at an earlier stage that would have stopped things getting so bad.
Congratulations OP! It takes a special kind of person to want/be able to do this job. My counsellors helped me out a lot in the early days and I am very grateful for them.
I think the qualities of a good counsellor are one who is positive and receptive towards the mother and baby. My favourite counsellor always told me that I was a good mother, but moreover, a normal mother when I was feeling frustrated and would emphasize how much my DD was bonded with me when I fed her (even during those insane growth spurts!). If ever I felt sad, she would say, "It seems like there are other things bothering you. I can help with your bfing questions, and if there's anything you want to talk about I'm willing to listen."
She would also ask, "Is that comfortable for you?" rather than "That's not the way to do that."
When she suggested co sleeping to help with feedings at night and I told her I wasn't comfortable with it, she didn't press the issue. I know of other mums who had really felt pressured to do it.
A big tip I could give is to ALWAYS ask permission to handle/help with the baby. One counsellor took the mittens off my DD's hands while I nursed her without asking and I didn't care for that at all.
Best of luck!
Jo, that is really helpful, thank you. So you would have preferred a more positive approach, encouraging, with small practical steps?
Mrs, thank you so much and that is such good advice about not touching the baby without asking permission. I will remember that! Really good to read you had such a good experience - your bf counsellor sounds lovely.
Definitely. I am sure she was just trying to reassure me - as in plenty of other people have problems for a long time too - but the stark 6 month figure was just way too much when I was having problems managing one day at a time. I think that when you are in that position with a young baby your world just shrinks and each day seems to last a lot longer, so when things aren't going well you can easily lose a sense of perspective. Focusing on small, practical improvements would have been much better.
Thank you, Jo. I will remember that, though I am sorry she may have put you off by mentioning the 6 months.
IME the best ones are sympathetic, patient, funny, knowledgable, but above all non-judgemental. It came as such a relief to me for a BF counsellor to say that FF is a perfectly valid option - it actually took some pressure off and convinced me to give BF another go!
Lady that is all really helpful, thanks so much. Sounds as though you had someone really good!
How did the bf counsellor say ff was a valid option? Did she say just that?
I think being honest does help. I had an experienced midwife.tell me that it was my job now to feed the baby. Don't worry about trying to do anything else as he would need to feed a lot and often. No one really prepares you for it. Once you understand what normal baby behaviour is, you can relax and accept it, that you or your baby isn't doing something wrong. Also, the milk letdown is painful at first as your breasts are getting used to do it. It doesn't mean the latch is wrong.
What training did you do? I would like to do something as well, but not sure I could fit it all in.
LAF that is interesting. When I had my dc they cluster fed like crazy and I felt no one had prepared me for the intensity of it. If someone had said it's ok if they want to feed very often I wouldn't have been worried there was something wrong with the baby. Particularly as my baby book said they always fed every 3-4 hours
The training took me just under a year and I fitted it around looking after dc. I don't work ft though, which has helped. Did lots of the essays at night after they'd gone to bed! Very glad I did it and if you have any interest you could speak to one of these groups depending on who you have locally:
Association Breastfeeding Mothers
I got in touch with a BF counsellor when I was still in hospital. She specialised in BF after breast reduction surgeries. My baby was dehydrated and getting to the point of being seriously ill and I was getting conflicting advice about what to do. She said (first contact and on phone at this point), "Give him formula now, don't stop, give him as much as he wants, as often as he wants." She told me not to worry about the BF, she would be coming to visit me and we would sort it out. THAT made me feel enormously better, because I had been worried that ff early would mean bf wouldn't work later (my misinformation) and I knew that she was hardcore pro-breastfeeding so her words had weight.
She was super, super positive about how I was doing and super, super encouraging (she was American) and at the time I lapped it up, whereas normally I'd have found it too much.
At home she was also v. good, positive and encouraging and got me set up with Lact-Aid.
What I would have liked on top of all that would have been to be touched more gently - super gently. My body seemed super sensitive after the birth and I don't think in hindsight that she was at all rough, but I did feel she could have been gentler.
Sorry that's a bit long and sideways on to your question!
Cantreach that is not long and sideways at all - I will remember about gentleness and it sounds as though your counsellor's warmth and positivity really spurred you on. It sounds as though she made you feel it was definitely going to work and that she was totally in your corner.
I talked to 2 BF counsellors in the first 2 weeks, (I think they were - they were who the midwives referred me to).
The one I liked gave me a clear plan that made me feel like everything was going well even though it seemed chaotic (had to do top ups like cantreach above) and was generally kind to me and the baby.
The second one - I know it sounds silly - upset me by calling my baby lazy! And was generally a bit more rough with us. Not awful but I would have avoided seeing her again.
Congratulations, and what a brilliant thing to do!
I had great help and support from hvs, mws, friends and family. The only thing I found a bit hard was that I could only feed from one side (one inverted nipple), but the hvs and mws would never accept that this was a viable option, wanted me to keep expressing from other side, which I hated. In the end I did it my way, which worked. But my one wish would have been that the people helping me had understood that feeding from one side can be fine (after all, look at people with twins, or who have had a masectomy). BTW, still bf at 12 months, so think I am proof positive!
Good luck - you are doing a great thing.
I am sure she meant nothing by it, but
I would never say lazy Laid back, sleepy, learning how to latch yes. Lazy no. Shows how important it is to use language carefully.
Neo that's a very interesting story. In the end you proved you were the expert on your own bf situation and obviously it worked really well. I presume they were trying to help you keep a milk supply from both sides, in case you needed both to feed successfully.
Interestingly, I just looked at something which said that if only one breast is available a baby can often get enough milk from that provided the baby is given unlimited time at that breast (no scheduled feeding).
Congratulations!! Being non judgmental is essential. Good counselling skill and sensitivity as well as a sense of humour to keep yourself sane . It's a great thing to do, both for you and very much for the mums you'll support.
Thank you nethuns - yes I can see good interpersonal skills are going to be really vital!
Can't remember her exact words but I'd got myself into a mindset of "good mums breastfeed, bad mums formula feed" and I think she just said that if the BF didn't work it really wasn't the end of the world. Also, thought of something else, don't assume other professionals know what they're doing - I had several midwives and two health visitors tell me DS didn't have tongue tie (he did) so one counsellor didn't bother checking, luckily the second one did!
Good luck with it all!!
Thank you, Lady. How frustrating it took so long for the tt to be spotted
Interesting that her words saying that motherhood is not all about how you feed really spurred you on. She sounds caring.
I live in France and was really badly advised by various hcps who were not pro bf big and not at all knowledgable about it.
After a week of struggling through, the french equivalent of a bf consellor came round and she helped me do much. She was gentle and patient and took all the time in the world to watch them (twins) feeding, to show and advise me. The best thing she told me was to feed them as often as poss and to take advantage of them being awake (god was in the sleepy newborn stage) to offer the breast. This sounds obvious big I had been told by everyone else to feed four hourly and that obviously wasn't working'
She made me feel like I could call her whenever I needed it and she was also v encouraging, telling me how well I was doing rug. Not sure if I would have successfully breasted had it not been for this wonderful lady!
So many random words in my post!!! Sorry! On phone in bed, tired!!
Ahh Nancy - she sounds wonderful. So glad she was there for you and well done to you for getting bf to work despite the earlier bad advice!
I am hoping to be able to offer mothers some real support and if I can manage to be anywhere near as helpful as that lady I will be pleased.
I would agree with being able to spot TT or even suggest as an option and know how to get treatment both NHS and private (I couldn't personally cope with the 3 week wait).
I found it easier when someone told me to just take it one feed at a time when my TT pain combined with mastitis and thrush was at its worst! This made it more manageable as sometimes waking up in the morning and even thinking about having to feed throughout the day was too daunting.
Also accepting that when someone says something is painful it really is! I had about 10 breastfeeding professionals tell me I had a great latch! But to me it was unbearably painful due to I diagnosed tongue tie.
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