In World Breastfeeding Week (1-7 August), Rubie Ahmed, Breastfeeding peer support worker shares her own breastfeeding struggles and how those experiences inspired her to want to help others.
Hi I’m Rubie Ahmed, I’m a ‘Breastfeeding peer support worker’, which falls into my ‘Practice Health Champion role’ at Parklands Medical Practice in BD5.
Originally from Manchester, I gained significant experience within the healthcare sector whilst working at The Priory rehabilitation centre for many years, which inspired me to support people with different health aspects.
Being the first in my family to have a child was an exciting prospect for everyone. I glanced over what literature I had: ‘Mums guidebook’, but no advice could prepare me for my journey of motherhood. Reality soon came around as a big shock! How I wish the ‘Welcome to the World’ course was out during my pregnancy. It would have made an enormous difference on how I approached motherhood.
Feeling that I didn’t have a vast amount of support, I couldn’t open up about my fears and anxieties so I persevered daily by responding with a smile and a nod when asked “Are you ok?”
I now have three beautiful children, so I guess it wasn’t all bad! An eight year old girl, a five year old boy and recently turned two year old girl.
I eventually became a successful breastfeeder… but only after many attempts
I eventually became a successful breastfeeder with all three, but only after many attempts. I say eventually, because as natural as breastfeeding seemed during pregnancy (and that’s all I wanted to do) it definitely didn’t come without practice, perseverance and support. A bit like riding a bike: you have to keep trying until eventually you go without the stabilisers!
I struggled in silence with my first for at least ten days and was almost ready to give up, until my husband desperately called my health visitor telling her that I was struggling.
I started asking “where am I going wrong?” and “am I a bad mum?” I just wasn’t ‘getting it’.
A health visitor came over to my home and physically positioned me and then helped my baby latch on properly. The sheer relief that I had, when I could feel my baby feed properly, it was great… I think the oxytocin being released helped too.
My personal experience and meeting other mums who had similar concerns, feeling that they don’t have support or are not natural to breastfeeding, inspired me to support mums who need it at this important time. That little extra support to position their baby, repositioning yourself or just speaking to someone, can make a big difference with the whole breastfeeding experience.
I say ‘It is okay, you are not the first or last mum who will struggle [with breastfeeding]’
Some mums decide they may not want to exclusively breastfeed, and that’s okay too. You can use other methods of feeding. Expressing, bottle feeding and even combining the two. There really isn’t a right or wrong.
I firmly tell mums who struggle ‘that it is okay, you are not the first or last mum who will struggle. No one is judging you. As a service we are here to support you, even if it’s just a chat, there is always someone who will support you.’
The most rewarding part is meeting mums and seeing that a little support has given them a positive experience. Having the confidence of feeding their baby in whichever method they decide to choose. Some mums who were unsure of breastfeeding have continued longer than they had anticipated.
For mums who feel they may want extra support or just to meet other breastfeeding mums to exchange tips, there are many groups that are run by Better Start Bradford. After all, there isn’t a ‘manual’ which makes us mums, we learn along the way with the best possible support!
By Rubie Ahmed
Local breastfeeding peer support worker