Available in audio formats: https://open.spotify.com/show/2WlVplDIv0WUiaRwpfIOj5?si=o7M6kxD_QjuAqlSEirApig
It works, for me. I know and respect that many people crave and want the physical face to face support but I have risk factors that increase your risk and equally I have weaknesses that means I would like to try my hardest not to contract COVID-19 (or the Elephant in the room as I like to call it). My family are in environments away from me now and coming home each day, this increases the risk of me unknowingly having Covid-19 and passing it on in a face to face environment.
Most, if not all, of the virtual work I’ve done with well over 50 families during this pandemic experience has been successful in supporting the breastfeeding situation. I’m not perfect and I can name probably two cases where face to face support may have been more helpful but at the time not possible. One of the things I cannot do that I could pre-COVID-19 is infant oral assessment, however, as those I’ve worked with will know, often, I have worked out if oral assessment is a good next step and can give guidance for those next steps available to that family.
For me, virtual consultations mean that I can work with you for however long it takes to get you confident about things. I’ve been known to wait for a good two hours to wait for a little human to be willing to feed. Face to Face I’m really limited with the length of time I can spend with you at the moment with restrictions in place for social distancing, and you cannot see my emotions as well behind a mask. Virtual consultations mean that you will get your report faster as I’m often able to do them straight after a consultation. Face to Face means sometimes you might not get them until the next day as I need to be with my young family when I get home after travelling. Virtual consultations mean I’m not adding to pollution by driving. It seems trivial but face to face means added pollution, I was doing at least 1000 miles a month before Covid-19. Virtual means I also have access to my books during a consultation, worried about a drug and breastfeeding? I’ve got a book for that. Face to Face means having to wait until I can access the book to find out that information which adds time to you accessing medication you might be needing quickly.
I’ve worked very hard to make sure what I’m offering virtually is something I am proud of doing. I want to support people to breastfeed and achieve their goals, I want to support mothers to feel like they have the ability to enjoy as much of feeding and meeting their babies needs as possible. I know that sometimes it feels like you are lost and fighting with your baby to feed them and what I offer virtually I know will help alleviate some of those difficulties. I give space for families to talk, to give their thoughts and feelings, I hear you and I have time to do so. I also collect an extensive history to not just sort out the problem in front of me but also why it happened and how to prevent it happening again in the future.
As a practitioner I am hands off in my approach, I am lucky that because of this approach I haven’t had to adapt my practice too much to work virtually. I’ve said it to clients, “I’m not there at 3am in the dark” I can model the idea and use words in different ways to get clients to achieve the desired effect. In the time (coming up to two years) of practice as an IBCLC (and many years before that as a breastfeeding counsellor) I have placed my hand on 3 breasts and helped well over 150 families as an IBCLC. One to feel an abscess, the other to help a mother shape her breast as she was in so much pain, she couldn’t decipher my words and I worked through guiding her, the other at the request of the mother to feel for heat difference in her breast.
What I know is babies are pre programed to breastfeed and given the right stimulus will do just that, often there’s a skeptical moment with my reassurance that babies can find the breast, its followed by an in-awe moment from the parents at the ability of their new family member. I can facilitate and support this virtually. Sometimes it might mean a follow up consultation, something I’m happy to facilitate.
I can also do guided relaxation as a result of being a mindful breastfeeding practitioner. I truly feel that this, along with my sling consultant knowledge, has given me a greater ability to support well virtually. To be able to help everyone calm and relax when sometimes everything feels a little out of control has been beyond rewarding for me as a practitioner.
I will never discredit the true value of face to face support and I cannot wait to get my boob shoes out again and meet babies in true form rather than pixel form but I need to do that in safety and where I don’t present an unknown risk to the families I work with.
For exceptional cases I am looking in to possible face to face consultations, I have much to take into consideration with these and I make decisions with my whole life in the risk analysis and those I have no option but to come into contact with. I look forward to the option of groups of support in the future and being able to support parents in their homes physically for now the risks haven’t gone away and I make the decisions based on lots of thought and care for everyone around me.
I am proud of what I have achieved in this time, I have been able to support new families in a pandemic to feed their new human infants. I continue to do just that and will continue for as long as I possibly can, hopefully physically face to face but for now in pixel form.
If you need help with breastfeeding in Sussex or beyond (I’ve been able to support families Worldwide, which has been such a bonus to this situation. Helping a family in Brazil to name just one country was a privilege.) click on the image on my home page to fill in the form and I will get you booked in as soon as possible.
I hope to hear from you soon.
Peaceful wishes for your day ahead
Sophie Burrows IBCLC, AKA The Boob Lady