SM chats to… Donna Read, author of The Secret Mums’ Club

412377607At SM we don’t judge how you feed your baby. As we know, with lots of children and demands, life can be hard enough without pressure to breastfeed. ‘The Secret Mums’ Club’ was written to help and support, without being in-your-face ‘lactivist’ – and we were delighted that it’s author Donna Read took the time to tell us all about it.

Donna Read: The Secret Mums’ Club is the title for my first book which was released in September 2016. Why choose this name? Introducing a bottle of formula or expressed breast milk alongside breast feeding is not anything new but like me so many keep it a secret from friends, family and often their midwives! In my case I was so lucky that I was able to have open discussions with my midwives and they were fully supportive of my decision knowing we had talked through the pros and cons and I was fully informed but I often wondered how many other mums were keeping this secret and how many mums didn’t know about it and gave up breast feeding without knowing about it.

SM: What was your own breastfeeding experience?

Donna Read: Looking back as I explain in the book I really was wearing “rose” coloured spectacles.  When I attended a breast feeding workshop the mums who sat before me happily feeding their babies were at the 8 to 10 week stages and I watched them thinking how easy they made it look, how well they looked and how happy their babies looked. It never occurred to me that breast feeding would be difficult. On day 1 after birth I had two midwives assist me to extract my colostrum by hand onto a spoon, it was then collected by syringe and given orally to my daughter Katie. The midwives were so supportive and were so keen to help me establish breast feeding but it wasn’t going as well as I had hoped. By day three I was home but was so exhausted I could barely function. I suffer from asthma and eczema and I knew breast feeding could help protect my babies from this along with other things. I knew all the facts, I was well informed, I was determined but breast feeding wasn’t coming to me with ease. My husband and I talked things through and we decided I needed to put myself first and get some sleep.  We agreed he would give Katie some formula and I would get a few hours’ sleep. Just a few hours’ sleep allowed me some inner strength and from that day we never looked back.

SM: In our mothers/grandmothers’ era, mums stayed in hospital for up to a fortnight learning ‘parenting skills’. Might there be a benefit in bringing back a system such as this?

Donna Read: I think elements of this should absolutely be considered.  The book also contains a 6 week baby boot camp to give a loose routine for mums / partners to follow. Although things may seem obvious, when you have a new baby and are suffering from sleep deprivation your ability to think clearly changes. My routine involves things like, no cooking or heavy housework in the first 2 weeks following birth. No trying to put baby into a routine in the first 2 months and in the first week I recommend at least 2 days to stay in your pj’s or onesie and just spend time breastfeeding and bonding with your baby. Bringing a baby into the world is demanding and mums have to accept things will be different and to have an open mind to welcoming these changes in whatever format they present themselves. Breast feeding isnt just about the physical action it’s about laying the foundations to enable it to happen. You cannot motivate a mum to breast feed you can only create an atmosphere where they feel motivated to breast feed.

image: Daily Mail
image: Daily Mail

SM: Do you think celebrity #brelfies create a positive image of breastfeeding, or just put more pressure on new mothers?

Donna Read: If a celeb breast feeding inspires any mum to give it a try then yes its great but bear in mind you rarely see a celeb breast feeding until they have it established and the reality part is what mums need to keep focussed on.

SM: Our writers and a lot of our readers have more than one child and the experience for many is that there simply isn’t the luxury of time to breastfeed on demand when you have other toddlers to juggle. Do you have any tips to share?

Donna Read: Involve siblings right from the start they are smarter than you think.  Take time to plan short activities / snacks to keep an older sibling occupied whilst you are feeding, and yes sometimes it may involve putting a TV programme on and not feel guilty about it. Older siblings may like to roleplay so giving them a doll to pretend they are feeding or changing a nappy is highly entertaining for them.

SM: There has been a lot of controversy in the press recently about mum’s milk not having enough Vitamin D and suggesting lactating mothers take supplements (or Health Visitors prescribe vitamin drops) If this is the case then might it strengthen the argument for combination feeding (as formula has added vitamins anyway)?

Donna Read: I wouldn’t say it strengthens the case for combination feeding.  I still believe 100% exclusive breastfeeding is the very best way to feed your baby and I explain in the book looking back there are things I could have done differently and may have only used formula a few times. If research shows that babies may benefit from a vitamin drop I’m sure it will be introduced. A new mum should not start out combination feeding but more I want my book to let mums make that fully informed decision on how they want to feed, especially if they feel at any point they may want to give up breast feeding and turn to 100 % formula feeding.  I think in the book I’ve captured a great analogy which gives mums something real to consider. If I was to say from tomorrow, you are only allowed powdered milk in you tea, cereal, cooking for the next 12 months of more and not allowed fresh cow’s milk , what would you choose?  Hold that thought…Both are still milk of course they are but it’s a scenario which we can relate too.

SM: And finally, whereabouts in Troon is the friendliest towards breastfeeding in public?

Donna Read: We are so lucky in Ayrshire there are many great schemes and support, one in particular is breast feed happily here where local shops and businesses sign up and breast feeding mums are never far away from a place to be welcomed in to feed their babies in this most natural way.

cover-idea-reworked-2In the UK I would love every mum to make it their mission to start off aiming for 100% exclusive breastfeeding and not be afraid to ask for help and support in achieving this.  In reality only about 40 in every 2000 mums will be unable to breast feed so potentially we all can. Wouldn’t it be wonderful that those who could did and those who couldn’t were able to get donor breast milk meaning every baby in the UK could have breast milk? Maybe one day this could be reality, I can only dream it happens in my lifetime. It’s not a secret any more let me introduce you to The Secret Mums’ Club…

Donna’s book ‘The Secret Mums’ Club’ is available on Amazon, but we have a copy to give away on Twitter – follow our feed @slickmummy and @secretmumsclub