#PNDHour 9th July hosted by me!! Chosen topic: Infant Feeding & The Impacts Upon Mental Health

Breast or Bottle? Which is best for your mental health?

So I have been honoured with the task of hosting tonight’s #PNDHour – as fantastic idea born from the mind of the inspiring Rose Wren. She created the great @PNDandMe (which is also now on Facebook), and has provided at least hundreds of people with the chance to access online peer support with just the mutter of the tag ‘#PNDchat’. She is also the founder of the new project ‘Youngness’, which can also be found on social media. This project aims to promote awareness and support young mothers and fathers between the age of 14-25 affected by perinatal mental health.

As a qualified midwife (who has recently been forced to take an ‘early retirement’ due to back problems) and now antenatal educator (more details in my ‘about.me’ section), I have a passion for advocating and supporting women and their families during and beyond the childbirth period. This experience has fuelled my specific interests in Perinatal Mental Health (or Maternal & Paternal Mental Health/Family Mental Health – the nation is yet to settle on a name!) and Infant Feeding (the physiology and the support of which, and yes, breastfeeding, bottle feeding and everything in between), and this is why I have chosen said topics for tonight’s chat.

With a mere 7 years experience in the NHS, and a few more outside, I have witnessed and experienced a whole wealth of differing services, professionals and attitudes regarding these areas. In fact, I am yet to find two people that think the same, no matter how good their intentions! It has highlighted to me that no matter how much we have tried so far, the services and support we provide are nowhere near up to scratch, and there are many women and families failed every day by the systems we have put in place. Equally, I have seen a fair few situations where we have excelled in our care, and our ‘clients’ have benefited from our knowledge, experience and skills. For me, though, it will never be enough until we are satisfying the needs of 100% of the nation – and as I imagine that is near impossible, we should never stop trying!

To input the perspective of one (former) midwife (me), here are a few of the reasons I feel we may be struggling to meet the oh so important demands of everyone around us:
1. The NHS does not have the staff, which in turn means time, to provide the care needed.
2. The communication skills of trainee staff are not assessed well enough in some areas.
3. You can teach a skill, but you can’t teach a passion. Not everyone is as focussed on mental health and infant feeding as we would like to believe!
4. There is not an equal focus on physical and mental health – resulting in mental health often taking a back seat.
5. There is not enough awareness around the impact of poor detection rates of mental health issues or poor infant feeding.

But tonight is not about what I think – it’s about you. We’re here to offer support, share information and experiences, signpost and most importantly learn. So, here’s a few questions to get you started:
– Do you think your infant feeding experience and choices impacted upon your mental health before or after childbirth?
– Were you offered enough support with infant feeding and your mental health?
– Do you feel the way you chose/are going to choose to feed your baby will improve your mental health?
– What advice would you recommend to other mums regarding mental health and infant feeding?
– What would you like to see changed with mental health and infant feeding services?
– Did you feel pressured to feed your baby a certain way and did this affect how you felt before or afterwards?

I honestly look forward to this chat every week. It has had one of the biggest impacts on my life since leaving Midwifery than anything else I have done (on a par with setting up my own business!). It has opened so many new doors to me, enabled me to meet a fantastically huge network of the most amazing, supportive people – and friends! – and to Rosey I am extremely grateful. It has made me realise I do not always have to hide how I am feeling, and brightens up my Wednesday evening every week. Thank you for creating this fantastic #PNDFamily, I really do believe that #TogetherWeAreStronger.

And that, readers, was my first ever (successfully published) blog post! Phew!! (Completed 8.01pm… not bad for an 8pm deadline, after having written one a day in advance then tragically losing it to the Black Hole of Internet Death!)

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