- What was everyone’s experience at the private hospital? Public Hospital?
- Did you have an epidural? What was it like?
- Can anyone recommend a good obstetrician/midwife/doula?
- My blood pressure is 150/90. Is that ok?
- My child health nurse said I need to supplement with formula. Should I?
- How do I increase my supply as my baby is losing weight?
So often I see a few lines from a mother asking for help. She’s overwhelmed and confused about this whole new state of being.
Apart from a few trolls online, most people are really quite nice. They want to be helpful and they feel good if they can be of help. Particularly when they hear about other mums going through a similar situation. Of course they want to share the solution that worked for them. That’s how we support each other – we share our learned knowledge with our tribe.
But here’s the catch – what worked for one person in their very individual circumstances, may not work for another. And what is summarised in a few sentences is rarely enough information to get a realistic idea of the situation, so that appropriate suggestions can be made.
So often I see the request for ideas of how to increase milk supply. Inevitably, there will be the usual suggestions to “Feed more often”, “Drink herbal tea/beer/more water”, “Make lactation cookies”, “Rest when baby rests” and so forth. In and of itself, it’s all lovely advice for the mother. However, rarely does anyone think to ask “What do you mean by low supply? What are the signs?” .
Without these questions, the mother will continue to think she has a low supply and may try all the “solutions” with no change. Or she might see a change. Either way, what it is reinforced to the mother is that breastfeeding is challenging and she needs to be “fixed”.
On the other hand, there may be people saying “Don’t worry about it” “You’re a fantastic mother and you’re doing fine” “Just ignore what you’re being told” “My baby was like that and he’s fine now”. On the surface, this sounds very encouraging and positive. I think we all need to hear how great we are from time to time.
But what happens if there is something going on that needs to be looked into further? It might be something as simple as a slight position change, a little flick of the top lip or even a change in expectation of the mother. Perhaps she’s been told that the baby should only feed every 3 hours and no more. These are the sorts of things that can only be addressed with a lot more discussion and hopefully some “in real life” time for an even clearer picture.
More worryingly, what happens if the mother failed to mention that her baby is premature or perhaps the baby has an undiagnosed medical condition? How could anyone possibly know that with just a query about low supply?
Often a woman may be looking to her online tribe for alternatives to the recommendations that she’s been given IRL. She may feel uncomfortable with the recommendations and is naturally searching for more information. The internet can be a great tool for research and ideas. But what is often ignored is the opportunity for the woman to form a deeper connection with her IRL tribe. Rather than saying “Ignore what your midwife told you” a better suggestion would be to encourage the woman to ask questions to truly work out whether the recommendation is appropriate or not.
What is worrying to me is that there have been a growing number of incidents over the last few years where women have turned to online support for advice for decisions that really should only come from their “IRL” tribe. Staying at home during labour for as long as possible is great advice for many women and it makes sense on so many levels. Hearing stories from other women about how they loved staying at home or how they went into hospital too early (with the cascade of interventions following) is great information to know. However, when an online tribe starts telling a woman to stay home without knowing the recommendations of her IRL tribe/medical professional or telling the woman to ignore the IRL advice – then this is just downright dangerous.
The fact of the matter is that people online try to be helpful and that is lovely. It can be really helpful to gather love and support from your tribe – wherever that may be. But it can never replace in depth, local support. That could be from “IRL” friends, family, medical practitioners, midwives and doulas. These people will have a better understanding of the bigger picture.
Forming your tribe online can be helpful, but make sure you have at least a small IRL tribe who really understands your situation. Be discerning about what weight is put on advice.