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“Mummy Makes Milk” – meet the author

We’ve just launched a beautiful new picture storybook on Milk & Mummy called Mummy Makes Milk. It’s about a mummy breastfeeding her baby and the questions she encounters from her older little boy. In this post we interview the author, Helen McGonigal, herself a mum of three breastfed children and a breastfeeding peer supporter:

What made you write Mummy Makes Milk?

I was sitting in the playground at school feeding my youngest when lots of my daughter’s friends crowded round asking questions. Some had clearly never seen anyone breastfeed a baby before and wondered what I was doing. Some knew what I was doing, but were eager to know more about it. Someone had suggested some time before that I write a book for mums involving breastfeeding and I suddenly thought there are plenty of books for mums about breastfeeding, but I couldn’t remember seeing any that properly explain it to children. I found there was a gap in the market and decided to give it a go.

What readership is it aimed at?

The book also deals with the situation of gaining a sibling, so it is initially aimed at the age group most likely to gain a little brother or sister, approximately age 2-5. This is quite broad and I recognise that a parent may need to edit the longer sentences according to the child’s ability. Older children, up to age 8 or 9 also seem to enjoy the book.

Have you written any books before?

I’ve written quite a lot of books, but this is the first one I’ve published. I like writing slightly longer stories, early readers and middle grade (8-12). In fact I’ve just finished a middle grade novel for a competition, so fingers crossed!

What has been the initial reaction?

I’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of support and enthusiasm I’ve received for the book. It’s proving really popular as an educational resource, which is great. I’m very passionate about making breastfeeding more of a cultural norm, so, whilst it’s lovely that mums who breastfeed want to read the book to their children, it’s also excellent that the book is being read to children in schools and nurseries who otherwise may not see breastfeeding as another option for feeding a baby.

Did you have good breastfeeding experiences with your children?

My eldest took to breastfeeding like a duck to water and we had a relatively trouble-free time. I found it so rewarding that I trained to be a breastfeeding peer supporter. My second however had an upper lip tie and a shallow latch that led to a catalogue of problems. I’d have been shouting ‘House!’ at Breastfeeding Bingo for certain! It was only the good experience of breastfeeding my eldest that gave me the determination to keep going and, following a diagnosis of Vasospasm (a condition similar to Reynauds, where the blood vessels constrict on change of temperature that causes pain during and between feeds), things settled down at about six weeks.

My youngest was thankfully another natural breastfeeder and fed well. I breastfed him until he was a toddler.

Was sibling jealousy whilst breastfeeding an issue for you?

I didn’t really have any trouble with this. Of course, there were the odd moments, but they weren’t problematic enough for us to stop. The beauty of breastfeeding is that it leaves one hand free, so I made a big deal about reading stories, doing jigsaws, gluing and sticking or playing role play games whilst I was feeding. My eldest went through a phase of waiting until I sat down to feed her baby sister to decide she needed the toilet, which was frustrating. It passed as all these phases do.

What, if anything, could be provided to make breastfeeding easier for new mums?

More support, without a doubt. It’s great that the government wants to encourage mums to breastfeed and I think most mums agree that the benefits of breastfeeding are fantastic, but it annoys me that the government don’t put enough funding into providing the breastfeeding support that mums need to be able to establish and continue breastfeeding. The statistics speak for themselves: roughly 80% of mums start breastfeeding in hospital, but the figure falls to about 30% by six weeks and just 1% are still breastfeeding at six months.

Support needs to come in all areas too. Firstly, health professionals need to have up-to-date information on breastfeeding and I think they should all have training in supporting mums. Secondly, support needs to come from a mum’s family. It makes a huge difference to have a husband or partner and close relatives on board. More awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding would prevent old wives’ tales being spread. Thirdly, support needs to come from the wider community. If we could get past the ridiculous over-sexualisation of breasts in the media then people wouldn’t get so up in arms about seeing a woman breastfeeding on a bench. I think it’s ridiculous that in this country it is more culturally normal to see a girl in a skimpy bikini on the front of a lad’s magazine than to see a woman breastfeeding a baby. As a nation we seem to have our wires crossed!

Does breastfeeding clothing make breastfeeding easier for new mums?

It’s fantastic that companies such as Milk & Mummy exist, to provide mums with stylish, discreet clothing to breastfeed in. It gives more mums the confidence to breastfeed anywhere. One of the things that got me down post-pregnancy before M&M came along, was that I had to put up with looking like a frump whenever we went anywhere nice, such was the terrible choice of reasonably priced and fashionable breastfeeding clothing.

What do you hope to achieve from publishing Mummy Makes Milk?

If starting off with little children, we can make breastfeeding a cultural norm for generations to come, then that would be great. And if my book can play a tiny part in changing perceptions then I’d be very happy.

Helen McGonigal

Helen McGonigal

Mummy Makes Milk is available now on Milk & Mummy priced at £6.99.

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About Me:

My name is Emma and I have three (!) wonderful babies. The oldest is my daughter Elsa, born in 2011 the second is “Milk & Mummy” my online boutique selling beautiful breastfeeding clothes and launched in 2012, and the youngest is my son Oliver, born in August 2014. All three exhaust me, excite me and make me proud on a daily basis and naturally all vie for my attention! But of course I wouldn't have it any other way.

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Milk & Mummy sells stylish nursing clothes including nursing tops and nursing dresses. We have everything from casual breastfeeding tops for a day at home to glamorous breastfeeding dresses for weddings. Many of our nursing dresses are also maternity dresses and we also sell beautiful breastfeeding covers and cute baby dribble bibs.

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