Interview with an Expert

Q and A with Kirstie from Mandala Mama

Kirstie, thanks for joining us for a very special Q and A! You are a Maternal Child Health Nurse, the first port of call for mums all around Australia; I’ve always wondered about how my MCHN came to be, can you tell us what it takes to become a MCHN?

Thanks so much for having me Elise. Firstly I love being a MCHN. It is a very rewarding job, especially when we hear success stories of how we've helped a new mama feel less anxious about breastfeeding or how we've assisted toddlers with specific developmental needs.

You certainly get a great sense of job satisfaction, knowing you are helping families everyday. We get to work with some families for up to 5 years. It's a great service that's completely FREE Australia wide!

To become a MCHN you have to complete a university degree preferably in Nursing or Midwifery and then complete a postgraduate certificate in MCHN. In my journey in becoming a MCHN I studied a Bachelor of Nursing in Adelaide, then got an opportunity to work in NSW where I worked for a few years, before undertaking a Graduate Diploma in Midwifery. I loved working as a midwife, but I really had a passion for assisting mums in the postnatal period and assisting them with establishing breastfeeding. This is where I knew I had to become a MCHN. I completed my Graduate Certificate in Child and Family Health and haven't looked back.

From your experience, what are the common problems that new mamas face when learning to breastfeed?

I find many new mama's are quite anxious and worry if their baby is getting enough milk. Having a chat with your MCHN, getting your baby weighed regularly, getting in tune with how your breasts are feeling and/or attending your local breastfeeding drop in group, can provide new mama's with reassurance and practical tips on making sure baby is getting enough milk.

Many new mamas find that it isn't as painless as they first thought it to be. It can be uncomfortable for the first few weeks, as it's a brand new function of your body that you and your baby are getting used to.

And what would you recommend to pregnant mamas, awaiting the arrival of bub, as they consider breastfeeding in the future?

Checking out Dr Google at 2am! Don't do it – unless it’s a reputable site. Even better call the Australian Breastfeeding Hotline or Tresillian if you have questions as they are available for a chat 24/7.

Talk to your midwife or MCHN about any concerns you may have and your expectations before baby arrives. Do your own research on how to establish breastfeeding, as many new mamas feel that being able to breastfeed should come naturally. Unfortunately it doesn't always happen that way. The support from your midwife and MCHN can make your breastfeeding journey as stress free as possible.

Utilizing reputable resources, such as the Australia Breastfeeding Association, can be an amazing help. You can attend classes in preparing for breastfeeding, establishing breastfeeding and many more. They have a wonderful team and even have a 24/7 hotline you can call if you have any questions.

You can also call us MCHN. We are more than happy to answer any questions you may have and most of our clinics will have breastfeeding drop in support groups, any mama can attend.

Be a little prepared for the first few weeks of initiating breastfeeding. Many mama's will suggest having a breast pump, hydrogel breast disks (lifesavers), breast pads and making sure you have a little feeding area set up with lots of water, healthy snacks, phone, tv remote and many burp cloths near by!

What sort of conversations should we be having with our friends and family about breastfeeding?

We should be talking more about our breastfeeding experiences the good, the bad and the ugly. Making sure to realise everyone's breastfeeding journey is going to be different. It makes us all learn from others experiences, gives us reassurance at times and as mothers we need to support one another more.

Are there barriers that you have noticed, that new mamas face, to achieving a successful breastfeeding relationship?

As much as we love our close family members, sometimes they can hinder a new mamas breastfeeding experience.  Giving their 2 cents worth of advice, can really make a sleep deprived mama question herself and her boobies! Take it with a grain of salt and trust your instincts. If you're still unsure, have a chat with your MCHN or someone you know will give you an accurate answer.  Also don't be so hard on your self. Somedays will be better than others. That's the joy of parenting.

Social media is always going to be present in our lives from now on. It is hard to not compare ourselves and our experiences with other mamas, as we do spend a lot of time sitting down feeding and scrolling through FB. Don't succumb to the appearance of the perfect mama, as It doesn’t exist. Remember your baby loves you just the way you are
and you’re the best at what you do!

What do you see as the main benefits from breastfeeding?

It’s a great convenient way to nourish your baby, it gives them all their essential nutrients and antibodies to prevent illness, there's no wastage and it's free! It's also a great way for a new mama to bond with her baby. Personally it was a lovely time getting the opportunity to bond with my little guy, so I could get in some cuddles, give me a little endorphin boost to keep me going and to know that I was able to nourish my baby as best I could.

Breastfeeding burns a lot of calories, so can assist in loosing some baby weight faster. It also reduces a mama's risk of breast and ovarian cancer and lowers your risk of osteoperosis.

Thank you so much Kirstie for sharing your amazing insights with us! They will be so helpful to many a mama out there x

Kirstie is a Maternal Child Health Nurse and creator of Mandala Mama , find more about her here

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