My passion for feeding support: Lisa Dunckley

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Hi all!

My name is Lisa Dunckley and I am an IBCLC board certified Lactation Consultant and thrilled to be part of the antenatal course team at The Village.

My experience

My path to lactation consultancy was a long one but driven by a passion to support caregivers on their perinatal journey. I started as a parent and peer supporter then trained to become a breastfeeding counsellor eight years ago. I support dyads (parent and baby feeding pairs) on the postnatal ward at Lewisham hospital or at one of several community support groups in the boroughs of Lewisham and Greenwich.

Experiencing how caregivers are let down, time after time, by poor information, lack of resources and a misunderstanding of infant feeding and child development, is what led me to train to become a lactation consultant. 

I have a relentless desire to provide non-judgemental, evidence-based information to caregivers, regardless of whether they are exclusively breast or chest feeding, partial or combination feeding, exclusively pumping or formula feeding, or various combinations of the above. 

Who can you trust?

Feedback from parents, particularly during the pandemic, almost always includes “we received such conflicting advice.” Almost all parents I see, regardless of the setting, say that they would have appreciated more support, however they are feeding. This is simply not good enough.

Quite rightly, for a position that is the global, gold standard of breastfeeding medicine, the training is extensive in terms of clinical hours, science qualifications, specialist courses and exams. It is only when you pass the International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) exam can you say that you are a lactation consultant. 

Why is this important? 

Caregivers are often told they are seeing the ‘infant feeding specialist’ but they are entitled to know what training this health professional has, particularly if they are being directed towards interventions and/or to follow specific plans. Where is the evidence?

To view infant feeding as simply ‘giving food’, is ignoring all the behaviours that drive infants to return and seek their caregiver for non-nutritive reasons. If infants continue to seek, although nutritionally satiated, we doubt ourselves as caregivers. We doubt our ability, we doubt our milk and we doubt our love. We constantly receive the message that we are not enough. 

My role is simply to advocate for caregivers by reinforcing the wide parameter of norms and interpretation of biological and physiological behaviours that play out as infant feeding. To provide information and further support if problems present or persist. There should be no suggestion of a ‘quick fix’ for infant feeding issues. Whether that issue is nipple pain or restrictive frenulums (‘tongue tie’).

Messages from society

The infant feeding/parenting journey is so intense and so important yet so undervalued, within our society, culture and governance. As parents and carers, we are told what to do for the best and then receive very little support as to how to achieve this, what signs to look for along the way and when and how to ask for support. It might be that we are experiencing problems or because the simple truth is that physiologically normal infant behaviour is sufficient to make any journey challenging, in itself. 

Yet we constantly receive messages to suggest that if we are not in a continuous state of pure joy, there is something wrong with us, us as an individual; that we have failed as the parent/carer.

If we continue to measure the success of a parent on how much their infant eats or how much they sleep or how quickly their infant becomes independent from their caregiver… if we continue to misinform on physiological and biological norms and choose to enforce a view of normal that is based on quick fixes… we will always feel that we have failed as parents. 

Empowerment

Empowerment is the foundation for the infant feeding element of our antenatal course Birth & Beyond. Empowering future parents to understand the reality of infant feeding. 

  • What impacts our breastfeeding? 

  • What are those parameters of biological norm? 

  • How do we know feeding is effective in the first few weeks? 

These are the questions that I am asked by parents, not only on the postnatal ward but weeks into their journey. If this knowledge is learned as part of antenatal preparation then, hopefully, parents will feel in control and equipped to deal with what happens in the perinatal period.

Empowerment means that we will discuss the challenges to our infant feeding goals. Too often I hear parents say, “nobody told me about ….” 

Information is power and furnishing parents with information is a respectful path to follow. 

I also feel that knowledge of the fourth trimester is crucial to understanding your baby’s behaviour in the newborn period and can explain much of what we feel is a failure on our part to regulate our baby.

How your baby enters the world will impact, in some way, how your infant feeding journey starts and going into the perinatal period with evidence based information is the best power a parent has. 

Support from The Village

I believe The Village is a model for mental and physical wellbeing support that is so vital it needs to be rolled out throughout the land. The model is based on the purest form of support – a nurturing environment, inclusive to all and by that, free of judgement, built on what we have in common as humans in this experience.

I am proud to be part of a team built on this foundation.

 


 

If you are pregnant and would like to benefit from Lisa’s expertise, book your place on our antenatal course Birth & Beyond.

Lisa is at The Village every Wednesday offering non-judgemental support to parents feeding their infants.

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