Hi, my name is Danielle, I am also known as The Breastfeeding Mentor and author of ‘Self Care: The Breastfeeding Edition.’ As a mother of one spirited little boy, I am a former teacher of English whose journey to motherhood sparked a passion for breastfeeding and self love.
Back in 2014 at 27 years old, I miscarried my baby at exactly 12 weeks. That excruciating night triggered the breakdown of an already-failing marriage and my spiral into depression. I was living in Dubai at the time, half way around the world from my nearest and dearest and the chasm of my empty womb felt all-consuming, all of the time. Desperate to find some kind of peace, I enrolled in a summer-long yoga and meditation course in the foothills of the Himalayas in India. The experience rocked me to my core and made me re-evaluate everything from my career as an English teacher to my relationships. Upon completion of the course, I made the decision to move back to the UK to study towards a masters degree in Psychology. It was during this time that my friendship with my now fiancé blossomed. By the end of 2018 we were engaged and excepting our baby boy.
I am fortunate that aside from all-day sickness and a fainting episode during the first trimester, my pregnancy was a smooth one. Giving birth, howeve, was a different story…Nonetheless, after 78 hours of induced labour which ended in an emergency c-section, our son was born and changed our lives forever. Like most, breastfeeding did not come easy to us initially and for the first few days of his life, my son was fed using a syringe. My fiancé and countless midwives spent hours squeezing my tender bosoms to express colostrum to feed him, then around 3:00am on his third day on earth, he latched onto me with enthusiasm and has pretty much been attached to me ever since!
My struggles with breastfeeding from then on stemmed predominantly from my own misconceptions surrounding normal, natural infant behaviour. Why didn’t my son sleep for longer stretches like other babies? Why did he want to be held, and nurse, constantly? Why wouldn’t he accept a push chair or car seat? When would I ever be able to go anywhere or do anything? For me the fourth trimester was a baptism of fire. Cluster feeding felt like torture - how was I ever supposed to get anything done? The night feedings made me nauseous and I felt as if I was no longer myself. I was finally a mom, but I felt as though I was no longer Danielle too.
When I returned to work it felt fantastic to have a little bit of my old self back, although I felt guilty about being away from my boy all day. I went back to work when he was 9 months old and I continued to breastfeed him whenever I was home. The moments of reconnection after a day of separation meant everything to my boy and I - it was not something I wanted to give up for the sake of my career. Working long hours in a boarding school, the sleep deprivation became too much. In hindsight I have no idea why I thought I could continue to work 70+ hours a week on as little as 3-5 hours of sleep each night. I was privately, but rapidly unraveling. Then one morning in March 2020, I collapsed from exhaustion whilst attempting to do a food shop.
In the time since that day I have been on a second journey of self love and acceptance. One which centers around my desire to mother and breastfeed on my own terms and no-one else’s. I left my former role in summer 2021 to focus fully on my work as The Breastfeeding Mentor and it is my greatest privilege to share the lessons that I have learned over the past 32 months with you. I didn’t dare to admit to anyone that I secretly hoped to reach my breastfeeding goal of two years, as recommended by the World Health Organization. However, when we met that target this year and it felt like a quiet but mighty, “F*ck you,” to everyone who had thought that they had the right to tell me what to do with my own breasts. In 29 days we will have been breastfeeding for 1000 days - a milestone that I hope we hit, but one that will be guided by my little boy. I don’t yet know if he will self wean before I am ready to stop nursing, but I do know that the decision will be made by him or I.
However long you decide to breastfeed, I hope more than anything that you are able to do it for as long as you so choose, without compromising your health or wellbeing. ‘Self Care: The Breastfeeding Edition’ is the big sister I never had, but so desperately needed at the start of my motherhood. It contains 50 practical, evidence-based tips for navigating life as a nursing mama and it is my gift to the mothers I connect with each and every day. It is available to pre-order now via the link in my bio and is coming to Amazon soon.