Carole Hervé, Breastfeeding consultant
Can you describe yourself in a few words?
Enthusiastic and always looking for ideas to help mums be fulfilled as women; I’m an IBCLC-certified breastfeeding consultant and I’m happy to provide support and appropriate information that fits each breastfeeding project. I’m also, above all, a happy mum of 3 children who help me question my assumptions and grow along with them.
Tell us your background? What made you choose to become a breastfeeding consultant?
I saw myself as an English teacher at the start, and I got an incredible break that took me to the other side of the planet, to Australia, where I studied that fabulous language with young children. After that I went into business communication studies, which is a job I love and that I’ve managed to keep up in my « spare time ». More specifically, I organised conferences on the subject of breastfeeding, for healthcare professionals.
When I became a mum, I decided to transform a frustrating first breastfeeding experience and push myself to pass on what I had learned. Of course I worked to improve on my knowledge and my perfectionist side took over. I trained to be a volunteer with La Leche League France and to run support groups; then, in 2011, I wanted to take it a step further and I became an IBCLC breastfeeding consultant. I’m constantly learning and exploring areas that may seem far removed from breastfeeding, as I’ve worked with experts in speech therapy, as well as neuroscience and personal development experts. Today, my approach is a combination of these different puzzle pieces.
Any encounters with mums that have been particularly rewarding or touching?
Each encounter is rewarding, each story moves me, and I am amazingly lucky to meet so many mothers that I wouldn’t know which particular adventure to choose in answer to that question. Some feel like epic sagas, but at the same time it’s not the magnitude of the challenge overcome that makes them worthwhile. What inspire me on a daily basis are the stories and the way the mothers embrace their journey. They inspire me because most of them already have the keys to the solution that is right for them. Mothers have an incredible instinct, which just needs to be brought out. So sometimes they push me to be creative, so that I can help them overcome their difficulties. Also, how they take on the info I share with them is a constant source of opportunities to rethink my approach, to fine-tune it, so that I can help them more effectively every day.
Do you think we should follow what’s happening abroad in terms of breastfeeding? If so, which country/ies and why?
I think it’s always good to broaden our vision, regardless of the subject. Being 1m81 tall helps me see further afield than just what I do on a daily basis! I’m lucky in that I speak English fluently, and since I can never stay in one place, I’m always looking at what’s going on elsewhere. Quite often I even go abroad to see approaches that are different to what is done in France. Having said that, I should mention that our certification requires us to keep abreast (pun intended) of leading-edge scientific knowledge. This means we need to look at international resources. The countries that inspire me most? The United States, or Australia, there’s a lot of inspiring material there, as with Israel or the Scandinavian countries. There’s no doubt a lot to learn from the latino countries, the eastern bloc, the orient…
Is it possible to prepare for breastfeeding? What would be your main advice for starting out and getting through those first essential weeks successfully?
Yes, we can prepare for breastfeeding. In France the social security system even finances breastfeeding classes with a midwife during pregnancy.
These classes are successful they give you markers that are easy to remember, so that you can start off well and with ease.
Here is some of the key info that you should be taught:
– Breastfeeding requires anticipation and early contact with the baby (having the baby suckle within an hour of the birth is a major advantage for later on)
– Pain is a symptom and should never be played down. Any pain that arises needs to be given close and rapid attention
– The milk helps the baby eliminate their meconium quickly, and their stools become yellow, liquid and plentiful
– The mum’s comfort is key. A comfortable position is essential for smooth breastfeedingThe baby is often half asleep while feeding during the first month
– Keeping the baby within arm’s reach helps avoid a few issues
– The number of feeds isn’t the only indicator that feeding is going well. Feeds should be pain-free and you should be able to hear or see signs of swallowing.
– Find someone whose advice you trust, and consult them as often as required
Any advice in particular for young mums who have perhaps had difficulties in the past, but want to try again?
The first thing I would say is that we are all capable of nursing, even after a frustrating previous experience. And I include partial breastfeeding in there. Having the support of a professional and, why not, talking through the first, difficult breastfeeding experience, could be a good start. Then, set off on the right foot, and take a class with a specialist. If they were left with a feeling failure first time round, I would encourage them to revisit that with a more constructive interpretation. People who avoid failure also avoid success… sometimes you need to try several times before you get a satisfactory result, and that holds true for all sorts of things in life.
Is there a book on breastfeeding that particularly inspire you, and that you would recommend?
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, published by La Leche League, is an absolutely must for me.
Do you recommend changing diet during breastfeeding, especially with a view to maintaining the milk supply (nursing teas, lactogenic ingredients…)? What ingredients or plants would you recommend?
I don’t necessarily recommend changing your diet or drinking this or that magic potion. What’s required for reliable breastfeeding is frequent drainage of the breasts during the first month – by which I mean frequent, efficient feeds. This will mean your son will put on 230g per week quite easily, and your daughter at least 190g per week. And when she sees great results like these, there’s every chance that the mother will be able to enjoy trouble-free breastfeeding afterwards. Sometimes a little boost is necessary. But the thing to keep in mind is that the milk supply depends on efficient, frequent breast drainage.
Anything you’d like to add?
Breastfeeding can prove to be a real challenge for many mothers. Some give up very quickly, while for others, just the fact that they keep trying can be enough to make them happy and proud of themselves. They feel like they gave it their all. Sometimes, it’s not the result that counts but the road travelled. If they feel like nothing’s changed, I suggest they change the way they look at their past experience. Every long journey has to start with a first step.
Every day I feel immeasurably grateful when some of these mothers tell me about the results of their perseverance. I’ve noticed that breastfeeding – for some at least – is like a symbolic reflection of their lives as women. The happiest women didn’t necessarily have a magical breastfeeding experience; they just did their best and gave it everything they could, and that’s what counts.
IBCLC-certified breastfeeding consultant
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