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4 February 2020

Team work makes the breastfeeding dream work

Cuddling and laughing with her six-month old baby, Trish Hodson cannot believe her good fortune.

Just two years ago the 33-year-old Portuguese national was diagnosed with breast cancer and her plans to start a family with husband Matt were put on hold as she was given the devastating news.

“I always wanted a family and I was so scared when I was diagnosed with breast cancer that a baby would never be possible.”

Trish had a lumpectomy (partial removal of the cancerous area) of her left breast, followed by both chemotherapy and radiotherapy before being given the all clear by her consultant at Maidstone Hospital.

But before the treatment could begin, the couple, who live in Snodland, were advised to freeze some embryos ready to use after Trish had completed her treatment.

“This was a safety net in case I started an early menopause because of all the treatment,” Trish explained.

And now, miracle baby, Isabella is the centre of their world. Conceived naturally six months after Trish’s radiotherapy finished, she is a bundle of joy and clearly doted on by her mum and dad.

But it wasn’t all plain sailing. Trish explained: “I knew I wanted to breastfeed and it was almost something I needed to do because of the cancer.

“It was my thing. I felt so passionate about it – but after the birth I was sore, tired and emotional – so when it didn’t happen straight away or easily, I felt really upset.”

Luckily Trish received support while pregnant to colostrum harvest; Isabella had this colostrum in those first few hours after the family arrived home, but the breastfeeding still wasn’t working as well as Trish wanted and the family ended up back at Medway Maritime Hospital – where Isabella was born and Trish works as a neonatal nurse – to get help and advice from the midwives at The Birth Centre.

She said: “Everyone there was lovely and they helped Isabella with latching and gave me lots of reassurance.”

It was also recommended the couple go to the Snodland breastfeeding group and it was here they met Lorraine Murray, Infant Feeding Co-ordinator at Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust.

Lorraine said: “Many mums come to our clinics and say ‘I’m not sure breastfeeding is going well’ but it’s not just down to mum.

“It’s a partnership between mum and baby and we’re here to help both of them get it right so they can enjoy breastfeeding together.

“Community support is also key. Talking to other mums, knowing that you’re not alone and have a shared experience – both good and bad – is really important.”

Trish agreed: “Lots of new mums give up breastfeeding but it does get better. Asking for help and advice is crucial, both of other mums and of healthcare professionals. Ask questions too. ‘Am I doing it right?’ ‘Is this normal?’

“Breastfeeding support is not just for newborn babies either. We recently returned to the clinic for more advice after Isabella started making a clicking sound during feeding. With Lorraine’s help this was soon resolved and we’re back on track.”

Despite the long road to motherhood and the rocky start to breastfeeding, thanks to support from Matt, family, friends and healthcare professionals, Trish is enjoying every minute with her miracle baby and Isabella is thriving.