I was born over a pharmacy of which my father was manager so there was never any doubt that I would be a pharmacist myself. I helped my dad from a very young age. In those days the pharmacist was very much part of the local community and it wasn’t unusual for the doorbell to go at weekends with requests to dispense medicine or sell a product. (I remember the bell being disconnected on Sundays so we could all have a lie-in and read the papers!) Life was very much about helping people which ethos I took with me into my own training as a pharmacist and my voluntary role.
I worked in community pharmacy after my graduation until 2003 when I moved over to be a practice support pharmacist in doctor’s surgeries – looking at cost-effective, evidence-based prescribing. I also trained to be an independent pharmacist prescriber running clinics and prescribing in coronary heart disease prevention – smoking cessation, weight loss, management of cholesterol and blood pressure. I always wanted to run a clinic for breastfeeding mothers but it never quite happened.
In parallel with my working life I became more and more interested in breastfeeding after the birth of my children. I trained to become a breastfeeding supporter with one of the voluntary organisations and loved my time supporting new families. One day I was asked to update some information on the safety of drugs in breastmilk using both my “hats”. This led me into academia and links with the University of Portsmouth again culminating in research on the needs of doctors, pharmacists and mothers. I gained a PhD for my thesis “community pharmacist support for breastfeeding mothers requiring medication during lactation” in 2000. I was, what you might call a “mature student” and graduated in the same week as my eldest daughter. Enjoying academic life I then did an MSc in Community Pharmacy with a research topic totally unrelated to breastfeeding but which allowed me to delegate routine dispensing tasks to qualified technicians so I could spend more time talking to my customers and helping them with their health needs.
I decided to leave paid work in order to devote my energies to my passion for breastfeeding and specifically drugs in breastmilk. I finally set my own website and began writing – fact sheets, a book (Breastfeeding and Medication published in 2013), replying to queries from mothers and healthcare professionals on the safety of drugs in breastmilk via email and social media as well as on the telephone. Life was never dull but often frustrating as I heard so many mothers given non evidence based information on the medication they needed. I sat on two NICE guidance committees relating to Maternal and Child Nutrition and setting up Donor milk Banks. I have been to many conferences and spoken on a variety of topics relating to breastfeeding and medication and more recently have been involved with delivering webinars.
In June 2013 I was in USA for the birth of my first grandchild and learned a whole lot of new lessons about breastfeeding support and with interest experienced the US system of maternity care. I began writing this book literally as my daughter paced the floor behind me in early labour. I spent a wonderful few weeks with the new family before flying home not expecting to see them again until Christmas. Sadly just 6 weeks later I took the heart breaking call that my son in law had stage 4 colon cancer and would be having a colostomy operation just 48 hours before his 35th birthday. I flew out to help with the care of my grandson in the family room of the wonderful Shady Grove Hospital in Rockville, Maryland. I watched the fight my son in law put up to stay with his beloved wife and son. With his whole family around him sadly he died just 42 days after the diagnosis. This book was completed in his memory to support all the other wonderful fathers who have new babies receiving the precious gift of breastmilk.
My own incredible husband of 42 years has always been alongside me as I breastfed our three daughters. We are currently proud grandparents to two grandsons and our new granddaughter born this summer. Our extended family includes two border collie dogs and a horse. Breastfeeding is still a central part of our family.