Why do a PhD?

You get that look … you know the one … their face contorts into a pretzel shape (without the salt) … then they say: “oh, you poor thing.”

I’m telling people at a random social gathering that I’m starting a PhD.

The people who know me a little better, who have had the long chats and emails with me about the reasons why more women don’t breastfeed for longer, or have read my multiple Facebook shares of the amazing properties of breastmilk, or have witnessed my frustrations with poor support for breastfeeding mothers, or come along to ABA meetings with me … they smile and say: “of course you’re doing a PhD, and yeah, I know it’s about breastfeeding – what else could it be?”.

I’m doing this study because I want to change the world.

Well, I’m doing it because I want to learn how to do research, and what’s the point of doing research if you can’t create change?

So don’t feel sorry for me, because I am in a very fortunate position.

For the last 18 years I’ve been very interested in breastfeeding. When I was a student midwife, I spent lots of time with women on the postnatal ward, watching midwives help them attach their babies, watching them attach their babies, watching their babies feed, agonising when they decided to stop breastfeeding before they left hospital (despite all my slightly creepy watching!) …wondering when I would be able to actually help any of these women with all… this.

When my eldest child was born, I started learning a bit more. She was a post-term induction, born with her own polo neck sweater (cord around 3 times, tightly) … and I am proud to say that I had grazed nipples when I left the hospital 24 hours later. Ouch. What a midwife.

A kindly lactation consultant helped me attach her firmly and painlessly about 5 days later.  Her words: “this will make you a better midwife Jen”. Damn tootin.

And so a monster was born (that’s me).

For the last six months I’ve been reading about breastfeeding, thinking about breastfeeding, writing notes and mind maps and emails about breastfeeding. All with permission.

So don’t feel sorry for me.

I just hope all this will be enough to change the world … maybe just a little bit.

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