My name is Wendy Jones and I am a pharmacist and trained as a Registered Supporter with the Breastfeeding Network in the UK. Combining the two roles I have developed a special interest in the safety of drugs in breastmilk.
In February 2013 I was immensely proud that my book Breastfeeding and Medication was published by Routledge. Seeing it available for pre-order on Amazon was one of the proudest moments of my life.
I was born over a Boots shop in South Wales (more years ago than I care to admit) so I was never going to be anything other than a pharmacist, following in my father and uncle’s footsteps. I studied at Portsmouth University and began working for Boots in my pre- registration year and followed the training towards being a manager.
In 1979 we moved up to Milton Keynes and I became pregnant with my eldest daughter. I always knew that I would breastfeed; no alternative ever crossed my mind. However breastfeeding support in the 1980s was not the best – water to be offered after every feed, 2 minutes a side building to a maximum of 10 minutes and never feed more than four hourly. It was only thanks to my mum (who had breastfed me) encouraging me to follow my instincts, that empowered me to feed successfully.
My second daughter was born in 1984 – she was never offered any water or formula and I was confident to do it my way. The local midwife invited me to talk to the next ante-natal group as I was “so good at breastfeeding” – little did she know what she began!
When we moved back to the Portsmouth area I joined NCT – initially organising coffee mornings and a very active social group. But one day there was a request for people to train as breastfeeding counsellors. “I could do that I thought, as my midwife said I was good at breastfeeding” and promptly volunteered.
I finished my training as a breastfeeding counsellor in 1987 as I waited for the birth of my third daughter – in hospital with pre-eclamsia.
I knew all the theory, but she proved to be the most difficult to breastfeed, losing more than 10% of her birth weight and not regaining that for 6 weeks. With hindsight I thought I was superwoman, rushing around with the other two who had the usual commitments –
dancing, music, brownies let alone school and nursery school.
Feeds were fitted in as and when and for a few days had to be accompanied by a small amount of formula – much to my dismay. But we came out the other side and she was breastfed for the longest of all my children.
In 1995 I was asked to update a short A4 leaflet on various drugs taken by breastfeeding women and to include sleeping tablets (as lots of women in the London area were taking them as their babies were taken away to be kept in the nursery overnight!) and anything else I thought might be useful. During a 2 week locum in a homeopathic pharmacy, where no-one wanted to talk to me about over the counter medicines, I wrote “a compendium of drugs in breastmilk” which covered some 30 odd pages. I allowed NCT to include my home telephone number, inviting mothers and healthcare professionals to call me!
Again hindsight was a useful tool, I got a lot of calls – in the days where the internet clogged up the telephone line and my daughters wanted to call friends. That doesn’t take into account my long suffering husband who took calls from sobbing women discussing cracked nipples in his stride.
When the Breastfeeding Network broke away from NCT in 1997 I became one of the founder members. In 1999 they provided me with second dedicated Drugs in Breastmilk Helpline telephone and a fax machine.
During all of this I decided I would like to write a book but felt I needed more academic training. In 1996 I began research towards a PhD with the snappy title “Community Pharmacist Support for Breastfeeding Mothers Requiring Medication During Lactation”. With the help of my endlessly patient supervisor Prof Dave Brown I was awarded the PhD in 2000.
The book was still waiting to be published but I learned a lot of skills and a love of supporting people.
Whilst finishing the PhD I was employed as a community pharmacy manager and ever the glutton for punishment I began the certificate, diploma and finally Masters Degree in Community Pharmacy to broaden my skills from the very specific area of my PhD. My Masters research was the development of a checking technician training role in community pharmacy which then was revolutionary but was adopted by the NPA and is now mainstream. Another bit of life changing work I was involved in with Prof Paul Rutter at Portsmouth.
I graduated with my PhD in the same week as my eldest daughter graduated with a First Class Honours from Brighton. Not many people get to share a photograph like this. A very proud week.
My book Breastfeeding and Medication was finally published in February 2013 after I left paid work to devote my life to providing information on the safety of drugs in breastmilk. I may have no pension but I have a passion and feel that I have been able to make a difference.
My first book was followed by The importance of for Dads and Grandmas to the breastfeeding mother in December 2016. This book is dedicated to my son in law Jon Christian Klottrup who is pictured on the cover with my first grandson. Sadly Christian died a few precious months after the birth of his son from cancer just 42 days after diagnosis. It was heartbreaking that they were torn apart so rapidly when he would have been an amazing Dad. The book also traces my struggles as a new grandma!
Why Mothers Medication Matters followed in February 2017. It is the “political” version of my books where I acknowledge how important I feel that breastfeeding is – although I fully support anyone for whom it isn’t the right choice or due to circumstances doesn’t work. We all do our best as mums and nothing prepares us for the demands.
In 2018 the second edition of Breastfeeding was published again by Routledge with my daughter and grandson on the cover.
Having sworn that I would not write any more books, I agreed to co-edit a book with Prof. Amy Brown with chapters written by so many breastfeeding experts I am proud to call friends. This was also published in Dec 2019 by Routledge and this time my youngest daughter and grandson were on the cover.
The proudest moments of my life
In May 2018 I received a Points of Light Award from the Prime Minister the RH Theresa May and it was presented to me at the Houses of Parliament by my local MP. My husband and I were given a tour of Parliament by his staff and we were able to watch a debate from the gallery. It was an amazing experience. https://www.pointsoflight.gov.uk/drugs-breastmilk-helpline/
However, I had not reached the highpoint apparently. In the New Years Honours List 2018 I was awarded an MBE for services to mothers and babies. In March 2019 my family and I went to Windsor Castle for the investiture and I received my award from Her Majesty the Queen. I have never been so proud and amazed that my work had been recognised in this way. I may not have a pension or have earned vast sums of money but nothing on earth could replace the pride in having my husband and 3 daughters with my on that amazing day.
Little could I have dreamt of this when I gave birth to my first child and I just wanted to breastfeed!
For a long time I had been thinking about a book on Chronic medical conditions and breastfeeding and like many people took time during the first Lockdown of the Covid 19 pandemic to write and publish on Kindle yet another book featuring my youngest grandson on the cover.
In October 2021 I handed over the reigns of the BfN Drugs in Breastmilk Helpline to a group of 11 wonderful pharmacists as passionate about the topic as I am. It meant I could concentrate on my family and not always checking my phone to answer the approximately 10,000 queries a year I was taking with one day a week off! The only 2 days I didnt answer any queries from 1998 till this date was the day of my investiture and my 65th Birthday.
In August 2022 I cease my role in the Breastfeeding Network altogether and am now going to concentrate on maybe one more book, my family and this site writing more factsheets – maybe not in that order I hasten to add especially with a new grandchild due within the next 4 weeks!
My plan is still to give everything up on my 70th birthday in 18 months time!