When New Zealand first went into lockdown, breastfeeding specialist Aani Sherwin wondered how she was going to be able help struggling mothers.

She needn't have worried - like many others, she harnessed technology, old and new, to overcome any difficulties presented by being unable to offer face-to-face advice.

''I ring them and some I can just talk through [issues] with them; with others, it's all done virtually,'' she says.

Aani leads Ngā Kākano's breastfeeding support service, Mama Maia.


''The ones who have problems of [baby] not latching properly, they will video me so I can watch them. It's amazing, I didn't think I'd been able to help anybody, but it's been really great.''

One of the new mothers Aani has helped is Janelle Savage, whose second daughter Esme was born on March 19 - a week before alert level 4 came into force.

''I spent a lot of time with Janelle and she was a pleasure to work with. She sent me a lot of videos and she even joined my Messenger so I could see her latching the baby on and, by watching her video, was able to see what was going wrong.''

The diagnosis was that baby Esme had posterior tongue tie and lip tie.

''She has followed through where some just give up - she wants her baby to have breast milk and that's awesome because there are so many benefits.''

Janelle sought help when Esme was five and a half weeks old.

''[Breastfeeding] my first went amazingly but, with the second one, ... I thought something's not quite right.''

She was referred by her GP to Plunket, which in turn referred her to Aani.


''Aani was messaging and calling every day. She came up with all these trouble-shooting resolutions and gave us the support we needed because we did feel alone a bit because it was level 4. Usually you would have somebody come to your house like the midwife but my husband was sick so we couldn't have anyone in our bubble.

''Not being able to have face-to-face consultation - I was concerned and thought 'how is somebody going to help me over the phone?'''

Janelle had mastitis and antibiotics did not seem to be helping.

''If it wasn't for Aani at that point I think I would have gone down a different way of feeding - but just with the support I was able to persevere.''

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One of the features of Mama Maia is that it works with the whole whānau to support breastfeeding, and Aani hasn't just been talking to mums.

''I've spoken to a husband - he contacted me a couple of times as his wife was upset, and I have been able to support them - and they sent me some lovely feedback.''

While Aani is thankful she has been able to help from afar during levels 4 and 3, she is happy she is once again able to offer advice face to face.