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From flat whites to feeding…

April 19, 2013
Flat white coffee with heart shape made of milk on top

I knew I had officially turned into a London media wanker when I heard myself uttering the following in a coffee shop:

“I’d like a decaff soy flat white, please.  Extra hot.”

Whilst I’m sure the Barista had …opinions on this coffee choice, she put on her professional smile, looked at the cup to ask my name (I resisted the temptation to give her something comedy – I’d embarrassed myself enough) and moved on to the next order.

Y’see, her job was to give me what I’d asked for.  Without judgement.

And my job was to take responsibility for my choice.  And then put cinnamon on top of it (they always leave you to do that last bit, don’t they?)

Ask for what you want

I was reminded of this story when I was reading another account of ‘awful’ breastfeeding support.

My general birth geekery means I sit between a number of worlds – websites and email lists with experienced feeding support workers and books and blogs with Mums working it all out.

Both groups get upset and frustrated.  I think there’s a bit of a communication misfire going on.

A common story in the newer Mum world is, “I had some problems with breastfeeding and I wanted some breastfeeding support so I went to get some breastfeeding support and they only told me about breastfeeding.  What awful people, I ended up using formula and no one told me about it and I’m very sad.”

(I’m not trying to be make light of this kind of trauma – a rocky feeding relationship is really difficult for everyone, which is why the topic ignites such passion.)

The feeding supporters are more like, “I had a Mum come to see me and she’d been sent all round the houses by different people telling her nonsense and I listened to her story and my heart broke at what she’d been through.  She asked for some help with breastfeeding so we had a chat through her options and I suggested a few different positions she could try.  I hope things are working out for her.”

Breastfeeding baristas

Simply put, the Mum had asked the barista for a latte.  She’d got a latte.  The barista thought that what she wanted was a latte, so she made the best latte that she could.

But what was actually happening was that the Mum had heard that lattes were quite good but wasn’t sure if a macchiato would have been better.  Or maybe an espresso.  Grande or tall?  In a paper cup or a mug?

Ordering coffee is bloody confusing and everyone seems to have an opinion of the best way of doing it.

And aren’t these baristas meant to be coffee experts?!  Why didn’t they tell me about caramel shots?!…

If you can order a coffee, you can ask for help

If you know what you want, take a deep breath, look the barista in the eye and order the decaff soy flat white, extra hot.  They’ll give it to you.  It’s their job.

If you’re not so sure, ask your barista to explain the options.  They’d be delighted to help and show off their extensive knowledge.

You wouldn’t expect someone in a coffee shop to hand you an orange juice if you’d just ordered a Viennese with an extra shot.

And a breastfeeding counsellor wouldn’t expect to start giving you information on bottle feeding if you’d just asked her for advice on getting a better latch.

Moral of the story: if you’d like a cappuccino, don’t order a latte.  And if you’d like to chat through the pros and cons of formula feeding with a (breast)feeding counsellor, you need to tell them because they are not psychic!

And then, for heaven’s sake, sit down with them afterwards and have a nice cup of tea.  Coffee’s just too damn complicated.

Have you had a session with a breastfeeding counsellor?  Are you a breastfeeding counsellor?  What is your top piece of advice for being as clear as possible with what you’d like to find out?  Please leave a comment with your example so we can share the knowledge and reduce frustration!

I write (breast)feeding counsellor because despite their name, feeding support workers and volunteers will have knowledge of breast and bottle feeding.  The role titles can be a bit confusing but there’s a guide to the different kinds of feeding supporter here.

Picture credit: Damian Cugley

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From → (Breast)feeding

6 Comments
  1. Good piece! I would only add that, unlike with your barrista, forming a relationship with your bfc can help things along marvellously. So if you’re getting nowhere with one supporter, don’t blame all of us, but find someone who makes your coffee just the way you like it 🙂
    much love, Maddie x

  2. Great post! but allow me to offer, from bitter experience, my own take on your excellent analogy:

    For months everyone goes on about this great coffee shop. Best coffee in the world, ethically produced and it’s all free! Brilliant, you think, and start planning your visit.

    As the visit gets closer you discover the only way to get there is to cycle non stop for 3 days on a unicycle. You’ve never ridden one before. You’ve never been without sleep for 3 days before. But hey, it’s too late to back out now, everyone’s going and it’s going to be great!

    You somehow survive the journey.

    You arrive at the coffee shop, exhausted and sore. You crawl in.

    “Coffee please,” you say weakly. it is at this point you discover there’s no such thing as “coffee”. There are 149 varieties, none of which you’ve heard of, and the barista is SCREAMING at you that you have to make a decision right now because you need to DRINK DRINK DRINK and there’s a big queue behind you of others who also need help!

    So you think you’ll just have to pick one at random because you haven’t got time or energy to process all this information now and nobody ever mentioned the varieties of coffee when they talked about this shop.

    You look around. Some customers are drinking cup after cup, chatting and laughing happily. Others are spitting it out in disgust, some are completely ignoring the cup in front of them while complaining loudly about how thirsty they are. Some have giant soup cups, others are gingerly nursing an espresso.

    A moment of enlightenment. Perhaps, you say, you could start with a cup of tea while you figure all this out?

    The entire shop goes silent. The muzak stops. A cup shatters on the floor.

    “TEA???” screams the barrista. ‘We don’t do tea. This is a coffee shop. You can only drink COFFEE in here. If you want tea you’ll just have to go somewhere else.”

    And you, and your unicycle, are thrown out of the shop.

    • Hi Zoe, thanks for commenting!

      You make the excellent point that the whole coffee lark can be incredibly confusing at the beginning, and that the barista has many different types of customers to serve.

      I wonder if the problem here is that the barista is expecting to serve the coffee that the customer wants, and the (new) customer thinks that the barista’s job is to *tell* them what she wants? This is where I think a bit of the comminication misfire can happen.

      You also make the great observation that we all need and want excellent customer service! A barista who yells at the customers should be fired. And if all baristas were like that, there would be no coffee shops running.

      As Maddie suggested, it’s also good to find the the type of coffee shop which suits you (they all have slightly different styles) – though unicycle parking appears to be a must 😉

      Anyone else as confused as I am after all this? I think I could do with a gin rather than a coffee right now 😀

      Much love xx

      PS I found this. Hope it helps 😉 http://gourmet-coffee-zone.com/how-to-order-starbucks-drinks.html

  3. Hi love 🙂 actually i was thinking more about the baby who is probably by this point screaming at you – they are not very patient at feeding time!

  4. Surely just give them a babyccino?

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