Thursday, December 18, 2008

Trusting Your Body When it Comes to Breastfeeding

I had the opportunity to visit with a struggling new mom tonight. I had heard almost a week ago that she was having trouble breastfeeding, but just got over there tonight. The baby is now 9 days old, born via c-section a week-and-a-half before her "due date." This mom is 29 years old, and this is not how she imagined pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding.

Part of the problem is that women are given so much conflicting advice in the hospital by nurses, doctors, and even lactation consultants. This couple shared that they had talked to eight different people, and they all had different opinions on what this woman should do with her baby and breastfeeding. Would you believe that NO ONE told her to hold her baby tummy to tummy (mom to baby) to breastfeed her baby? That is Breastfeeding 101. They had told her "skin-to-skin" not tummy to tummy. They are two very different things.

The baby is very sleepy, as nearly all babies are. This is important because this is how and when they grow. It's not just about how much they eat when it comes to growth. The trick is not waiting until the baby is "freaking out" to try to breastfeed. That's when a frustrated mom just gives a bottle. Don't go 3 hours between feedings. Try nursing at 1 1/2 hours, when baby will be getting hungry but is not frustrated. Mom and baby will both be more patient and willing to work at it.

I could write a lot about the basics of breastfeeding, but I have to face my reality: it's Christmastime and I am barely keeping my head above water!

Bottom line:

This mom had been given poor advice to just pump and feed the baby a bottle of breastmilk. Yes, breastmilk is so very important, but she should have been taught HOW to breastfeed. Bottles create lazy babies. The baby won't want to work at the breast. I told her to get rid of the bottles. Trust her body. She wanted to know how she would know how much milk her baby is getting. Simple answer -- you don't. You simply have to trust your body. She knows she is producing milk. Now she has to teach her baby to breastfeed.

I'll say it again, if you are having trouble breastfeeding, there are so many women out there who are more than willing to help you. La Leche League is a great place to start. Or call your local Birth Boot Camp instructor. She should be able to steer you in the direction of a good lactation consultant.

Trust your body to be able to feed your baby. Trust your baby to be able to learn to breastfeed.


Erin said...

great post!!!

I'm a LLL leader and I'm always amazed at the horrible information new moms are given. Your post is simple and spot on - good job.

Donna Ryan said...

From my friend Janet, who had similar issues with her 3rd baby:

Hi D--
I just read your blog and had a couple of thoughts. . . .

* She has plenty of milk right now because she is pumping. If the baby is not an efficient sucker and she just stops pumping cold turkey her milk supply may go down. I am certain this is why my supply was low with Britta. She has a good supply going for her I would hate for that to become an issue. Building your supply just adds to the stress of it all.
* Her baby being so sleepy reminds me lots of Britta and makes me wonder if this is a side effect of not getting enough nutrition. Britta wanted to sleep for hours and hours and hours and would not wake up to nurse. Even though we would get her naked, jostle her, and pat her with a cool (sometimes cold) wash cloth. She would NOT wake up and she needed to eat. It was so stressful. I can’t help but think that her sleepiness was connected to her not getting enough food.
* I think your friend should stop using bottles and use a supplement system (with only breastmilk of course). It was just a big syringe with a very fine tube. Britta would nurse and I would insert the tube into her mouth and slowly inject the extra milk from the syringe. I think this helped her not become too lazy. She was already lazy because she was so sleepy and I was very afraid to give her a bottle for this reason.
* Failure to thrive in your newborn is a horrible thing. There were times I was seriously worried my baby was starving. It does cause you to lose trust in your body and your baby. The scale really helped me know when she was getting enough and regain that trust that my body was doing what it was supposed to and that my baby was learning to nurse. It’s really a team effort.
* Lastly, I hope she sticks with it. It was really hard for us for the first three months but SO WORTH IT once we got it all worked out.