Posted by: Admin | March 15, 2011

Blog part 5 – What does breastfeeding mean to you?

In the middle of the night, with my baby not latching on and crying out in frustration, I realized how difficult it is for mothers who such encounter difficulties. Strangely, my Certified Lactation Consultant status did not help. It only added a burden: I could not fail! And at the same time, I wondered how I managed with my other three children. I did not remember ever giving formula in desperation. I had been informed of the effect the formula samples received at the hospital or by mail can have on mothers. They are so easy to use and are conveniently right there, so the temptation to use them is high – which is exactly what the formula companies are hoping for when they distribute the samples. But all my years of education had convinced me babies should receiving only breastmilk and nothing else for the first 6 months of their life. What should I do?

Finally my training as a Lactation Consultant helped me out. I had been taught to make intervention plans with mothers who faced just such difficulties. That night, with tears streaming down my face,  I forced myself to reason and thought up my own intervention plan: I decided I would always express some milk from my breast before latching my baby on. This would help her latch on and would also reduce the amount of pain I felt (when a baby needs many tries before he latches on, your nipples get pretty sore). And if that plan did not work, I would take a little bit of the expressed breastmilk in an eye dropper and give it to my daughter to calm her down and take the edge off her hunger.  Then, when she was calm, I would attempt to latch her on again. If she did not succeed, I would give her expressed breastmilk until she was full and hope things went better at the next feeding.

That night, I had some breastmilk I had pumped in the first few days when my breasts had not yet adapted to my baby’s needs and produced a little too much. I also had many different tools to choose from to give her that milk without using a bottle: luckily, Lactation Consultants have such things sterilized and ready to use  in their “home visit bag”. I preferred to avoid using the bottle as the baby sucks on the bottle’s nipple and the mother’s nipple differently, and trying to figure out both can cause “nipple confusion”. So I would choose between an eye dropper, a spoon or a small flexible cup  (those you receive your pills in when at the hospital). I picked the eyedropper because my baby was only three days old, she did not need a big quantity, and it is easy to use, even with the baby in a breastfeeding position.  It did not take much breastmilk to calm her down and I was then able to express milk from my breasts until they were much softer. I then shaped my breast as I teach so many mothers to do: I held it in such a way it made a shape similar to the edge of a sandwich. My baby was then able to latch on well. Think about what you do when you eat a sandwich: if it is very thick, you might find it difficult to open wide enough to take a good bite from it. If it is thinner, you can take a bite easily. It is the same for a baby. So shaping your breast simply involves flattening your breast a little so it is easier for your baby’s top gum to close onto the areola without sliding off.

From then on, things went relatively well with breastfeeding my baby, but I had to express milk before every breastfeed. This was not always pleasant. Each Sunday, I went to my in-laws so my daughter would get to know her grandparents. My in-laws think the world of breastfeeding and I was at ease breastfeeding in front of them, but expressing milk in my in-laws’ living room was not something I looked forward to. So each Sunday, as soon as we arrived, my husband would park the car and go to his parent’s house with the baby, while I stayed behind a little to “get organized”. I expressed milk in the car. When I got in the house, my daughter was ready to be breastfed and latched on well.

What I also found a little difficult was that her problem with latching demanded that we use a specific position. In the breastfeeding field, we call this position the Football hold, as the baby is held on the side in the same way an athlete holds a football. This position helps the mother have more control of her baby and allows a better view of him when he latches on. This usually helps when encountering latch-on difficulties. But while it has many benefits, being inconspicuous is not one of them! Most women breastfeed in public using in the “Madonna” position, because it is easy to do and it looks like the baby is sleeping in your arms. My daughter was eventually able to latch-on without the help of milk expression at 4 months, but she was not able to breastfeed in the Madonna position before she was 5 months old. And then I went on to breastfeed for a long time…

Breastfeeding means the world to me, but being a Lactation Consultant does NOT make breastfeeding a problem-free experience. Babies are unique and have their own characteristics, and mothers will be mothers whatever their expertise is!

A strong belief in breastfeeding, determination and support are usually the key to breastfeeding success!

I will share more about breastfeeding my toddler in Part 6 of What does breastfeeding mean to you?


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