How do I know if I’m receiving good breast feeding support from the hospital staff or clinic?
Great question. If you are being shown how to tell when the baby is drinking versus just looking for food and then how to keep baby drinking, then that is the best start. Being shown to look to your baby and what to look for is so integral. If you are being given advice that has you focused on timing feedings, webpage or book, then I would seek further help. Also, if you are told your nipples are too flat or inverted or your baby is not “good enough” to feed, then please seek out more supportive advice.
How do I know if my baby is getting enough breast milk?
There are many ways to make sure babe is getting enough: diaper output, weight gain, how the feeds are going and the quality of life in general. Some practitioners may just look at the baby’s weight gain and say all is well but the baby may feed every 45 minutes and Mom is exhausted. It is good to have your postpartum doula team or practitioner reviewing all aspects of feeding to be most helpful. Being shown how to tell how the baby is drinking at the breast and how to give them a “turkey dinner” is the best way to be sure that they are getting enough.
If the Doctor or Midwife wants us to supplement feedings, what is the best way to go about it?
It is important to know that supplementing may be needed for various reasons and to view the use of it as a tool. In the very early days, it is best to supplement by cup, spoon or syringe/dropper if babe isn’t yet latching, to calm baby down or is separated from Mom. Avoid putting your fingers in the baby’s mouth.
If babe is in the process of learning to latch being shown how to effectively use a lactation aid is great. Many babies we meet in clinic have been stuck finger feeding and pumping for weeks with no success with latching. In this case we ask parents to immediately switch to a slow, paced bottle (standard or classic style nipple) to calm babe as they learn about latching. Most babes start taking the breasts within 24 hour of the switch.
If parents are seeking to add a supplement to an older nursing babe, we ask parents to skip the bottle feeding and jump right onto cup feeding (not a sippy cup but an open cup or one that resembles a coffee thermos top). A bottle is something we need to wean them off but the skill to cup feed is a life long one.
What are the most common breastfeeding mistakes parents make?
I am always weary of using language that encourages guilt in our new Moms. Parents trust and follow the advice practitioners give them and sadly, too often, that advice is ineffective. Most parents get such conflicting advice right from the start and that leads to so much stress. Best advice would be to connect prenatally with solid support that will guide you in the early days, help you weed out the ineffective advice and see you through to confident independence.
How can my partner be involved if I’m breastfeeding?
Partners have a very important role indeed. Settling into life with a new baby (or babies) can be an exhausting adventure and learning to feed smoothly can take a bit of time. Many partners expect to feel left out during clinic visits but I reassure them that their presence is vital to the new Mom and the learning curve. Keeping moms hydrated and nourished is also so important, as is just being present and offering a listening ear. While babies typically take 45-60 min to feed, they usually go between 2-4 hours until the next feed and that gives partners lots of time to cuddle and get to know babe while Mom rests. At a recent home visit, I met a partner who was a huge Harry Potter fan and while Mom nursed, he was reading the books to their new baby. Mom told me she loved having him present during feeds. Just having the presence of the partner makes the process much easier and more fulfilling.
Do you have any other words of wisdom you would like to share?
Too often I meet new Moms who feel they are not “good enough” to nurse their babies. This means they are told they have flat or inverted nipples. Some are told they may never make milk because of a history of breast surgery, thyroid issues etc. or they are told their baby can’t latch due to tongue tie or cleft. This truly breaks my heart. If, as a new or expectant Mom, you are told something like this, please don’t take it personally or to heart. Then reach out for help from a practitioner who believes their job is solely to show you how you can breastfeed your baby well. I really love to see a new Mom’s radiant smile when she sees that she can nurse her baby effectively and well. I ask her to share her journey with others so they, too, know that it is possible despite what they may be told. I also encourage Moms to be patient and gentle with themselves in the learning process. Having a patient and supportive network around you is so vital to feeling empowered and confident as a new parent.