Breast can be best
In honor of Breastfeeding Awareness Month, we brought in a lactation consultant to bare all on the topic for a pain-free (that’s right, it’s never supposed to hurt) and truly beneficial nursing experience.
Deborah Van Wyck, IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) works with new moms at home to guide them through the trials and tribulations as they make a happy adjustment to parenthood. Nurse by trade, and certified as a lactation consultant since 2003, Van Wyck identifies a variety of issues that are related to latching difficulties but is also quick to note that many moms don’t have “any problem at all.” For those not as fortunate, though, there is definitely hope, as she breaks down her best advice here.
No pain, yes gain!
Breastfeeding at worst can be a little bit uncomfortable, but it should never be painful. Of course, people have different pain thresholds, but as soon as you see the nipple skin breaking down, rest assured it’s not natural.
What to do: Most moms get the message that breastfeeding is painful and wait too long before they seek help. By the time someone like myself sees them, their nipples are all chewed up. Babies can have difficulty latching for a variety of reasons, and if you tackle those issues from the beginning, you can avoid painful outcomes. A lactation consultant can help you with identifying the problem, finding comfortable positions that work for you and your baby, and can even help you interpret your baby’s cries. Are they asking to be fed or are they crying about something else? Finding your groove in those first few weeks is important.
Step by step
The first few days there isn’t an abundance of milk, but there is milk. Some babies need a little help getting the colostrum. Hospitals are getting much better at diagnosing tongue-tie, or tensions in the mouth and a variety of other reasons a baby isn’t able to get a good, deep latch.
What to do: It’s perfectly normal to spend time getting to know your baby and establishing a routine. Don’t ever feel like you’re just not doing it right. Give yourself time to get into a good rhythm. It can be made better if you’re shown comfortable approaches to latching. Sometimes, a mom will have to also manually express the colostrum.
It’s all a question of supply and demand. If you’re producing more milk than your baby is drinking, it will obviously stay in your breasts. When a mom is a very good producer of milk and the flow is obstructed, it can create a plugged duct, if nothing is done about it, it can lead to mastitis. When the breasts get very inflamed it can also lead to an infection, the mother can get fever and will need antibiotics. Sometimes when the baby’s schedule changes and they start sleeping five hours whereas they were feeding every two hours, you have to find a way to get the milk out in between. Similarly, if a baby is diagnosed with tongue-tie, when the membrane goes to the tip of the tongue, it makes it virtually impossible for the baby to feed properly.
What to do: The best way to avoid these situations is to feed your baby often, as much as they need to be fed. Usually, one breast is worse than the other, which means you need to put your baby on that one first and try to get rid of the supply. If your milk is still flowing, but you feel engorged, warmth can help you get the milk out. You can also apply cabbage leaves between feedings to help with oversupply. Cold compresses after feedings can help as well as they reduce inflammation.
To pump or not to pump?
There might be a use for pumps in the early days for moms to give something extra to their baby that’s not getting what they need. But the truth is manual expression is the easiest and best way to get colostrum out. It’s easy to do. I would recommend waiting 6 weeks until you give the occasional bottle, it’s best.
What to do: If you do have a great supply, you can choose to donate to a milk bank, like Héma-Québec. Research online for any restrictions and the closest one to you. Lots of babies can benefit from donated breast milk.
In the later months of your pregnancy, it would be beneficial to attend a couple of pre-natal classes. Unfortunately, during that time parents are naturally consumed with the delivery and the information often gets lost. However, there are also post-partum groups and peer support programs where moms can get together and share their experiences. These are also good groups to visit when you’re pregnant preparing to welcome your baby.
What to do: Make sure you surround yourself with a lot of support and encouragement. It takes a village to feed a baby. A lot of moms and families feel like they’re in it on their own.
A lot of moms call me for permission to stop breastfeeding. They want to be able to say, I tried everything to make it work, even call a specialist. They often feel like a failure when they stop.
What to do: Any amount of breastmilk a baby receives is great. Enlist all the help you can get in order to do the best you can. Look into getting a doula and rely on the dads for anything you can delegate, like finding resources that can help. Most importantly, limit your time on the internet. Often, there is too much black or white information out there. Do this, don’t do that. You don’t need to meet any expectations. Your baby knows you love them, and that’s all they need.
Deborah van Wyck
IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant)
514.605.6813 - firstname.lastname@example.org