A Five Step Cure For Breastfeeding Innocence

“I was so innocent when I decided to breastfeed. I thought breastfeeding would be easy because it’s how our species has survived for like, forever. How hard could breastfeeding be, if a baby’s survival depended on it? It didn’t take me long–a day or two–to figure out how dangerous that thinking was.”

Yes, breastfeeding is natural. Yes, it’s normal.

But, you probably had more education about getting your period, than about feeding your baby. And, every month you learn more, and more, about your period, and nobody is going to die of starvation, if you make a mistake. In America, you and your baby have two or three wobbly days to figure out breastfeeding, before doctors start pushing pumping, and formula supplementation, and using words like “no milk’, ‘failure to thrive’, ‘dehydration’ and ‘brain damage’.

Most parents have heard that nursing should be painless, with a “good latch”. They have heard of hind milk and tongue tie. But what are those, and why are they important? Most importantly, “How do you learn more about those in relation to your personal situation?”

Scared Mommy Stops Breastfeeding.

Many mothers stop breastfeeding in the first few weeks and months, simply because they don’t know about normal breastfeeding. Today’s moms have all of Google, and modern medicine, at their fingertips, yet they still lack knowledge, experience, and education in breastfeeding.

Moms mostly fear not making enough milk.

When moms and dads don’t know how human milk is made, they get scared, and do things that tank the milk production. Moms wait until their breasts fill up with milk before they feed, which signals the body to make less milk. Parents supplement with formula, so that with each ounce of formula fed to the baby, the mom’s breasts make one ounce less milk. They try pumping, and because they’ve never pumped before, they aren’t good at it, and not much milk comes out. This leads to panic, which decreases their milk flow, leading to a cranky baby.

In their panic, some mothers start to pump a lot, creating too much milk, along with plugged ducts and mastitis. They are uncomfortably full all the time. Their babies gag and sputter with feeds.

Babies cry for a hundred reasons, not just because you don’t have enough milk!

Moms learn through experience, that breastfeeding in the first 4-6 weeks is very different from breastfeeding at 4-6 months. You might have heard it gets faster, easier, or better, but in the early weeks, when you are going through non-stop feeding, and you don’t know how often newborns feed, you may not have a way to believe that.

Sadly, in the early weeks, many moms interpret ALL their baby’s cries as, “My baby is starving. I must not have enough milk.” Breastfeeding is not like formula feeding. Babies are supposed to breastfeed every hour or two, because we are a “carrying species” of mammal. They feed at irregular intervals and eat irregular amounts, just like you and me.

Babies cry for hunger and thirst. They cry because they are too hot, or too cold; it’s too bright or too loud; they are lonely, upset, or bored, and more. Breastfeeding fixes just about everything, except an overfull tummy and a dirty diaper. But, nobody explains it that way.

It is also true that some babies do need more milk than their mom is producing.

How DO you know if your baby is starving?

When DO you need help?

There’s an easy way to really know if your baby is needing more food. Weigh them. If your baby is staying on their growth curve, they are getting enough milk. They are crying because they need something else.

If they are not gaining enough weight, that’s a solid sign that you need help with breastfeeding. You may need to supplement, but before you supplement, the first step is figuring out why your baby isn’t gaining.

When informed consent isn’t informed.

Women make choices during pregnancy and birth and use interventions that are known to make breastfeeding more difficult. Epidurals cause more difficulty breastfeeding. C-sections delay milk production, and the mandated separation after a surgical birth interrupts babies’ innate reflex patterns, causing a cascading sequence of problems.

Some decisions are carefully thought out before they are chosen. A woman with placenta previa has time to learn about and understand the risks of a C-section, and prepare for additional breastfeeding support. Many parents are not receiving the “information” part of informed consent. A c-section, whether its a true emergency, or the result of a non-progressing vaginal birth, is presented at the last minute. There isn’t time to plan for breastfeeding problems and extra household help at home.

The cure for innocence is education.

Here are five ways to learn more about breastfeeding. Ideally, you will do a bit of all of them, because just like breastmilk, even a little bit is a wonderful thing.

A five step cure:

1.  Choose doctors that value breastfeeding. Plan for an unmedicated vaginal birth by taking childbirth classes and using a birth doula. Ask all your providers, “Tell me what you would recommend if me and my baby are not breastfeeding well?” The correct response is “I would refer you to a Lactation Consultant.”

2.  While you are pregnant, educate yourself to prepare for breastfeeding by taking a breastfeeding class and reading all you can. Schedule a prenatal appointment with a lactation consultant to get information about beginning breastfeeding and answers for any specific questions you may have around your breasts, nipples, health conditions, work situations, pump recommendations and more.

3.  Spend time with breastfeeding mothers so that your unconscious mind starts to learn what you need to do. You can hear what they say about breastfeeding, the challenges they face and the solutions they know. You can ask questions. Attend La Leche League groups, Breastfeeding USA, Baby Café, The Breastfeeding Café, or other breastfeeding support groups while you are pregnant. (You DON’T need a baby to attend!)

4.  Formula promotional packs are trojan horses that sneak into your house, and whisper words of doubt into your ear. Give them away, or do not accept them. In most countries, they are not distributed by healthcare professionals until needed. If you need formula, it’s as close as your nearest grocery, pharmacy or pediatrician.

5.  Even if your birth goes all wonky, insist the baby be placed skin-to-skin immediately after birth and wait for the cord to stop pulsing before cutting it. Keep your baby in your arms and skin-to-skin as much as possible for the first two weeks. Be proactive and breastfeed 12-16 times every 24 hours, until your baby is consistently gaining weight.

Always, read your baby, not a book.

Books can give you great ideas, but your baby is an individual. He or she will have their own habits and ways. Your life will be easier if you study your baby and follow their daily cues.

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