A first time mom's experience
A mother recently described to me the epitome of new baby stress. She described to me trying to breastfeed her newborn in the hospital. The experience made her feel awful. A pattern emerged: the baby would cry, and then suddenly she’d have so many people trying to help her, grabbing her breast and forcing the baby’s head onto her nipple. They’d leave and baby would nurse for a bit.
After a bit, the baby would lose her latch. Resulting in the helpers showing up to help all over again. It was a vicious cycle.
When the helpers were trying to help, the mother felt like a failure and thought things like: “Why can’t I do this? Am I doing something wrong? What’s wrong with me?”
Not surprisingly, her anxiety spiked during these encounters listening to her brand-new baby girl cry.
Eventually, she handled this by just trying to let the experts latch the baby and sort of mentally removed herself from the process.
The helpers mean well
This is a very common scene in most hospitals in the U.S. The nurses and LCs that work there are trained to help and get baby latched. They mean very well and most of the time what they are suggesting or trying to show the parents is correct.
That isn’t the problem. It isn’t the content of what they are saying or doing. It is the very fact that they say or do it. Their mere presence sends a subtle message to the new parent, “this might be tricky, better have us help you”. Who knows what might happen if the parents are left alone to figure out breastfeeding on their own. And truthfully new parents get too much advice (stop giving moms advice).
Let's imagine it this way
The baby is born. The parents marvel and cheer at the beauty of the event and success. When the birthing parent is emotionally ready, she picks up her newborn and brings the baby to her chest. There’s no pressure. She gazes at the baby and the baby gazes back. The parents marvel at the baby’s tiny features, discuss names, share kisses, take pictures.
Eventually the baby starts moving around, bobbing her head, maybe sticking her tongue out. This gets the mother’s attention and she realizes that baby is trying to find her nipple. So, the mother, gently guides the baby toward her breast. She is relaxed and leaning back in bed. The weight of the baby’s head and her eager mouth result in a deep first latch. And baby nurses. And the mother and father continue to peacefully gaze at their little miracle.
Same outcome, different feelings
This is quite a contrast. Which story sounds more pleasant? In the second story, the mother likely feels quite confident that everything was done just right. It is doubtful that the baby cried much and because it happened naturally the mother probably trusts that it went well.
Now there are things that can happen during a birth that can make this second story not an option. If that happens to you, don’t fret. You can still learn to breastfeed. You can make your first nursing session as much like the one described as possible.
If things go off track
Just because the first session goes well, or even all the nursing sessions in the first week seem to go well, things can still go off the rails.
When working with lactating parents, I don’t come in as an expert.
Mostly I listen. I ask a few questions but it is my experience that the parents pretty much know everything about their feeding situation. We’re going to find the plan that works for your family and your desires for feeding.
If your feeding goals couldn’t be met, you may need to grieve this loss. I will sit with you while you grieve.
Then we strategize. We discuss options. This could involve bringing in an expert.
We’ll walk through the pros and cons. We’ll find the solution that fits your family at this time.
Feeding challenges I’ve experienced personally or helped clients with:
mastitis, clogged milk ducts, low supply, oversupply, GERD in baby, triple feeding, partial breastfeeding, full formula feeding, exclusive pumping, breastfeeding twins, formula feeding twins, rare medical conditions, supporting families needing to do feeding therapy
At the end of the day, the families just needed extra support. I fed them nourishing foods and listened to them and helped them organize their thoughts.
Reach out today and together we’ll find your solutions.