Friday, February 18, 2011

Nursing in public

So yesterday I was at the dentist and picked up a People magazine in the waiting room. On one of the first pages was a summary of reader reactions to a picture of actress Miranda Kerr breastfeeding her baby.
If you can believe it, there were some negative comments about this photo. Look at it! How innocent can it get? Let's just say I am a breastfeeding advocate. I won't go on about it, if you agree with me you know all the arguments alrady. I just think it is mind boggling how backwards this country is that it isn't more common to see moms nursing in public. We should plan a Nurse-in!

So, this post is dedicated to a friend of mine in Tucson having her first baby. She has no family in the area but I believe she has a good community of friends and I hope she has all the support she needs. I want to share some of what I have learned about breastfeeding from my own experience and my last two years as a breasfeeding peer counselor for WIC talking to moms about breastfeeding.
What can you do to prepare for breastfeeding (BF)? Mostly, educate yourself. Read, talk to other moms, maybe see a Lactation Consultant.
What will the first few days be like? Breastfeeding is a natural thing, babies are born to do it, and that's what our breasts are for. That being said, it is a learning process. I can't emphasize this enough. Neither you nor baby has ever done it before. Imagine, little baby has had a perfect life for nine months, not having to work for her food, always the perfect temperature. It is a bit of a shock to come out into this world and learn how to actively work for the things you need. Some moms will have an easy time of it and some will not.
Often times the biggest issue is the baby's latch. They may move their head around, even touch the nipple, but they just don't get it. Have patience ( I know it'e easier said than done). You need to practice practice practice.
Many moms start to get worried and frustrated and may even have a nurse confound their anxiety. The baby's hungry, I have to give her something! Worst case scenario is you have to use a breast pump. The baby needs to eat, but just as importantly, your breasts need to be stimulated. They need to be latched onto to help send those little signals to the brain saying, baby's here, let's get started, make milk! BUt here's the important thing. What you pump out is just a spoonful or so, it's colostrum, and it has all the important antibodies the baby needs in those first days. (We'll get to worries about milk supply in a minute). DO NOT give a bottle.

This can create what is called nipple confusion. There are two aspects to this. #1 is the baby sucks on a rubber nipple very differently than they do on the breast. #2 is the milk comes out faster from a bottle and the baby gets used to this.
So here's what you can do: give that pumped milk to baby with a spoon, cup or medicine dropper. That way baby gets the milk without getting used to sucking on the bottle. And maybe after a few times of eating this way she will have a stronger urge to be at the breast. Remember, BF is about filling the tummy and comfort.

Milk Supply: Remember that baby's tummy is really really small. If you get a spoonful of coloctrum, you don't need to add formula. Just do it al over again in another hour! Nurse, nurse, nurse!! The first week is crucial in establishing your supply, and babies will eat every hour or so, 24 hours a day! This is why it is so important to avoid the bottle if possible. The baby needs to learn how to nurse from you.
Every woman's body is different. My Lupe didn't latch, and thus I had a low milk supply, even with pumping (the thing is, pumps are awesome, but baby is created for this purpose and will get more milk out of you than a pump once she learns how). It took us maybe 3 months before I felt like I could leave the house without a "just-in-case" bottle, and this long to get my supply up. I don't say this to scare you thinking about how hard it is, this is only my experience. But persistance can pay off. (That being said, I know for some mom's it simply doesn't work out for a combination of reasons- congratulate yourself for giving it your best effort!).
So, I hope this may help someone out there! Connect with other moms. Go to a Leche League meeting. It's important to find a community of women to support you an dyour efforts. You can do it!

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