Learning to Breastfeed Can Be Such A Vulnerable Time

Learning to breastfeed can be a difficult and frustrating timefor first-time mothers and their babies. Under the bestcircumstances, most of us have patience and determination tolearn a new skill. However, after the physically drainingeffects of labour and birth, breastfeeding can easily becomefrustrating if the baby is slower to learn to latch at thebreast.

During this period just after birth, your internal resources arefragile and you can be vulnerable to outside criticism ordisapproval. With respect to breastfeeding, “well intentionedhelp” can easily sabotage the breastfeeding process. Many newmothers are offered suggestions from people who truly believethat they are providing great advice, when the advice is datedand can actually interfere with the breastfeeding process. Hereare a few situations that can arise, the problems that they cancreate, and suggestions on how to handle them.

The Postpartum Period

“You are so very tired. Why don’t you sleep and let us take careof your baby?”

Yes, it is true that you are tired after giving birth. However,if you let your nurse or someone else watch your baby while yousleep, you won’t know if they decide to feed your baby formula.The colostrum that your breasts produce just after birth isextremely concentrated with nutrients, immune factors and energy-rich natural sugars, and a newborn baby drinks colostrumapproximately a teaspoon at a time. Because her stomach isextremely small, this amount of colostrum is a normal and healthyamount for her to ingest per feeding in the first few days of herlife. If your baby is fed an ounce or more of formula, herstomach will become used to a larger volume and suddenly thecolostrum that your breasts produce is not enough.

To counter this approach, keep your baby in your room with you,sleep when she sleeps and feed her on demand. If you can sleepwhile a family member or a friend is visiting, ask him or her towake you as soon as the baby starts to stir so that you have timeto latch her to your breast before she becomes wide awake andangry.

The baby is losing body weight and we are going to have tosupplement her with formula.

Actually, it is normal for a baby to lose weight after birth.When a baby is growing inside her mother’s uterus, she isconstantly fed nutrients and liquids through her umbilical cord.After birth, the constant stream of food and drink ends andbreastfeeding begins. However, a baby can be really tired afterbirth, and it can be difficult for her to stay awake long enoughto have a good feed. You might want to wake her every two hoursto feed to ensure that she’s getting a good supply of breastmilk. Keep offering the breast and encourage her to suckle evenif it is a gulp at a time. Once your milk comes in, it will beeasier for her to get more fluids and nutrients in eachbreastfeeding session. It can take up to three weeks for anewborn to regain her birth weight.

There is a point, however, when a baby can become dehydrated andthat is cause for concern. At 7% loss of body weight, yourhealth care practitioner will want to monitor the baby’sbreastfeeding times and whether or not she pees and poopsregularly. Supplementation may become necessary, but offer thebreast first and then supplement afterwards. This allows yourbaby to continue to practice learning a proper latch and helps toestablish a good supply of breast milk. It can take time for thebaby to learn the physical act of breastfeeding, and once shedoes, supplementation will no longer be required.

Once You Are Home

“You should feed your baby on a schedule.”

Our mothers and grandmothers were advised since 1946 by Dr.Spock’s Baby and Child Care book to bottle-feed their babies andput them on rigid schedules because it was “more sanitary andmore scientific.” At that time in history, scientists andpediatricians did not realize how much more breast milk offeredbesides nourishment. Breast milk includes immune factors coatthe lining of the baby’s intestines to provide better immunityfrom bacteria, viruses and parasites; natural fats that promotebrain and nerve development; and the exactly perfect proportionof fats, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals that thebaby needs.

Breastfed babies are supposed to eat often---the baby leads the“breastfeed on demand” process because her sole purpose at thisbeginning stage of her life is to ensure her survival byestablishing a good and abundant milk supply. While ill-advised,it is possible to achieve a schedule for a bottle-fed babybecause the cow’s milk proteins found in formula take more timeto digest than the proteins found in human breast milk.

You always get to feed the baby and I can’t. Couldn’t you let megive her one bottle at night?

The problems with introducing bottles into a baby’s schedule whenshe is busy establishing her milk supply are twofold:

First: a newer baby can become confused with the two differenttypes of feeding. Breastfeeding is a very active process. Ababy draws a good amount of breast tissue into her mouth (morethan you realize) to form a teat. She has to suck for quite afew seconds before the letdown reflex begins and the milk beginsto flow. When a baby is feeding well, the rhythm that developsis to suck a few times and then to gulp the milk that pools inher mouth.

Bottle-feeding is a totally different process. A bottle-fed babydoesn’t have to work at all to get milk. The milk dribbles fromthe nipple of the bottle and the baby gulps away to her heart’scontent. If a breastfeeding baby encounters two types offeeding, one that she has to work at and one that is incrediblysimple, she might just opt for the easier one, especially if sheis having difficulties learning how to latch.

Second: it is the physical act of sucking at the breast thatstimulates the brain to increase milk production. If a baby isusing one of her feeds to drink formula, the mother does not getthe stimulus to produce more milk. This results in less milkavailable for the baby, which causes her to be hungry and fussy.The same problem arises when soothers are introduced into anewborn’s life before the breast milk supply is firmlyestablished. A soother can provide comfort, but it interfereswith the baby sucking at her mother’s breast. Soothers andbottles should only be introduced after the breastfeeding processis comfortable for both mother and baby, not before.

One way to satisfy the needs of your partner, your parents, yourin-laws and other family members who want to feed your baby is togive them an activity to do that is special just for them.Partners can take over bath time and actually climb into the bathwith the babies to enjoy skin-on-skin closeness. Other familymembers can be shown infant massage techniques, or suggest thatthey hold the baby on their chests and drape a warm blanketaround the two to provide the satisfaction of a good cuddle. Becreative, there are lots of ways to show love that don’t involvebottle-feeding.

In Conclusion

It is important to remember that learning the skills of parentinga newborn take time and quite a lot of energy. Breastfeeding isone of these skills and if you can remain as calm as possible,you have a much better chance of success.

Breastfeeding can be frustrating to learn for some women and ifyou find that you and your baby are struggling, get helpimmediately! The help of a positive, knowledgeable person couldmake the difference for a new mother to be able to successfullybreastfeed her baby.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Melanie Beingessner is a chiropractor, a breastfeeding counsellor, a certified infant massage instructor and a mother to three fabulous kids!

She is the cofounder of the Becoming Parents prenatal program and the author of The Calm Baby Cookbook. For more information please visit her website at: www.drmelaniebee.com