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Take Off the Gloves: It’s Not The Boob Bashers Vs. The Lactation Snobs

13 Aug

boxing ring“In one corner, we have Fanny Formula-Feeder,

and in the other corner stands Betsy Breast-Feeder.”

Ding, ding, ding!  Who will you bet on? 

Who will get the KO and leave the other walking down the path of shame?

Sounds very corny, I know…but isn’t that what we as moms are doing? 

Duking it out over each other’s pregnancy, birth and parenting decisions?

Technology has enabled us to share our opinions with virtually the whole world.   Perhaps two of the hottest topics of discussion among women of childbearing age all over the world are how you feed your baby and breastfeeding in public.  These may be as common as such topics as your due date, your baby’s gender, and whether or not you will have an epidural.  Moms flock to Facebook pages and groups seeking advice on all their parenting decisions from pregnancy to preschool and beyond.  Unfortunately, there will always be those who seem to cast judgment on moms who choose options that are different from their own.  Often, instead of encountering support, moms come across discouraging comments leaving them confused and unsure of their choices.

Moms who made the decision to formula feed from birth feel they are being judged.

“Why didn’t you at least give breastfeeding a try?”

Moms who made the decision to exclusively breastfeed from birth feel they are being judged.

“You know you’ll get less sleep.  Your baby will just use you as a pacifier.”

Moms who tried breastfeeding and then switched to formula feel they are being judged.

“Breastfeeding was tough for me in the beginning, too.  But we hung in there and made it work.”

Moms who choose baby-led weaning feel they are being judged.

“You haven’t weaned that baby yet?  There aren’t any benefits past a year.”

Moms who decide to pump exclusively and feed breastmilk in a bottle feel like they are being judged.

“Bottle feeding breastmilk isn’t the same.  Babies don’t bond with moms the same way that babies fed at the breast do.”

Moms who decide to cover up while nursing in public are judged. 

“Covering up sends the message that it’s not appropriate to nurse uncovered.”

Moms who decide not to cover up while nursing in public are being judged.

“No one wants to see exposed breasts in public; cover up.” or “Can I show you a more private place to feed your baby?”

Regardless of whether statements made are fact or not, words, spoken and/or written, can have an enormous impact.  “Well, we have the choice whether or not to be offended and can choose to ignore,” you say; however, first-time moms early in their experience are vulnerable and may be teetering on the edge.  Confidence levels are shot, decisions are second-guessed.  They may hole up in their homes to avoid scrutiny and depend on the internet for socializing. ( I wonder if there may be a correlation here between isolation and post-partum depression?)

I don’t believe comments are made maliciously.  Often moms are simply voicing their struggles, seeking to justify their decisions, and looking for support without condition.

How a mom feeds her baby is a personal decision.  Isn’t that what our culture encourages?  Choice?  You don’t know the whole picture.  You can’t see the whole picture on social media sites like Facebook.

Bay Area Breastfeeding & Education wholeheartedly supports breastfeeding as nature’s way…what our bodies are made to do.  But we aren’t the momma, and the baby is not ours.  Leah and I are advocates for more moms breastfeeding and more babies getting breastmilk; however, we work for the whole family and moms and their goals.  Our practice is evidenced based, and we provide accurate information.  It is then up to the mom to make the choice.  The BABEs pride ourselves in meeting moms where they are on the breastfeeding spectrum.  It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.  There will be be no judgment cast on moms who decide to exclusively breastfeed or exclusively pump and bottle feed breastmilk or moms who breastfeed part-time and formula feed to meet baby’s need or moms who formula feed exclusively.

So, are you a boob basher or a lactation snob?  Strive to be a Mommy Advocate instead:

                       

Respect other moms’ choices.

Realize that words can make an impact.

Provide support to all fellow moms regardless of their decisions.

Be confident in your decisions.

Realize you are making the best choice for yourself and your whole family.

Remind yourself that often you don’t know the mom personally and can’t see the whole picture.

Choose to offer support without condition.

This doesn’t mean we back down from our convictions and opinions.  This doesn’t mean we ignore or water down the facts.  We can be radical in a way that is respectful.  Let’s spend our time being Mommy Advocates and finding ways to educate families prenatally instead of spending time arguing amongst ourselves.  Breastfeeding support should start before pregnancy.

 What are some other ways you can offer unconditional support to moms?

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Lactation Derailment Can Begin in the Hospital: 10 Tips for Avoiding a Trainwreck

29 May

I must preface this blog by explaining that

fourteen years ago I became a mother/baby nurse, and ten years ago I became the resident childbirth educator and “breastfeeding counselor” on staff at a local hospital.  We did not have an IBCLC on staff, so I was IT until we hired another educator.  My training as a nurse, some time as a member of La Leche League and my own personal breastfeeding experience was all I had in my arsenal.  Though I wasn’t “official,”  I worked the position of a lactation consultant.  And it wasn’t easy…so many moms…so little time…so many interventions.  That being said, please read the following with the understanding that I have been “on the other side,” doing my best as a nurse to help fresh babies latch…bending over beds as an educator positioning babies and sandwiching breasts for moms who were too sleepy on pain medication post-cesarean to do it themselves.

A week ago, I had the privilege of visiting a new family in the hospital to provide assistance with breastfeeding.  She has given me permission to share my observations.

When I arrived, I had dad undress baby down to diaper and in skin to skin with mom.  The baby was only 36 hours old and very sleepy after a long labor and difficult delivery.  Mom, Dad and I chatted for a moment then got to the business of latch.  The baby would not wake up.

A nurse came in to give mom pain medication.

Though I was not surprised at the baby’s behavior, he appeared jaundiced, and I knew it was important to get colostrum into him.  So, we proceeded to hand express and collect colostrum to spoon/syringe feed him.

Then the baby photographer came in to show the picture previews.

Mom asked her to come back later.  (Reminder:  Mom is sitting in hospital bed with her breasts exposed.) We continued hand expression and then fed the colostrum back to the baby.  He began to exhibit some hunger cues, so we put him back to the breast.

The OB came in to check on mom.

Once again, latch attempt without success.  More hand expression.

Knock, knock? Have you had a chance to look at your pictures? Baby photographer again. (Are you kidding me?)

More teaching, more skin to skin….fed baby more colostrum.

A different nurse came to check on mom.

Another latch attempt…

The first nurse came back to tell mom the baby’s procedure had been delayed.

We wrapped up latch attempts (and the baby) as we knew the nursery nurse would be coming to get the baby soon.  He was happily sleeping in Grandma’s arms as we discussed a care plan.

Persistent photographer, back again, insisting on showing the pictures.

I wrote out mom’s care plan.

Nursery nurse came to retrieve baby.

I ensured mom had my number for questions, planned to follow up with a home visit, and I made my exit.  Did you count the number of interruptions?  How long do you think I was there?

Eight interruptions in one hour and fifteen minutes. 

I left there concerned about derailment and feared I would encounter a trainwreck at her home visit.  Fortunately, when I arrived, breastfeeding was going well and she needed very little assistance from me at the follow up.

Now, I realize everyone that came in just saw me as a visitor.  They weren’t aware of who I was or why I was there.  However, my presence aside, feeding her newborn was mom’s priority, but what was the priority for the people that kept interrupting?  Definitely not feeding a 36 hour old, sleepy newborn who appeared jaundiced.

How can a mom even think about getting breastfeeding established when she is being bombarded by staff from all sides?  It’s sensory overload.  As a private practice lactation consultant, I see the outcome of this all the time….the trainwrecks…the result of the cascade of interventions.

What steps can you take to avoid the trainwreck?

  1. Take a prenatal breastfeeding class so that you know what’s normal for the early days of breastfeeding.
  2. Hire a Doula to minimize birth interventions which can lead to troubles breastfeeding.
  3. Find a breastfeeding friendly pediatrician who will support your breastfeeding goals.
  4. Research local resources for breastfeeding help that are available to you once you get home such as La Leche League or private practice lactation consultant that is an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant).
  5. Prepare your partner to be the gatekeeper after delivery to minimize interruptions in your breastfeeding. You may also want your partner to accompany your newborn to the nursery to keep watch and ensure your feeding preference is respected.
  6. Hand express your colostrum and feed back to the baby. Doing this up to 6 times a day can increase and speed copious milk production.
  7. Reinforce your desire to breastfeed without any supplementation to every nurse that you have contact with.
  8. Room-in with you baby to keep your baby close and to learn his hunger cues.
  9. Better yet, keep your baby “on” you to facilitate skin to skin contact which has been shown to stabilize temperature,
    heart rate and oxygenation. You are your baby’s best habitat!
  10. Ask to see the lactation consultant…and keep asking….getting help early is so important!

What if you told me “I don’t like being a mom”?

22 May

If you told me you didn’t like being a mom, I wouldn’t judge you.

 If you told me you weren’t sure you liked your baby, I would believe you.

Being a mom is the hardest job in the world…add on feelings of anxiety, sadness, irritability, panic, loss of control and it becomes virtually impossible.

While many women experience some mild mood changes during or after the birth of a child,

15 to 20%

 of women experience more significant symptoms of depression or anxiety.(1)

If it is so common, then why don’t we hear more about it? 

“There is a lingering stigma associated with discussing any kind of depression, but the stigma associated with PPD [post-partum depression] is especially fierce.  These days, it’s probably easier for a man to talk about problems with his penis than it is for a new mother to admit that (in her own eyes, anyway) she is a failure at the one task for which women are supposed to have instinctive gifts.”  (2)

  • Did you know that symptoms of post-partum depression can develop any time in the first year after birth?
  • Did you know that many moms think being depressed is normal in the midst of adjusting to life with a newborn?
  • Did you know that “approximately 1 out of every 8 women experiences significant depression, anxiety, intrusive repetitive thoughts, panic, or post traumatic stress?”(1)
  • Did you know that many medications used to treat post-partum mood disorders are safe to take while breastfeeding?
  • Did you know that help is just a phone call away?
  • Did you know that

YOU ARE NOT ALONE?

One Mom’s Story:

“I dealt with depression in my early 20’s to the point of suicidal ideations.  I took medication long enough to get me through my last semester of college then took myself off of it due to outside pressures.

When I got pregnant, I don’t recall being told that I would be at greater risk for post-partum depression.  After the birth of my first baby, it took weeks for me to feel “normal,” whatever that is.  Pregnant with my second when my first was only 9 months, there was no down time.  Then, baby number three…three under three I felt I was drowning.  I didn’t know how to feel any different.  I thought, ‘My fault…what was I thinking?  Of course any mom in my situation would feel like I do.  This is my new normal, right?’

When my fourth was a newborn, I would take my other three to daycare, and on the way home I would go through a drive through, go home and try to eat my feelings away and then go to bed with the baby and stay there until it was time to pick them up.

My faith is the only thing that saved me during the six year roller coaster ride.  All along my husband, knowing something was not right, kept urging me to get help, but this was my new normal….I didn’t think there was anything ‘wrong’ with me.  I was simply the product of 4 babies and one miscarriage in 6 years.  I needed to just ‘get over it,’ pray more, go to church more, spend more time with God…

At the end of that six years,  all the ‘babies’ were weaned and potty trained.  I felt good.  Better than I had in a long time.  We had just moved into a new house and were getting settled.  Finally felt like a ‘good’ mother.  My energy level was up, the house stayed clean, life was good.

Then, surprise….baby number five.  I enjoyed my pregnancy, had a fabulous labor and birth.  Things stayed good for a long time.  This was the first baby I had while being a full time stay at home mom.  I loved it. 

Then she began to wean…slowly but surely, the sadness, anxiety, irritability, and depression started to invade.  I felt out of control….I was going crazy.  I sank to an all-time historical low.  Spent my days on the couch….such a blur I don’t even remember most of it. 

At that point, my husband insisted I get help.  I was so ashamed.  Why?!  I don’t know.  I reluctantly made an appointment and nervously and tearfully shared the past 11 years of my life.  And guess what?  There was no judgment.  Lightening did not strike, mountains did not crumble into the sea.  I left with counseling and a prescription.  The nurse told me that it could take 2-4 weeks to start feeling better.  I was a new person in two days.  I wish I could go back and tell myself that getting more help sooner would be worth it.  I feel I finally listened to what perhaps God was trying to tell me all along…”Pray, spend time with me AND let me work through the doctors to help you. It’s OK.”

Am I less of a mom?  Am I less of a wife?  Am I less of a friend? Am I less of a professional?  No, I’m not.  I know I risk judgment…but this is my story…and if it helps just one mom, it’s worth the risk.  I didn’t need post-partum depression to make me a stronger person.  I am not implying that to be a good mom you have to endure its’ clutches.  But my journey through the valley has made me the me I am today – wife, mom, friend, professional.  I can spot post-partum depression a mile away….

I am not saying that medication is the only way to feel better.   But GET HELP.  If you are a husband, partner, mother, friend, HELP HER…she doesn’t recognize it.  If you are a mom, DON’T WAIT.  Those are years of my life, my husband’s life and my children’s lives I can NEVER get back…” 

As lactation consultants with Bay Area Breastfeeding, Leah and I are in a unique position to recognize waving red flags as we see mom in the safe environment of her own home.  Our approach sets mom at ease in a very vulnerable, intimate time of her life, allowing her to lower her guard and be honest with us and herself about how she is really feeling.  If we encounter a mom who is struggling, we feel comfortable voicing our concerns and encouraging her to seek help and perhaps sharing a personal experience.  You see, the story above is my story.  I urge you, if you can answer yes to any of the following questions, seek help so you don’t lose those precious moments that you can never get back… 

Are you feeling sad or depressed?

Do you feel more irritable or angry with those around you?

Are you having difficulty bonding with your baby?

Do you feel anxious or panicky?

Are you having problems with eating or sleeping?

Are you having upsetting thoughts that you can’t get out of your mind?

Do you feel as if you are “out of control” or “going crazy”?

Do you feel like you never should have become a mother?

Are you worried that you might hurt your baby or yourself?

Please click here for a post-partum depression self-evaluation.

And Get Help Now.

References:

1Postpartum Support International

2The Ghost in the House: Motherhood, Raising Children and Struggling with Depression

More Than Meets the Eye: How Doulas Help Moms Breastfeed

12 May

May is International Doula Month…

Source Unknown

As lactation consultants, we are thrilled to work along side our local Houston area doulas.  It is well-supported by research that labor and birth interventions can interfere with the natural course of breastfeeding, and it is also well-supported by research that the incidence of birth complications is reduced by having a doula present at your birth.  However, a doula is more than just “present” at your birth, patting your hand through contractions.  She

  • is passionate about coming along side you during one of the most important and special times in your life,
  • meets with you throughout your pregnancy and builds a relationship with you and your partner to establish trust,
  • provides ongoing education on the labor, birth and postpartum process,
  • assists you in creating a birth plan,
  • actively networks, seeking out the best resources for you,
  • advocates for you at a time when you are most vulnerable,
  • supports you during your labor and birth,
  • acts as a gatekeeper for mom, partner and baby after the birth, and much more…

Doulas are in a unique position to recognize early on any potential breastfeeding challenges.  They understand the importance getting help early.  In our experience, moms with doula support are extremely committed to pursuing breastfeeding even through tough issues.   Cole Deelah, a South-Houston doula, childbirth educator, and midwife apprentice, describes perhaps why we have found this to be true:

“A doula can oftentimes be the mother’s first exposure to breastfeeding education. I encourage the moms that I work with to attend a La Leche League meeting, refer them to area breastfeeding workshops and classes, and offer breastfeeding books from my library, including The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, Breastfeeding With Comfort and Joy, and others. A doula also has a lot of time during the prenatal period to educate moms on different helpful positions, what a successful latch and nursing looks like/feels like, local resources, products that might help in the journey, and what is normal/not normal when breastfeeding. And finally, in those first few moments after birth, a doula can help protect the new parenting space, help with initial latch-on, and minimize outside distractions and interference from others. In the first few days after birth, a doula is completely accessible to the new family and can oftentimes be whom the family calls when something doesn’t seem right with the breastfeeding relationship. The doula then has the opportunity to offer additional resources, like a lactation consultant, so as to ensure to the best of abilities, a successful breastfeeding relationship!” (Read more about Cole on her blog, Wonderfully Made Bellies and Babies.)

Three other doulas join Cole in the Houston Doula Cooperative, Nicole Yunker, Lourdes Resendez, and Kimberly Foster.  Read about their co-op here.

Also serving the greater Houston are are the TLC Doulas.  This group is made up of Kathleen Wilson, Dorin Jordan, Amanda Moore, Jessica Gonzales and Rowan TwoSisters.

Now hear from a mom about how her doula helped her breastfeed:

“Hi! I’m LaKendra a proud supporter of breastfeeding, midwives, doulas and all those great non intervention assets surrounding pregnancy and birth. I’m sharing my experience with you regarding Lourdes Resendez who is not just a doula but someone who has really become a special person to me and my 8 month old daughter! Growing up, I knew absolutely no one who breastfed and my family did not support me saying negative things like I’m starving my baby, I’m not producing enough milk, I need to let somebody else feed her, my milk doesn’t have everything she needs like formula, only”white” people do that, I could go on and on about the ignorance and negativity that surrounded me but you get my drift. Kennadi latched on great right after birth and Lourdes took us in for about 3 weeks as I established a great milk supply with her support, I had me a few cups of mothers milk tea on a daily basis which actually was sort of tasty to me, but she gave me that extra boost I needed to get going and staying confident in my decision!! And because of that great start, she’s still exclusively breastfed! Which as a working mom I take to heart because you really have to be dedicated pumping on lunches and breaks, but it’s been a great journey and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon!”

…How are you celebrating your doula?

Who’s Feeding Momma? 10 Ways to Support a Breastfeeding Mom

16 Apr

1. Share your successful breastfeeding stories and experiences and leave the negative experience or breastfeeding “horror stories” for another person……a new mom is already emotionally full as she processes her birth experience and contemplates motherhood…she is full of desire to be successful at breastfeeding and bonding with her new baby.  Offering stories of challenges may not fill her with the inspiration she needs, especially if she is struggling…..certainly let her know she is not alone even if there are struggles but adding to the list of “what if” and “could that happen to me” worries is probably going to have a negative effect.

2. Bring her food!! And NO it does not have to be bland and boring just because she is breastfeeding. Most nursing babies have no problem with any foods a mother eats even spicy or bold flavors. You could ask a mother about her preferences but don’t hold back on foods she enjoys. Or make her easy-to-grab, healthy snacks that she can store in her nursing nest and can eat while she feeds the baby!

3. Pamper mom!! Bring her some flowers to brighten the room, offer a foot rub or shoulder massage or bring her some chamomile tea to relax. Fill Momma’s love tank so she can fill baby’s!!!

4. During a feeding help her relax.….if you are present for a feeding, and you see mom getting tense, some gentle relaxation reminders can be helpful! Sometimes her shoulders creep up to her ears. Reminding her to relax and encouraging a few deep breaths can even help with the milk letting down!

5. Ask her what tasks around the house would help reduce her stress.….often times offering to hold the baby or take the baby so she can rest will only stress the mom more or make her feel inadequate as a mother. What may enable her to relax and focus on the baby is clearing the kitchen sink or doing some laundry. Straightening a room or walking the dog? Ask her!!

6. Be the gate keeper…..the early days of learning to breastfeed are usually filled with fumbling and adjusting as mom and baby learn the dance of latching. Mothers may find it hard to manage and focus if there are many visitors stopping in. Help decrease visitors, and you may also want to hold off on long visits until she requests it or feels up to them!

7. Send encouraging texts and emails….let her know how proud you are of her efforts to breastfeed, her dedication to breastfeeding, her amazing mothering abilities…….a simple text like ” You are an awesome mom and every drop of breastmilk you give your baby is a precious gift!” can carry her to through a long feeding at 2 am or a round of evening cluster feedings!

8. If she needs help…help her find good help…..IBCLC’s are the gold standard for  lactation care, bring her a list of local IBCLC’s to call on if she is having any issues!

9. Look up her local chapter of La Leche League and help her get to a meeting! Mother to mother breastfeeding support is invaluable…..she needs to feel like she is not alone…..even if everything is going well, it is good to meet other like-minded moms doing all the same things she is!

10. Help educate others around the new mother about ways to help support her! If you are reading this blog, there is a strong likelihood that you have a new mom in your life…..pass this blog on to others in her life as well.  Create a “village” around this new mom to inspire and support her on the journey of breastfeeding her baby.  Each child we see breastfed in this generation will contribute to a healthier and happier world in the next!!

No Perfect Houses Allowed: Preparing For Your Lactation Consultation

9 Apr

*Don’t clean! As lactation consultants,  our focus is on mom and baby.  We won’t be looking at the piles of laundry or dishes in the sink.  Leave the tidying up for the in-laws and even then wait at least a month…..

*Dress For Comfort Not Style.  PJs are totally ok!  Just wear a top with easy access so you won’t have to worry about it getting in the way of your breastfeeding efforts.

*Tuck Your Pets Away.  Or ask us before the visit if we mind the pets being out.  Sometimes dogs and cats are so friendly they want to be in middle of the consult.  Although Rover and Mr. Whiskers are cute, they can be a distraction for momma, and we want you to feel relaxed throughout the consult and not concerned about the pets sniffing out the new visitors and their strange bags. 🙂

*Expect to Breastfeed.  But don’t hold off a feeding if your baby is hungry before we arrive.  They are usually always willing to eat again.  It’s helpful if you can text us when you expect the baby to feed next, and we may be able to adjust our schedule around the feeding!

*Pick a location.  Decide where you will be most comfortable breastfeeding…couch, recliner, bed…and have pillows, burp cloth, receiving blanket and a bottle of water within reach.

*Write Down Your Questions.  Don’t try to remember them…your new mom brain won’t let you.  Take a couple of minutes the day of the consult to make a list of questions and concerns you may have.  We won’t leave until we know that you have had all of your questions addressed. 

*Plan payment.  Feel free to ask ahead of time the specifics about fees and payment methods so it’s not a source of worry and surprise for you at the conclusion of the visit.  You or preferably your partner may also want to contact your insurance company to see if any of our services are reimbursable to you or can be applied to a flex spending account.

*Get Your Pump Out.  If you are using a pump at the time of the consult, have it available for us to look at so we can make sure the fit is good for you and provide you tips for getting the most out of your pumping sessions.

*Talk With Your Support Person.  And ask them if they might be available to listen in on the consult and watch techniques.  Having another set of eyes and ears present ensures that when we leave you will feel confident in their ability to give you gentle reminders of the techniques and tips you learned during the consult

*Get Baby in Skin to Skin.  Plan to have your baby dressed in just a clean diaper and spend a few minutes with her on your chest, heart to heart, before our arrival. Babies who are held in skin to skin just prior to feeding go through a specific set of feeding behaviors which generally enables them to latch and breastfeed more efficiently.

*Relax.  And give yourself a pat on the back for seeking help.  While we can’t always provide an immediate fix (sometimes those magic lactation wands just don’t work), our goal is to leave you with a plan, feeling empowered and more confident to take charge of your breastfeeding journey.