…Contemplating the Core Elements of a Modern Breastfeeding Lifestyle
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Breastfeeding With A Baby Nurse: Is it Less Work For Mother?

Bethenny Frankel, from the reality show Bethenny Gets Married, rationalizes the supposed luxury of having a baby nurse in the video clip included in yesterday’s post, “Breastfeeding on Reality TV“.

This notion of hiring a baby nurse aka “infant care specialist” so that there will be less work for the mother is not a new one. Indeed, it is viewed in some social circles as a necessity to make the transition to motherhood.  It has been a prevailing message directed toward affluent new parents in New York City throughout my professional life as a registered nurse and lactation consultant.

The article by Marie Brenner in New York Magazine, October 4, 1982 “Less Work for Mother” is a social commentary in and of itself.  It is worth a quick read to see how our world has changed over these past 28 years.

It is interesting to note that now, more than a quarter of a century later, the majority of  baby nurses welcomed into the homes of  New York City mothers are no longer Irish or European, but  hail mainly from the Caribbean or Philippine’s.  They own the niche.  These women are usually not medical professionals.  They bring to each assignment a knowledge base gleaned from their own life experiences as mothers and/or the on-the-job training they received while in the employ of various families over the years.

Lactation consulting has been a stand alone profession for exactly 25 years.  Initially many of the baby nurses were threatened by these breastfeeding experts entering the picture.  LC’s would come in for short visits and rock the boat.  Accustomed to being completely in charge of the care and feeding of their infant charges, this emphasis on breastfeeding made it seem as though the services of the baby nurse were not really needed.  (A sentiment that Bethenny voiced at one point in her interview.)

It is interesting to note how these two specialties have learned to co-exist during my tenure as a lactation consultant.   The growing trend by many LC’s  to encourage frequent pumping and a greater emphasis on measuring volume of intake has been embraced by the baby nurses.  They dutifully assist the mothers with pumping and urge that supplements be given to “satisfy” their babies when they are the least bit unsettled after a breastfeeding session.  On average, one or two direct feedings per day are skipped so that the baby nurse can give a relief bottle and the mothers can sleep.

The net result for these mothers who are pumping and breastfeeding much of the day is a feeling of being a milking machine.   There is little time to really relax and bond with their babies.

There must be a better way to manage this resource, or as Bethenny puts it, the luxury of having a nurse.   What do you think?

To be continued…

August 10, 2010   1 Comment

Musings of A Breastfeeding Mary Poppins

Today is the end of World Breastfeeding Week 2010.

As it ends I invite you to contemplate this Celtic Mandala of Anu or Aine, The Great Mother.   She is the womb of life and and through her breasts she passes on its spark and vitality in the form of mother’s milk.

Anu or Aine-The Great Mother

In my world, where I am a community-based registered nurse and lactation consultant, protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding will continue on a daily basis.

I’ve been privileged to help so many moms and babies to join our global breastfeeding family.  Over the past 24+ years, it’s testimonials and feedback like this that have kept me going.

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Although, I still feel at times like a salmon swimming up stream, I embrace being called a “Breastfeeding Mary (aka Máire) Poppins”

Just the other day, during this week of breastfeeding celebration, I ran into a mom and her daughter that I had helped about 14 years ago.  Mana Allen re-introduced me to Molly who had gone on to breastfeed for many years in an  extended breastfeeding relationship that they had both relished. They thanked me yet again and Mana commented this week here on the blog.

Someday soon I imagine that I will have the honor and pleasure of helping Molly or another graduate of my practice to become a breastfeeding mother.

That will be a full circle moment!

August 7, 2010   No Comments

Breastfeeding and The Law of Attraction

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The Law of Attraction is a powerful universal law which draws to us whatever is our most dominant vibration at any given moment in time. 

Sometimes I feel like I am living the law of attraction. In the past half year, I have drawn to me some very powerful mentors and a multi-dimensional support team who have helped me to actualize many of my life goals.

It is uncanny how whenever I am with a new breastfeeding family there is a palpable shift of the energy in the room.  Often the mothers will tease me and say that their baby is always on his/her best behavior when I am around.  It does seem that way.  I attribute this to my implacable confidence and optimism which embodies this universal law of attraction. It sets the tone for positive changes in each unique breastfeeding relationship. In fact, it came up recently where I had to caution a baby “nurse” to refrain from her negative speak as it was not helping the mother to focus her attention toward a successful breastfeeding connection. 

Change does not come without some discomfort.  If we expect a bad outcome that is usually what we will get.  I expect good outcomes and am rarely disappointed when that expectation is mixed with making incremental improvements in the mother’s skill set in connecting with her baby.

The Law of Attraction can and should be used by you especially during this important life passage as a new breastfeeding mother.

August 3, 2010   1 Comment

World Breastfeeding Week 2010: Health Care Worker Call To Action

This is the 19′th annual celebration of World Breastfeeding Week.  The Theme of 2010 is commemorating the Innocenti Declaration made by WHO and UNICEF policy-makers in August 1990 to protect, promote and support breastfeeding.

In the past 20 years there has been some progress in the rates of  initiation of breastfeeding.  Yet, only 28% of Maternity facilities world-wide have fully implemented the Ten Steps and have been certified by the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative.  Were this an analysis of anything else, this would not be a passing grade.

 I’ve been in the trenches throughout this period and beyond.  At first glance, it appears as though we have made great strides.   According to the NYC Dept. of  Health and Mental Hygiene report put out in April 2009,  an impressive 85%  of women initiate breastfeeding.  However, after 2 months the number falls to 32% who are still exclusively breastfeeding their babies.  Surveys reveal that the top two reasons for stopping were related to concerns about the milk supply either having enough (39%) or that it was adequately satisfying their babies (39%).

The fall off rate here in NYC is quite dramatic, but not surprising to me.  Despite health code regulations that prohibit formula discharge packs, many families will leave the hospital with generous samples of formula in tow.  Mothers who have had cesarean sections report that their babies were given at least one bottle, if not more, of formula during the first few days after delivery.  

Many of the New York hospitals have lactation consultants on staff or nurses “trained” to support breastfeeding.  Nonetheless, their focus seems to increasingly be on feeding a measurable amount of fluid to the newborns.  They get  moms to sit on the pump getting drops of colostrum and encourage them to give their babies formula until the “milk comes in”. 

 Using the pump as a  first line of breastfeeding support relegates direct breastfeeding to the back seat.  New mothers leave the hospital knowing how to pump rather than how to achieve a deep, pain-free latch.

New parents are set up to believe that artificial baby milk or formula and human milk can be exchanged ounce for ounce in bottles without consequence .  Unwittingly they are weaning from the beginning or setting themselves up to experience the top two reasons many of them will choose not to breastfeed beyond two months.

Without a doubt, the Ten Steps are a helpful tool to focus our attention on the importance of consistent breastfeeding education and support.

To pack a punch and ensure successful breastfeeding beyond the first few weeks, the Ten Steps must be embraced by unequivocal  and truly breastfeeding-friendly health care workers:  nurses, doctors and lactation consultants. 

To be continued…

August 2, 2010   2 Comments

Breastfeeding Success: Less Than Six Degrees of Separation

Living in NYC, there are many opportunities to interact with celebrities.   However, one of the reasons John Lennon loved it here is that, for the most part, his privacy was respected.   

I stood on line behind Kevin Bacon at my Starbucks.   I could feel my father desperately channelling through me an urge to engage him in conversation.   Although I inherited my dad’s ”gift of the gab,” I could not utter this joke forming in my mind.  “So, this is what they mean by six degrees of separation?”   If only I had remembered at that moment that his wife Kyra had breastfed.   Given my penchant for marketing at Starbucks , who knows what I might have been able to say. 

All kidding aside,  I have found that there is less than 6 degrees of  separation for breastfeeding success.  

  • Your mother, partner, a sibling or close friend, doctor (pediatrician or obstetrician), lactation specialist can all impact your choices and the trajectory of your experience. 

Six Degrees of Separation For BF Success

One of the most important considerations is surrounding yourself with positive breastfeeding role models and enthusiasts.   Given the barrage of hormones, any lack of support, whether real or imagined, can shake your confidence.  Those who love you do not want to see you exhausted and overwhelmed.  They may try to relieve you by offering to give a bottle or encourage you to consider an exit strategy. 

Breastfeeding is natural, but it is also a learned skill for both mother and baby.   Tensions can build when couples are not on the same page about this essential aspect of caring for their newborn.  Attend a breastfeeding class together if at all possible.   Remember that coaching does not end after labor.  

Many of you will defer to the “authority figures” such as the doctor and lactation consultant.  

  1. No Pediatrician will hang out a shingle saying they are opposed to breastfeeding.  However, early supplementation with formula is a big clue about their knowledge and support of breastfeeding. 
  2. A survey of Pediatricians published in late 2008 verifies that their promotion of breastfeeding is down.
  3. Lactation consultants that rely too heavily upon gadgets and pumping may further overwhelm a mother. 
  4. Check out your local parenting boards and read them carefully.  Look for someone who has the clinical expertise to fix your latch rather than manage your pumping.
  5. Ask your friends to  honestly share their breastfeeding experience and judge if you want some of the same.
  6. Follow me on twitter or become a member of  The Breastfeeding Salon

We live in an interesting period of human history where popularity and affiliation are highly valued.   With some preparation you can assemble your dream team of breastfeeding support within six degrees of separation.

June 27, 2010   No Comments