…Contemplating the Core Elements of a Modern Breastfeeding Lifestyle
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Conscious Breastfeeding Connections: A 21 Day Productivity Challenge

March 7. 2012 is World IBCLC Day


I have decided to join Connie Ragen Green’s 21 Day Productivity Challenge leading up to this occasion. It will give me an opportunity to review how I can better serve and foster conscious breastfeeding connections here on the blog and through The Breastfeeding Salon.

Teaching prenatal classes and coaching mothers after they have begun to breastfeed has been my passion for more than a quarter century. Sadly, breastfeeding remains a challenge for many modern moms, despite the ever increasing number of lactation consultants. Ironically, for many of these new mothers, their “productivity” is often at issue.

It takes approximately 21 days to install a new habit or change a mindset. Thus, I am doing this challenge with high hopes for my online/offline business makeover. What makes it even more powerful for me is the awareness that this is the same timeline during which a pregnant woman makes her transformation to becoming a breastfeeding mom.

I invite you to join me on this journey of growth and change and be here to celebrate with me and my fellow IBCLC’s in early March.

February 16, 2012   No Comments

The Tao of Conscious Breastfeeding

The ba gua above is often used to depict the Tao and its pursuit.  This lactation consultant sees a breastfeeding baby in its center.  In reality, it is the yin-yang symbol which represents the duality of opposites, male and female energies, inherent in the natural order of the universe.

According to wikipedia, the word Tao is most often defined as a path or way, but can also be defined as to guide or lead.  Thus it perfectly describes the ongoing process of how a new mother learns to breastfeed and teaches it to her baby…the Tao of Conscious Breastfeeding.

There are several basic learning styles: audio, visual and kinesthetic.  To climb the conscious competence ladder and gain mastery of the skill of breastfeeding will take differing amounts of time for each nursing couple.  Finding the right combination of learning styles will help them to reach competence much faster.

Babies are sensational beings. They learn through repetition. They are hard-wired at birth with basic reflexes which assist them to adapt and thrive outside the womb. They draw conclusions on a primal level from what happens when they do certain things; if it is associated with a pleasing outcome they will repeat the action to get the same result.  It is quite Pavlovian.  Over time they begin to gravitate toward a learning style that may be preferred as they mature.

Adults have the ability to analyze more information and understand more complex causal relationships. They are capable of establishing new neural pathways at any time by intentionally repeating new behaviors which will replace those that no longer serve them.

A Chinese Proverb reminds us:

I hear and I forget.
I see and I remember.
I do and I understand

What is your learning style?  How has it impacted your breastfeeding journey?

As a Conscious Breastfeeding mother, you will be teaching your baby to breastfeed and ultimately establish rhythms in all areas of his/her life.  You can draw on these insights to assist your child to develop the muscles of learning which he/she will be using throughout life.

The Tao of Conscious Breastfeeding is a truly foundational experience.

August 25, 2010   No Comments

Got Milk? Part 3: Let’s Pump and See

Mothers are literally buying into the idea that pumping is the magic ticket for breastfeeding success.   Thanks to the ‘pump pushers’  it is a rare woman who actually believes that she can only breastfeed.  I have written about this “Pump Mania” extensively in  Are You All Pumped Up? 

Many lactation consultants and health professionals are encouraging a dependence upon pumping.  They have been sold on the notion that the pump is as good, if not better than a baby feeding directly from the breast.   They tell mothers, “Pump to see how much milk you are making.”  Another common piece of advice is “Pump after every feeding to increase your milk supply.” 

Clinical evidence shows that pumping is always second best when compared to direct breastfeeding with an excellent latch.   What is obtained from pumping is only a percentage of what the baby can get when properly positioned on the breast.  

The impression of increasing the milk supply often comes from the fact that the breast seems fuller with the combination of breastfeeding and pumping.  Assessing the quality of breastfeeding is essential because the appearance of fullness can be misleading. 

  • If the baby has a poor latch and the mother is relying more heavily on the pump for removal of her milk, the breast will build up its storage capacity. 
  • An excellent latch leads to a breast in equilibrium rather than having a leaky, full and uncomfortable breast.

Pumping most definitely has a place in the breastfeeding experience of some, but not all, new mothers.  Those mothers who encounter challenges due to prematurity, maternal/infant illness or those who work outside the home, will most likely need to pump if they are to  maintain their milk supply.  

It is both ironic and disturbing that such a profound lack of confidence in milk supply by mothers has grown in an environment where there are legions of lactation consultants and breastfeeding advocates now among us.   It turns out that the allied health profession of lactation consulting (IBCLC) and Medela, the leading manufacturer of pumps world-wide, have been closely linked throughout the past 25 years.  (I don’t seem to be alone in voicing my concerns.) Read more here.

  • A rise in individual pump ownership and use since the mid-1990’s is directly proportional to this increased focus on breast milk supply versus direct breastfeeding.  

 As far as I can tell,  mothers do not lose sleep worrying about how many ounces of amniotic fluid their placenta is making for their babies.  They trust in the wisdom of their bodies to manufacture what is needed to get the job done.   Before the advent of routine sonograms, “the bag of waters” was not even on the radar until time for labor.

Breasts would be see-through or come with alarm systems if the volume was the critical factor to be considered.  The notion of volume  being important comes from a formula feeding model-nothing changes in that processed food save for calories delivered by the ounce.

This collective obsession, pun intended, with proving how much breast milk we have, makes me think of the biblical figure, Doubting Thomas.  

Why do we need to see our milk  in order to believe in the ability of breastfeeding to nurture our babies?

June 27, 2010   6 Comments

Breastfeeding Needs A New Marketing Mindset: Part 1

Breastfeeding has been, and remains, the biological norm for feeding human babies since the dawn of time. It is the completion of the pregnancy and birth cycle designed to nurture human beings in their accelerated growth and development after birth. The first 3 months are often called the 4th Trimester because it is during this period that the mother’s milk supply will be established based upon the feedback loop between the baby, breast and brain (pituitary glands).

Early in the 20′th century, drug companies started selling commercial artificial baby milks, aka formula. Gradually women were persuaded that breastfeeding was a choice, rather than the natural food needed to ensure the optimal growth and development of their infants during the first year of life and beyond. In the late 1960’s, formula began to be marketed directly to the medical community and a sharp decline in the initiation and duration of breastfeeding was noted throughout the world. In less than a century, it was no longer the birth right of human babies to be fed their mother’s milk.

What’s a breastfeeding advocate to do to combat the marketing prowess of Big Pharma? For the past 25 years legions of dedicated lactation professionals and breastfeeding women have pondered this question, myself included.

The basic approach has been to promote breastfeeding by proclaiming that it is natural and full of health benefits for both the mother and her nursling. Education and peer support have been the primary tactics to shift the global paradigm back to breastfeeding as the accepted norm.

Unfortunately, modern breastfeeding advocacy has been fashioned from a defensive mindset. Marketing efforts take on formula, tit for tat, pun intended. The activity of breastfeeding has been steadily taking a backseat to the commodity of expressed breast milk.

In their efforts to create an evidence-based model, many lactation consultants have moved their attention away from direct breastfeeding and are promoting pumping and breastmilk to go up against the competition, one-on-one, bottle by bottle.

The current breastfeeding marketing strategy is in desperate need of an overhaul. What do you think?

June 2, 2010   1 Comment

Dad Walking On Egg Shells

Had an interesting call this week from a dad.  He wondered what were the chances of relactating at 7 weeks? 

And no, before you go there, it wasn’t a crank trying to get a rise out of this passionate lactation advocate.  This call was legitimate.  He was a friend of a father in my practice who had encouraged him to reach out to me across state lines to sort out his dilemma.

He called me to suss out the situation and shared a very sad, but typical scenario.  His wife, had been buffeted on the seas of lactation support with inconsistent advice, emphasis on pumping and after two weeks was summarily dismissed and told to bottle-feed.  For approximately 6 weeks now his son has been bottle-fed formula.

In general, I always prefer to speak directly with the mother.  However, his voicemail touched a heart string as he confessed that he was calling without having yet broached this subject with his wife.  He was genuinely concerned and felt badly that they were missing out on breastfeeding because of the questionable support and consultation they had received in the early weeks.  

The reason for the abrupt weaning was the usual  ”Not Enough Milk”.  This was determined, of course, by his wife’s inability to pump enough to bottle-feed after the delivery.   More bottles and pumping led to formula and weaning.  The reason it was bothering him so much was that he noticed her leaking tons of milk a few days ago.  He didn’t understand why she didn’t just offer the breast to their son as clearly there was milk.

This dad was walking on egg shells. He was the support team during the initial battles and was now fearful of incurring her wrath by bringing up the notion of trying it again.   

I can empathize.  I’m often called in for these kind of situations and find the solution is not as simple as merely choosing between offering the breast or a bottle filled with human milk or formula.  The weeks of reinforcing a behavior other than breastfeeding and living a bottle-feeding lifestyle with their new baby could make the transition difficult on many levels.  

 I complimented this dad on his thoughtful and loving inquiry.  My suggestions were simple:

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1.  He could now share honestly some of his impressions about that stressful time with his wife.  Sharing empathy without the stress and pressure biting at their heels.

2.  He could share some of his conversation with his friend that led him to call me.  It would be helpful to emphasize that these situations are usually not truly black and white, but rather if she were empowered and given consistent support much would be possible.

3.  He could gently suggest that she offer their son the breast without worrying now if she had enough. Without pressuring her, he could point out it would be a shame if what she was still producing for their son would ultimately go to waste.

4.  He could share what he intuitively knew, and I corroborated, that milk supply is not increased by the pump, but rather by the baby breastfeeding.  Any amount of breastfeeding would greatly increase the odds of them being able to shift the balance of feeds away from the bottle and back to the breast.

5.  He could continue to offer his love and support reassuring her that it was ultimately her decision.  Sometimes knowing that it is a real team effort can make these transitions seem more possible.

Breastfeeding is a relationship and is relational.    It is the mother who ultimately breastfeeds and chooses whether or not she will continue or resume if there have been challenges.  However, her choices do indeed have an impact on everyone in her inner circle.  Breastfeeding does not exist in a vacuum and is very much a family affair.

How many of us sisters, moms, friends, partners, spouses, and  even lactation consultants, can identify with this dad? Have you ever been afraid to further encourage or advise a mom who had been beaten down and had weaned because of a negative experience with breastfeeding ?

Have you ever felt like you were walking on egg shells?  And what did you do?

July 16, 2009   1 Comment