…Contemplating the Core Elements of a Modern Breastfeeding Lifestyle
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Breastfeeding: Caution Bumps Ahead

Most experts agree that it usually takes a minimum of 3 weeks to change a pattern.  When this principle is applied to a  breastfeeding relationship, thankfully, the baby takes much less time to adopt a new behavior.  However, the same cannot always be said about the mom and her support team who must orchestrate that shift…Expect Bumps Ahead.

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Behavior modification requires consistency. The first order of business should be to ensure that the baby is drinking breastmilk and preferably via direct breastfeeding.  It is not the frequency, but rather the quality of the feedings which will set up comfortable digestive rhythms.  The focus needs to be on optimizing the latch rather than on watching the clock.

Babies are sensational human beings.  They share our dislike of change.  Their mothers are the thinking partners in the breastfeeding relationship.  Because the babies are not privy to the long range plan, they do much better when little steps are taken toward any goal.  I encourage  moms to go slowly when making adjustments.  Too often rushing ahead leads to frustration and often the adults end up taking steps backward to a previous comfort zone.

This can be a real challenge for a mom who has gotten out of synch with her breastfeeding baby.  The longer a problem persists, the more worn down she will feel.  The key is to patiently work within a framework that capitalizes on each of their strengths and capabilities.  Breastfeeding is a skill that can be learned and taught to the baby.  Managing breastfeeding well relies on a fundamental of a great latch and creating rhythmic feeding patterns that sustain growth and mutual comfort.

Did you encounter speed bumps on your breastfeeding journey?  What tips, tricks or approaches helped you to stay the course?

August 29, 2010   No Comments

Breastfeeding: The Long and Winding Road

I often compare breastfeeding to a journey that a mother takes with her new baby. That is why I call it the Tao of Conscious Breastfeeding.  It can be a long and winding road.  My goal is to help moms to find their bearings and enjoy themselves along the “Way”.

The shortest distance  between two points is a straight line.  When it comes to breastfeeding the closest to this would be latching on during the first hour after birth.  Ideally the connection would be deep and pain-free for the mom.  A synchronicity between the breasts and baby would develop and foster a comfortable pattern of feeding that could be further optimized over time.

Unfortunately few moms get to take this path. The majority are faced with roadblocks to reaching their goals.  Some detours will point them to breastfeeding success, while others point them toward weaning.

The thing to remember is that with a road map you can usually find your way.

Plug the following points into your GPS:

  1. It’s all about the latch.
  2. Babies learn through feelings and repetition.
  3. Pumps are never as good as your baby when latched well.
  4. Supply is related to your baby, not a machine.
  5. Managing pumping is not the same as managing breastfeeding.
  6. Breastfeeding is the natural extension of pregnancy.
  7. Breastfeeding is the biological norm for mammals.
  8. You can get to your destination easier and faster with a tour guide (LC).
  9. Lighten your load. Less is more and gets you farther down the road.
  10. Breastfeeding is natural, but it is also a skill that can be mastered!

Success does leave clues.  What  helped or hindered you as you moved on down the road toward empowered Conscious Breastfeeding?

August 28, 2010   No Comments

Conscious Breastfeeding: Beginner’s Mind

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One of the most valuable concepts of Eastern philosophy is found in the Japanese word Nyuanshin which is commonly translated as “beginner’s mind”.  I stumbled upon an amazing post which draws upon this concept… The Inner Art of Airmanship…Master of the Wing , Yet Always a Beginner.

While reading this article I suddenly remembered a fun incident that I had shared many years ago with my youngest brother Stephen who flies silver jets…or so says his email handle.  To be more exact he is now a major in the Air Force Reserves currently on leave from being a pilot for American Airlines.

When he was in the final stages of getting his wings, Stephen had arranged for all 4 of us siblings and the parents to have a go with him in the cockpit simulator used to train pilots.  Sitting there with him and faced with a dashboard of complex and unfamiliar knobs and gauges was exciting, but daunting.  I was immediately overcome with admiration for him to have been able to master such complexity.  On another level, my desire to show how smart I was and to be better than all the other newbies in the family got in my way as I tried to follow his instructions in this unfamiliar space. I became filled with fear being asked to “pilot” this imaginary vehicle.   Although, I was quite comfortable with the technology specific to a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, this was beyond my scope of knowledge and expertise.  I felt like a fish out of water.

So… to no one’s great surprise… I crashed the plane and didn’t even realize it until he exclaimed…gee…you’ve just  cost Uncle Sam millions.

We both had a good laugh!

My misadventures in the cockpit could be a metaphor for the way a new mother may feel when she starts breastfeeding, a bit vulnerable and out of her element.  Although she has lived in her skin for some time, she has not ever had to rely on her body and specifically her breasts in this way.  She knows that breastfeeding is natural and has most likely heard that it has a learning curve.  She may do a fair bit of reading, take classes and/or check in with her family and peers to get prepared.  She may expect that it will be easy, or not, depending upon the input she has had in advance of beginning her breastfeeding experience.

It seems to me that the Zen concept of Beginners Mind is particularly suited to a new mother.  It requires that she leave behind some of her preconceived notions and be open and receptive to learning, both in mind and body, the fundamentals of mother-led Conscious Breastfeeding.

Unfortunately, many mothers experience pain or may even be unable to get a good latch because they believe it should be left up to their baby or worse yet, a pump.

As in flying planes or practicing martial arts, breastfeeding requires attention be paid to the details of a learning a specific physical skill…in this case, the latch.  By “just doing” the specific steps that enhance the latch connection an optimized breastfeeding journey becomes possible.

A muscle memory of the latch will develop for both the mother and her baby; it is acquired after some practice and the rate of learning is different from one individual to another.

Coordination of this latch-on technique can at first seem difficult.  Through continuous repetition of the basics, a dynamic will develop for a Conscious Breastfeeding mom… where she is no longer needing to make constant corrections, but will still remain alert for any changes that could develop bad habits or set backs that might unfavorably alter her enjoyment of breastfeeding.

As a new mother you need to be patient, diligent and forgive yourself for being a beginner.

By embracing your beginners mind, you will own the experience.  Do the learning.  Walk the path.   And you, the student/mother will ultimately become the teacher for your baby of this way of Conscious Breastfeeding and many other life lessons.

August 16, 2010   2 Comments

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

The Zen of Conscious Breastfeeding

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It was a hot day like today when I was last at the famous Zen Rock Garden of the Ryoan-ji Temple  in Kyoto, Japan.   It was a very still and peaceful place, save for the other tourist moving about and inserting herself into my photo.

I sat at the edge and contemplated my breath while gazing  at the gently raked rock garden gleaming brightly in the heat of the day.

I am often reminded of this feeling when I am in the presence of a Conscious Breastfeeding mother and baby.  There is a stillness that descends upon the nursing couple.  A rhythmic sound of breathing and soft swallowing comes from the baby while it is feeding.  The mom looks serene and comfortable as she is very much in the moment.

In this fast paced world in which we live, each breastfeeding session offers an opportunity to become centered and quiet.  A mother can connect deeply with her baby, both literally and figuratively.  She is sharing her physical and emotional space, as well as her milk, with him or her during this time.

The sales pitch for breastfeeding is that it can be done on the go- anytime, anywhere.  Although this may be true, I strongly encourage moms to explore the benefits of  a more zen experience.

A Conscious Breastfeeding mom creates a sacred space in her home where she is able to focus fully on breastfeeding her baby.  Ideally she will be using a high-backed chair.   Seated with both shoulders resting against the chair, she will draw her baby deeply onto her breast for a pain-free latch.  A secondary benefit of  her good  posture is that she will be facilitatating a sense of comfort and calm in both herself and her baby.  Feedings done this way become a form of zazen, or sitting meditation.

In Zen Begin, Live Your Life the Zen Way, this Zen-Meditation is explained…

Zen is all about focus. Meditation or zazen is an exercise in creating a one- pointedness of mind. The comparison with muddy water is often made. In calm water the mud sinks to the bottom and the water becomes clear.

A Conscious Breastfeeding mom puts her baby to her breast in an intentional manner; she maintains a calm pose and deep rhythmic breathing throughout each feeding session.   As a result, she and her baby come away feeling rested and fortified.  The baby will be in quiet alert and receptive to socialization and interaction with her and other family members; mom’s mind will be more clear and focused.

This mother and child statue was at the edge of a hot spring in the Japanese Alps.   May she inspire you to embrace the the Zen of Conscious Breastfeeding.

What has been your experience of this special breastfeeding time with your baby?

July 21, 2010   No Comments