…Contemplating the Core Elements of a Modern Breastfeeding Lifestyle
Random header image... Refresh for more!

Conscious Breastfeeding: Avoiding Assumptions

Your input… thoughts and questions are invited.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

My friend Chip was an eye-catching man when I met him many years ago. He stood out and was literally above the crowd… 6′ 5″ and elegantly dressed in clothes and shoes made for him in Hong Kong. We have not seen each other for many years. Our paths crossing at that time probably was a subtle catalyst pointing me toward Japan. I visited him there on his own turf several times in the intervening years.

Early in our friendship he had shared a comical story with me. He was born in Tokyo and was an avid runner. He told me that even though their were quite a few foreigners or “gaigin” visiting and living in Tokyo many Japanese still assumed they did not understand Japanese. He told me one day he was running along his usual route and overheard a bunch of runners talking to each other about him. To their surprise… this giant, Chip, turned around and spoke to them fluently in perfect Japanese. They were mortified to say the least.

All of us can get caught in this same trap if we are not careful. We are constantly making assumptions on a daily basis…not all of them serve us.

Kathleen Hall Jamieson says…

“The assumption that seeing is believing makes us susceptible to visual deceptions”

This is so true with breastfeeding. This week I have encountered several different scenarios which illustrate this very point.

The size of your breasts does not tell you anything about your ability to produce milk. It is a function of genes and fat distribution. It is not how your breasts look, but rather how you use them that will impact your milk supply.

Another assumption is that if only one breast is being used to feed you will have an inadequate amount of milk. It just means that if you have one breast activated for milk production and the other is not that you may have a “visual imbalance” in the size of your breasts.

There are women in Vietnam who only breastfeed on one side for convenience while they work in the rice paddies. Mothers of twins are essentially sustaining each baby on one breast. If you have only one baby, you have an extra breast and a surplus of milk. Using only one breast requires that attention be paid to optimizing the latch and removal of milk at every feeding.

Nearly every mother, and most doctors and nurses believe, that what a mother pumps is what her breasts produce. This is absolutely not true. If you are breastfeeding well… the amounts will be much less than what the baby can get through direct breastfeeding. It always depends on when pumping is done in relation to breastfeeding.

If the breastfeeding is not optimized or your baby has a smaller appetite the amounts pumped may appear to be larger. However this volume will diminish over time as the quality of breastfeeding and your baby’s appetite improve.

Don Miguel Ruiz on Page: 78
of The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book), reminds us…
“The way to keep yourself from making assumptions is to ask questions.”

Much of the Conscious Breastfeeding approach is predicated upon the fact that what we see is not necessarily telling us the whole story. Relying mainly on what we see can lead us down the wrong path and cause us to supplement and may lead to early weaning.

As Conscious Breastfeeding mothers I encourage you to focus upon the quality of your breastfeeding connection with your babies and not allow assumptions to guide your experience of Breastfeeding.

August 29, 2010   No Comments

Breastfeeding Status Update: It’s Complicated

Breastfeeding is just like most modern relationships, sometimes it is difficult to define.

More often than not, the romantic ideal of a blissful nursing couple is threatened by the addition of pumps and bottles. These artifacts alter the experience greatly for both the mother and her baby. She is likely to feel overwhelmed.

Breastfeeding Status: It’s complicated.

Tongue-in-cheek, my green logo above and query are inspired by Facebook.   The irony is that it has, on several occasions, banned breastfeeding photos.

What is your Breastfeeding Status?

Do you exclusively breastfeed your baby?  Do you breastfeed, then pump, then feed a bottle of your expressed milk?  Do you breastfeed, then offer a formula chaser? Do you pump exclusively?

Ideally breastfeeding should be a relationship with your baby, not the pump.   Couple therapists typically recommend banning the computer and television in the bedroom in order to foster greater intimacy.  In the same vein, focusing on direct breastfeeding will enhance both bonding and the milk supply.

There is a time and place for the gadgets, but in the bloom of new love or breastfeeding it is best that the focus be on the partner.  Being in the moment and keeping things simple can help lay down the most solid foundation for long term success.

It is all about making positive, conscious breastfeeding connections and upgrading your status to: In Relationship with your breastfeeding baby.

August 26, 2010   8 Comments

Breastfeeding: The Law of Simplicity

Your input… thoughts and questions are invited to podcast/post below.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

A core concept of Conscious Breastfeeding is Simplicity…Getting Back to the Basics.

Contemplating what Simplicity means in our daily lives reminded me of my own search for a zen simplicity during my travels throughout Japan.  Fascinated by the hot springs or onsens that dotted this volcanic country, I bought a book “A Guide to Japanese Hot Springs” that led me on  an adventure moving through roads less travelled in search of the most rustic springs I could find.   I was especially fond of the rotenburos which were set in the mountains and were outside in nature.  I stayed in Minshukus or family run bed and breakfast establishments. This was the most authentic experience of what life used to be like in Japan and was a far cry from the crowds and neon of Tokyo and the other large cities.  Being one with Nature was extremely peaceful and relaxing.

One one occasion, when my language skills were rudimentary at best I was served the traditional Japanese breakfast of a small fish, miso soup, nori seaweed rice and a raw egg.  Thankfully the hostess asked first.  The nurse in me could not find much appeal in that raw egg and I tried to decline.  At first she didn’t understand me.  With very simple logic and equally simple Japanese I created a new expression:  Tamago is egg and Sashimi is raw fish…so I called it “Tamago Sashimi” and she got my meaning.

That experience taught me a valuable life lesson…distilling language, ideas and information down to simpler forms makes for better communication.  It has powerfully informed my practice with moms and their babies over these past 22+ years.

Albert Einstein is credited with having said…
~Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler~  I fully agree.

As a breastfeeding mother you are travelling in new circles…not necessarily a foreign land, but there are certain parallels.  You are learning to interpret the communications from your baby as you teach them your own formal language. Breastfeeding itself has its own lexicon of terms with which you are becoming familiar:  latch-on, rooting, hunger cues, hind milk, foremilk, let-down, pumping, growth spurts etc. Add on the endless array of gadgets and the stress of weight checks and percentiles and you are a far cry from experiencing the simplicity which is supposed to be found in a breastfeeding relationship.

The elegance of the female body is that is designed to both grow your babies and sustain them beyond their time in the womb…one stop shopping if you will.  Unfortunately, we live in a culture that places such a high value on technology that over reliance on pumping, etc. can diminish our confidence in our bodies and over-complicate the entire experience of breastfeeding.

The inherent simplicity of breastfeeding should afford you quality time with your babies.  Cherish this unique opportunity to be quiet in the course of your day.  It is breastfeeding, not pumping, that connects you with your body’s inner wisdom. Your milk supply is developed in direct response to actually feeding your babies.

Pumping does have a place, but in the beginning of your breastfeeding journey the primary focus should always be on relishing the profound simplicity of just breastfeeding.  Build your milk supply and experience on a solid foundation.

When you reduce the complications and distractions and are focused on your connection with your baby, you will find the simplicity that is…Conscious Breastfeeding.

August 23, 2010   2 Comments

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

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