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

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 on Reality TV

The reality show, Bethenny Gets Married, has just ended its first season. I was the first lactation consultant at Lenox Hill Hospital (1988-90) where Bethenny gave birth to her daughter Bryn Hoppy via Cesarean Section on 8 May 2010.

I was most interested in seeing how breastfeeding would be depicted both in the hospital and after Bethenny was discharged home. The pump was introduced in the early days after her C/S; the baby “nurse” Gina was shown following her around with pump parts and pumping seemed to be encouraged as a frequent part of Bethenny’s daily breastfeeding routine.

This is a candid clip of Bethenny talking with her therapist about the luxury of having a baby nurse and her impressions of breastfeeding before and after the birth of her daughter.

Bethenny’s experience has much in common with new mothers everywhere. However, having a baby nurse seems to be more of an urban phenomena.   It is an expensive option which seems luxurious at first glance, but has the potential to alter the long term success of breastfeeding. I will discuss that in more detail in my next post.

For now, I am curious if you also have been encouraged to pump and give bottles from the very beginning of your breastfeeding experience?

If so, has it added to your sense of overwhelm, fatigue or anxiety about your milk supply and/or caused problems with your latch?

August 9, 2010   21 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

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

Nipple Monologues: Part 1: What Sucks is Really Nipplefeeding

There are two things that you absolutely need in order to breastfeed…a baby and breasts. The way in which human milk is dispensed to the baby is through a fine spray that flows through its mother’s nipples. The nipples and areola are visually attractive to babies and, in combination with the scent of milk, they help them to find their way onto their mother’s breasts for feeding.

Therein lies the problem.

1. Nipples come in many shapes and sizes and are not standardized like the rubber and silicone models that can be purchased at your local drug store.

2. Nipples have nerve endings which carry messages from the baby to the mother’s brain causing the release of prolactin and oxytocin which are the hormones that guide milk production and release of milk.

3. Nipples can feel pleasure and pain sensations depending upon what is being done to them.

4. Unfortunately everyone seems to think it’s all about the nipples.

The real truth of the matter is that the nipples are only a means to an end. They are meant to serve as a guide for the mother to draw her baby onto the breast during latch-on and are the exit through which the milk flows. If too much focus is put on the nipples by the baby’s tongue and gums they will become sore and may crack and bleed. Sore nipples are one of the top reasons a mother will stop breastfeeding.

New mothers will often be subjected to an ongoing commentary about their anatomy when they begin breastfeeding; much will be said about the shape or size of their nipples. They never seem to be just right. Many health care workers make faulty assumptions, or have been taught, that the baby will not be able to latch without a prominent nipple. This is absolutely not true.

Can anything be done?

Breast Shells worn during the pregnancy will help soften the tight bands of tissue that cause inverted nipples. They also can be worn in the early days after giving birth if swelling of the breast changes the shape of the breast and makes the nipple appear to be flat or less defined.

Pumping can reshape the nipple and breast tissue temporarily so that the mother can draw the baby on past the nipple. However, this can cause some discomfort as the pump primarily pulls on the nipple.

Proper hand postitions using preferably a C-Hold, or alternately a U-Hold to shape the breast will help the mother to steady the breast during latch-on. She should actively put the baby on the breast rather than the nipple.

Nipples are the guides, not the destination. They should be used as a stationary navigational tool that will help the mother with her visual line up for a great latch. The mother’s nipple should be opposite the baby’s nose rather than in front of its mouth during latch-on. *More on this point in Part 2*

A piece of candy has the juice extracted from it by rubbing it between the tongue and palate. This is one image that comes to mind when we use the verb sucking. Given that definition, the breastfeeding baby would seem to be focusing its attention solely on the nipples. Milk, however, can actually be expressed without any direct manipulation of the nipples; compressing deeply with the hands where the jaws would be situated will produce milk flow.

Babies are really not sucking but using their jaws to compress the breast with a “chewing” action and swallowing as needed. The tongue should be under the breast covering the bottom gum and not manipulating the nipple at all as this will cause injury and pain.

It is all about the depth and angles. Ultimately the baby needs to be guided past the edges of the nipple to a place deep on the breast. It is here that they will access a great flow without hurting their mother. You want them to be oblivious to the fact that a nipple exists. You want them to be breast-centric rather than nipple-centric.

They call it Breastfeeding and not Nipplefeeding for a reason!

June 21, 2010   1 Comment