…Contemplating the Core Elements of a Modern Breastfeeding Lifestyle
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Breastfeeding and Human Resources

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This New Yorker cartoon was photocopied and sent to me around the time I began my private lactation practice. (Issue unknown)  It still remains very funny after all these years.

Fast forward to today and this highly competitive job market…what if playing the “I was breastfed” card made you stand out in a crowd of applicants?

You could mention how breastfed babies are smarter. In fact, countless studies have shown that breastfeeding not only enhances IQ, but also the health of both the mother and her baby.

In keeping with the growing trend to protect and preserve the environment, being breastfed would mean that adventures in being green began at the start of life.  The carbon footprint would have been minimized by the mothers who breasted exclusively for as long as possible. By extending breastfeeding and judicious use of pumps, those moms would have provided their raw natural resource of breastmilk with minimal environmental impact.

Consuming organic, whole foods early in life, breastfeeding, is aligned with the eco-friendly movements such as sustainable farming and permaculture.

Imagine that…the human resource provided to you by your mother as you were breastfed comes full circle to make you a smart, robust, environmentally conscious candidate for employment!

Conscious Breastfeeding rules!

August 30, 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

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 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

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