I am a huge proponent of breastfeeding and having breast fed 3 babies of my own I do remember several things about “learning to breast feed”. Now that my children are grown and I am taking care of my 2nd” generation of babies, I have decided that “we” (doctors, hospitals, lactation consultants etc.) are making breast feeding more and more stressful rather than just letting it happen “organically”, the way it has been done for hundreds if not thousands of years.
I make newborn nursery rounds and see new mothers within 24 hours of their baby’s birth, and then everyday until discharge. I am noticing more and more tearful, anxious mothers who are completely “stressed out” about breastfeeding and their milk is typically not even “in” yet. So, how is it that they already feel as if they have failed, or “can’t do this”?? We have so many different people coming into their room telling them to cluster feed, not to use a pacifier or that their baby is tongue tied, and they are overwhelmed - and the baby is one day old!
Sometimes too much information is detrimental rather than helpful. Being a bit “clueless” and having no expectations did not make breast feeding seem stressful. A foreign sensation yes, awkward at times absolutely!! A mother’s milk will “come in” on day 2, 3 or 4 even if you don’t cluster feed for hours at a time and even if you decide to use a pacifier. Nature has a plan….whether we do or not.
Just like many things in life….it is easier for some mother’s and harder for others. Some babies just seem to latch on immediately, while others take a while to figure it out. But, practice is the name of the game, and you cannot practice breast feeding. It is postpartum on the job training..and some mothers may need extra help and some “tutoring”. No new mother needs to hear discouraging words…encouragement and reassurance is the name of the game in the first few days after giving birth.
Babies are expected to lose weight after birth…but parents are now told how much weight their baby has lost and what will happen i”f they lose more than 10%”of their birth weight”. They are also told the transcutaneous bilirubin level every morning even though they “are not sure what that means”, but it is another number thrown out there to add to their worry list. Maybe I am old school, but I tell my patients that my job is to “tell you if there is a concern”…and not have you worry about 7% weight loss on day 3 of life or a bilirubin of 10 mg/dl, so that parents can “Google” hyperbirubinemia and worry about kernicterus and brain damage.
Letting a new mother get some rest while encouraging her to feed her baby every 2-3 hours while practicing different positions for latching seems to be a much more natural and relaxing method to promote breast feeding and not anxiety provoking “rules”.
I do not encourage a new mother to cluster feed for hours at a time so that her nipples are already blistered, bleeding and painful, before even leaving the hospital. I also let her know that it is not abnormal for breast feeding to be a bit “painful” , and for her breasts to feel engorged as the milk “comes in”. There are lots of new “feelings” going on in the initial postpartum days, including all of those raging hormones!
So…try to relax, enjoy your baby and not et overly anxious about “breastfeeding” correctly…as one way does not fit everyone.