Thursday, March 26, 2009

When Breastfeeding is Tough

When is it not? Okay, that's not true. Sometimes it does, as it did with my firstborn, who latched on right after birth and never stopped for two years. (Yup, woke up every two hours at night for the first year -- that was not fun!)

But I saw a question on Mamasource that I answered the other day, and thought I would share it, and my answer, with you. The biggest takeaway for anyone pregnant right now should be how important it is to (a) educate yourself on how breastfeeding works, both mechanically and intellectually, and (b) to line up a supportive team before delivering your baby. If you don't have a doula for your birth, visit a few lactation consultants or attend your local La Leche League meeting around the 7th month so you'll be calling a familiar face if you need help.

So here's the all-too common dilemma -- I really wish that all doctors had the time (or a person in their office with the time) to help mamas with nursing. Those early days are the hardest, but once they pass, life is good.

Q: My daughter is 10 days old and I have been wanting to bf soo bad. (I tried with my son 5 years ago and I was never able to provide enough milk) I had a c/s and it took 6 days for any trace of any milk to come in. She wasnt gaining weight so we were told to supp formula until my milk came in. She seems hungry ALL the time. I will nurse on each side ( i hear some swallowing) and then she is still hungry and will suck down 3 oz of formula. We ran out and bought the Medela PSI pump as advised by our LC (who really hasnt been much help), I tried it today after lunch and literally got less than a tablespoon out of BOTH sides combined!!! No wonder she is loosing weight, poor thing is starving! I have been taking Fenugreek, 4/3x a day, but obviously that isnt helping either. I am soo frustrated and now depressed that I can't feed my baby. Please help!!!

A: Ohh, Cathy, I totally understand your frustration. But that tension is not doing you any favors. So, although the worst thing to hear right now is the word relax, that's step one. (Unless you had breast reduction surgery that cut or removed your milk ducts in the past; in that case, you have an actual physical impediment to breastfeeding.) That done, back to "relaxing" -- I have four kids, all of whom I breastfed, including twins. Breastmilk is totally a supply-and-demand operation, so the more you put your baby to the breast, the more milk your body will make. But the supply lags slightly behind the demand, just fyi. My second baby was not latching correctly, and apparently was just chewing on my nipples for the better part of her first ten days of life -- I had no idea, even as a veteran nurser, that what looked like efficient nursing was not getting any milk to her.

So, if that awful LC checked your baby's latch and said it was good, let's move on. If not, or if it hurts your breast when you nurse, fix that first. (I'll tell you how to contact me, or call your La Leche League warmline).

Get into bed and stay there with your baby on your Boppy or other nursing pillow in front of you or next to you if you are lying on your side. Whenever she makes a noise or appears to root or purses her lips, put her to your breast. And keep her on that one breast. Why? Because the first part of nursing action from her produces foremilk, which is like skim, and after letdown, the good high fat stuff arrives. Pretty cool.

Also, please don't be freaked out by what you get from breast pump. Your baby is less than 2 weeks old, for goodness sakes!! :) The pump is for priming your production -- the more your breasts are stimulated, the more milk your baby will get. Remember, nothing is as efficient at getting milk than your baby. The fact that you got something out of your first session is awesome! That stuff is liquid gold. The next step is to not supplement, it starts a vicious cycle where she suckles less, so your body makes less, so she gets more formula, and voila, your milk has "dried up".

Now, how do you tell that your baby is getting enough milk and you're not starving her? Good question -- you count her wet diapers. If you're using disposables, put a square of toilet tissue in at each diaper change so you can notice if it's wet.

And Cathy, stop pressuring yourself. It's like trying to yell at yourself to produce an orgasm. Not effective at all. The active relaxation you CAN do is to say to yourself, "my body is perfect and knows how to feed my baby. I see milk flowing from my body to hers. I see her pink and fat and healthy" -- sounds goofy but it's a big help.

My last suggestion is to give me a call if you need to hear a friendly voice. I have a store, One Hot Mama, in Studio City and I'll be there today from noon to whenever my husband can't deal with the kids any more. When that happens, my mom covers the store, and you can give her your number and I'll call you right back. You're the best mother for your child -- remember that, and know that how you feed her is no reflection of your love. I admire that you're trying to give her the healthiest food you can -- just be easy on yourself.

No comments: