Breastfeeding & Beyond
Choices in Childbirth hosted “Breastfeeding & Beyond” last night, part of our regularly scheduled All About Birth: Workshops for Expecting Parents. Internationally board certified lactation consultants (IBCLCs) joined a panel of three new moms for their stories of adjustment, challenges, and bonding through breastfeeding that exceeded their wildest imaginations.
Gwendolyn had what she described as a “euphoric” birth… which allowed her to see just how powerful postpartum hormones could be. After 7 weeks with her leisurely eater Isaac, Gwendolyn was desperately sleep-deprived and experiencing severe postpartum depression. She had not felt prepared for this 24-hour-a-day job. Her wife helped with meals, dishes, diapers and nail clipping… but breastfeeding felt exclusively like Gwendolyn’s job. Finally, the couple sought support through friends and lactation consultants. Her wife suggested they start to supplement so that she could help feed at night, and this felt like the permission Gwendolyn needed to make continued breastfeeding possible. Today her son is almost one, they are still breastfeeding first thing in the morning, and first thing when he gets picked up from daycare. It’s their way of checking in with each other, and she will continue this until Isaac let’s her know he is done.
Michelle described the anxieties she had with her first baby about how much milk she was producing, how many wet diapers she should count, how long the baby should be allowed to sleep. She hired a lactation consultant which gave her the reassurance she needed to recognize everything was going well, and she continued to breastfeed for three and a half years, something she never would have imagined she would do. After her second baby was born, Michelle experienced repeat anxieties when the baby wasn’t immediately gaining weight, and she felt like a failure. Things turned around, until she had to return to work. Pumping was a chore she didn’t enjoy, and she eventually realized it was due to an aversion to the association with work. She’s made some changes with this second baby that have simplified her life, and her breastfeeding relationship. Bed-sharing has helped, as has having two sets of everything she needs to pump (the pump itself, the bottles, and the milk bags) so she can keep one set at work and one at home.
Janvieve (Ginger Moon) had a wonderful birthing center birth, but her baby wouldn’t latch. New to the city, not knowing many people, she and her husband struggled to find lactation consultants who would travel to their neighborhood in the Bronx. Janvieve also faced numerous pieces of unsolicited advice that only increased her anxiety. Finally, when her baby was two months old, a friend visited. She was also lactating and suggested they try and see if the baby would latch on to the friend’s breast. He did, much to their mutual surprise, so his inability to latch was no longer a concern. This didn’t make Janvieve feel much better though, so her friend’s doula visited and asked about the details of her birth. In a calm voice, the doula suggested they “recreate the birth”. Desperate, albeit skeptical, she agreed. The doula told her to undress and place her baby on her belly, close to the womb. She coaxed the baby with details and knowledge of the birth, and soon the baby was crawling, latching, and vigorously drinking from Janvieve’s breast. The next three days were incredibly challenging and painful, but ultimately led to another two years of breastfeeding her son. Her second baby was born at home with much more support from doulas, friends, meal trains, and midwives… and no breastfeeding issues to speak of.
Leigh Anne O’Connor, a lactation consultant with a private practice, and a Le Leche League leader for 17 years now, helped answer many of the questions regarding nipple confusion, introducing a bottle, how to hand express colostrum and milk, and helped maintain a lightness and feeling of optimism throughout the night. LaShanda Dandrich bridges her lactation support and postpartum doula support roles all the time, working with new families to ease the challenges of new parenting. From cooking and cleaning, to holding the baby while mom takes a shower, to offering help with the feeding. Jessica and Alex, two Le Leche League (LLL) leaders who host groups on a near weekly basis around Park Slope, Bed Stuy, and Windsor Terrace, spoke about how the support group is so much more than just breastfeeding support. It’s a great way to find your tribe and receive mother-to-mother support. The meetings are free and the organization is vast, meeting in every corner of the world.
TIPS FROM THE NIGHT:
- Attend a LLL meeting, even while you’re pregnant. Hear about what to expect, and watch women and babies breastfeeding.
- Take a breastfeeding course before you give birth to learn about proper nutrition, positioning, hand expression and feeding cues which will make your life simpler.
- Find what works for you and your family… go with your gut.
- Line up your army of support, meal trains, postpartum doulas, lactation consultants, anyone who KNOWS what new parenthood feels like.
- Discuss with your employer what plans you have for pumping (time it will take to pump and clean and store, lactation room, etc.)
- Insurance can cover pumps and International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs)