Baby care, food, socialization, and “doing breastfeeding”

After a few days away from Miss Ella, I had a voice mail from the son-in-law yesterday asking me to stop by after work. How could I not jump at the chance to see the granddaughter again.

Life with the newborn is having its ups and downs and at the moment it is a down phase. The new parents had an appointment with a lactation consultant yesterday. This was actually the first appointment time they could get as this lady is incredibly busy counseling new parents on the intricacies of breastfeeding.

What you ask? Isn’t breastfeeding natural? Don’t you just put the boob out in front of the baby’s mouth and mother nature takes over in a glorious and functional dance between mom and babe?

For some this scenario may be true. I tend to believe from all the discussion that has been happening in this household and among friends lately that the norm is far from this perfect scenario. I can attest to the fact that I didn’t feel like I actually got the hang of the entire process until it was time to breastfeed my third child. I struggled through the first one, who by the way is the new mom, continued to feel as if I was somewhat lost with the second child and finally with the birth of our last daughter could say that I was 90% comfortable with the knowledge I had gained in my earlier breastfeeding journeys.

What we seem to forget is that nature may design mom’s body to make milk for her child but both mom’s body and babies skills do not come naturally to the task of nursing. Of course some aspects are basic: the change over from colostrum to breast milk; some level of engorgement as this process kicks in; a typically natural rooting/suckling reflex within baby. What isn’t quite so clear or basic is how all this stuff works together, and sometimes it just doesn’t. No matter how hard mom and baby try. This process may be one of the very first encounters baby and new mom have with socialization and expectations around food in our society and we as a society, no matter how much we want to claim advanced technology and great interpersonal interaction do not provide adequate information to the new mom about this learned process.

It is a learned behavior for both mom and baby. Both of these key components in the process need to be schooled in just how to do breastfeeding, especially if it is going to be successful.

I will give credit to those new mom’s and exceptional babies who seem to get it right from the first latch on and never look back. I think those are few and far between though.

After this appointment yesterday the parents came away with a wealth of new information in which to tackle doing breastfeeding. They found that the long drawn out 48+ hour labor that was so hard on mom was also pretty darn difficult on Gisella, even though we assumed she had breezed right through it with fetal heart tones during labor that were steady and really outstanding; APGAR scores that were almost perfect; and a seemingly normal transition to life outside the womb. This little girl was tired, too darn tired even one week after birth, to nurse effectively. The ups and downs over the past week were Gisella’s huge efforts to learn this new job while trying to recover from a long, long labor, and as her parents can attest to and her weight drop clearly points out: doing breastfeeding was going to take on some clearly massive efforts to bring this little girl up to speed in the whole process.

I have to add and give credit to mom who has been so devoted to this child and to providing everything Gisella needs while still in recovery mode herself. She is now armed with information and tools to provide the best experience for her baby. Dad has been right there also and is even more a part of the process now as they both work with Gisella to master this new skill.

Without the help of the Lactation Specialist, Gisella and the new parents would have floundered in their attempts to figure out just what was needed. Even with my breastfeeding background and my role as an educator in pregnancy and birth, I was amazed at much of the information that was put in front of this couple. The specialist shared that she had spent longer and undergone more educational requirements to become a LS than she had when pursuing nursing.

These professionals spend hours learning the intricacies of doing breastfeeding, all the while knowing that each and every mom and baby is different and that their job is to dig and delve until they find a path that works for each individual and duo. They counsel, they teach, they nurture, they console, and they help mom’s and babies learn that breastfeeding is possible. It just often takes a whole lot of work.

They even sometimes bring into the picture that dreaded word that groups like La Leche League shudder at: formula.

I am all for LLL and their beliefs. I found information from their organization useful. They are mom’s who have successfully breastfed their children and learned what works. I also respect the message of the LS who understands that in some cases, while not promoting formula, it can be a tool for a short time. Ultimately, the suggestion of the LS are as individualized as her clients and her job is to bring about success in doing breastfeeding that is measured by a healthy baby and an educated, confident mom.

Gisella will figure out how to do breastfeeding, as will the new couple. The biggest downside is that it took over one week for this struggle to become apparent and move down a path to change. An early, initial encounter with a LS in the hospital left mom and baby with nothing more than a brief glance, a comment about not having any problems and a decisive dismissal that all would be fine. Thankfully the LS yesterday spent time with the couple and baby, asking and probing into the background and events of the past week. As the conversation was described to me last night, I could actually see the lightbulbs going off in the LS head as she heard about the struggles and efforts since birth.

I am thankful that this professional came into the lives of mom, dad and baby. They now have the knowledge needed to help grow baby Gisella into a strong, healthy girl.

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2 thoughts on “Baby care, food, socialization, and “doing breastfeeding””

  1. “…a healthy baby and an educated, confident mom.” This is a beautiful thing! My sister had trouble with nursing her two youngest children, and I remember her telling me how confused and humiliated she and many of her mother friends felt when they couldn’t just do this one supposedly simple, natural thing – like they’re failing nature, which is just so sad. I’m so glad your new family has found the guidance they need!

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    1. All’s not as well as first thought in this corner–last night was hell for this family and I think this mom cried as much as the new mom out of frustration and the inability to help. Being a parent is hard, even when they are grown adults 😦

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