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Saturday, December 16, 2006One of the complaints that I often hear from moms that had trouble breastfeeding is that they heard so much pressure from friends and family to "just quit and enjoy the baby." One of the things they often say is that in retrospect, they wish someone had simply said to them "you CAN do this, it will get better." To that end, we often push new moms to see lactation consultants "early and often" to make sure that breastfeeding gets well established.
But what happens when it's the lactation consultants that are the problem?
Picture this. You're the mother of a baby born six weeks premature. You're recovering from a difficult c-section with excessive blood loss. Your baby has spent several days in the NICU and you're swelled up like a Macy's balloon from the IV fluids that have been pumped into you since you were hospitalized several days before the birth. You desperately want to breastfeed and you're bound and determined to make it work. Unfortunately, since baby came early, you've not yet attended a breastfeeding class.
Starting within a few hours of the birth, you start to hear things like this...
"You MUST start pumping within six hours of the birth!"
"You need to pump, but you can wait until tomorrow..."
"You don't need to pump for a day or two, get some rest"
"If you don't start pumping within twelve hours, your milk might not come in"
"Pump early and often, as much as you can stand."
"Make sure you pump every two hours for the first few days"
"You can go up for four hours between pumping sessions if you're tired."
Now fast forward a day or two...
"Your baby was premature, she doesn't have the energy to nurse"
"Breastfeeding is the easiest way for a baby to eat, it takes less energy than a bottle"
"Your baby may not be able to nurse for a few weeks, until she's stronger"
"You've got to get that baby on the breast and do it now"
"You're supplementing? You need to stop so baby gets hungry enough to nurse"
"Don't worry about supplementing, we can wean baby off of it over time"
"Is baby latching? Is baby getting milk? You can't just nurse her if she's not getting enough milk"
"Try taking one bottle away at a time, see if she nurses better"
"Nurse her less so that she can focus on growing, then we'll work on the latch"
At this point, you're in an endless cycle of attempting to nurse, then bottle feeding, then pumping. You might get an hour of sleep here and there and oh yeah, you're still recovering from major surgery. Now it gets even more fun...
"If you don't get that baby on the breast soon, you may lose your milk supply"
"Don't worry, get some rest, you can build your supply up over time"
"You're still pumping? Baby should be nursing by now!"
"You're taking a four hour break at night from pumping? You can't do that, you must pump more often!"
"Get to a lactation consultant immediately!"
"You don't need to come in for a consultation until next week"
"Sounds like things are going fine, call me if you think you need a consultation"
"Why did you wait so long to call? You've got to get help pronto, as in yesterday"
You can sort of fill in the rest on your own...I'm sure it's happened to some of you. We tend to talk about how great lactation consultants are and how necessary they are to the process and I agree 100%. But how do you weed out the good LCs from the bad? How do you know who is giving you old information and who is giving you new information? How do you work around odd personalities that run the gamut from "squirrel on crack" shooting off rapid fire instructions in a dizzying daze to laid-back "things will be fiiiiiiine" lackadaisical attitudes? (And that's before you even add in the advice from well-meaning friends.)
It's enough to send any new mom running to a room with her baby and locking the door behind them so that they can just find a few minutes to enjoy each other's company.
And we wonder why breastfeeding rates are so low?
I think lactation consultants are amazing people. I know a few personally that I have an enormous amount of respect for. Unfortunately, LCs are like any profession...it's filled with good, qualified people and with people that have no business slapping those initials behind their names. It's further proof than an LC can, quite literally, make or break a mom's breastfeeding experience.
I saw my own breastfeeding relationship with Elnora tanked by an LC. I saw my breastfeeding relationship with Emmitt saved by one.
How do we fight this battle? How do we take women that are the first in generations to nurse and get them the guidance and the help that they need without making things so difficult that they call it quits simply to get a moment of peace with their child during those precious early days?
Labels: Pumping Milk