You just had your baby 24 hours ago. You feel recovered. Baby is doing well. Breastfeeding could be smoother but the first couple days are hard, right? You are being discharged home. You are a little nervous, but it will all work out, sure it will, or you tell yourself that. “You will all be more comfortable at home”, you are told. True, who gets sleep at the hospital? It’s now night two & baby is up all night long feeding. And crying. And nursing. And crying. All. Night. Long. You don’t know what to do. Your partner doesn’t know what to do. You tell him to grab the can of formula in the cupboard above the fridge. It was the formula that Nestle sent you after you shopped at Thyme Maternity, who so kindly sold your information from their customer loyalty program, to Nestle. You tucked it way back there in that cupboard because you were not going to need it. Now you think you might need it. You don't know how much to give baby, so you just keep giving baby a little bit more until he finally sleeps, maybe 60ml? Or was it 75ml? He must have been starving and you certainly can’t be making any milk if he took that much formula. Surely he would stop drinking when he was full.
The family in the room beside you at the hospital stayed that night. Mom had horribly sore, cracked and bleeding nipples. Her and baby are also doing good, aside from those nipples. She must not have spent enough time toughening them up. Let her to be a lesson to all of you ladies that are expecting. Get those face clothes out to rub on your nipples when you have a bath or shower. In the morning this mom will get a visit from the lactation consultant on staff. That lactation consultant will be a godsend. Lunch time comes and no lactation comes to see this mom yet. Both her and baby have been given the green light to go home, the LC just needs to come do her part. The LC comes after seeing 6 other moms and babies that were SO happy to see her walk into their rooms. She shares their joy, this LC is finally there to see her. Things will be better now. The LC assesses the mom and baby and her feeding. The LC knows she could help this mom and baby, but there is a problem. She needs more than the 30 mins that this mom and baby still have their room before housekeeping comes to clean up and replace them with a new mom and baby. The LC, whom I adore, can only do so much in this case so she gives this mom as much info as she can, but also recommends getting a pump to keep up supply and letting this mother rest her nipples to help them heal while she works on getting that latch better. Ok, determined, to breastfeed, off they go home. Dad will head out to rent a pump once mom and baby are settled at home. Luckily, a few places have good programs for pump rentals that dads don't need to fret about knowing what to get.
Down the street from you, a neighbourhood mom (you haven’t meet her yet, but you soon will at a Mom-and-Tot time) is planning a water birth at home with midwives and her BFF who is a doula. The night comes and she labours peacefully, resting between contractions, with beautiful music soothing her. Her doula whispers affirmations to her and combs her long hair out of her face. Her baby emerges peacefully and they soon move over to her bed. Her baby does a perfect breastcrawl and self attaches. You meet her at Mom-and-tots about three weeks later. Like all the new moms, you weight your babies on the scale there. Your baby is growing, but you have still been continuing to supplement because you just can’t keep up. Her baby seems to not be gaining weight, but he is able to self attach and has a great latch at every feed. She will call her BFF, the doula, and ask what knows about this stuff. Your new friend is reassured that some babies are just slow to gain, and she should just nurse and nurse and nurse, throw her baby in a sling during the day and sleep with baby at night, it’s totally normal for babies to nurse all night long.
We all know that all the care providers and mothers in these cases want these babies to be breastfed. We all know that if time allowed more time would be given in hospital to help moms with breastfeeding. The truth is the staff are busy, more moms and babies keep coming in and in order to make room, moms and babies need to be discharged. And we all know breastfeeding is a super natural instinctual event and moms and babies can just do it? Or can they. Was Thyme Maternity sending you the message that breastfeeding is really easy by sending out that Nestle gift bag? The same bag with info that tells you how breastfeeding is best for your baby but doesn’t tell you how to get help if you are struggling? There is no guidance to find a Lactation consultant, even though the International Lactation Consultant Association makes it really easy to find someone near you with their Find a Lactation Consultant link. I have provided that link for future reference. Find a Lactation Consultant
Perhaps the hospital could have thought one step ahead and provided you with a local list of people to help, be it La Leche League, that is a volunteer peer-to-peer support group that does phone helping and group meetings, a list of breastfeeding clinics in town, or a list of lactation consultants in private practice that can see you in your home when works for you. The hospital has to be aware that they have time constraints. They also have to be aware that breast-feeding is sometimes challenging for some moms. They also must be aware that if things are not going well that there are resources they can provide to help ensure you are aware of your options, if you so choose to seek further help. Even when things look great in hospital, things can change in the early weeks. Knowing where to get help is important. They can help bridge that gap.
Those resources certainly would have helped the mom in the room beside you, too. Or when her husband stopped to get a pump, the pump rental depot could have had a list of people available to give you some additional help. I am sure that she would appreciate that as pumping can be an overwhelming experience to get started with.
Your new mama friend with the baby that isn’t gaining weight, she surely needs to know how to access a lactation consultant, because that is too long to go without gaining weight. That mama and baby need help as soon as they can get it. It is not too late for their breastfeeding relationship. However, they do need some additional supports to get things back on track.
Let me be truthfully honest here. There are policies and politics at play keeping all of these mothers from getting the support they need and deserve and that is not right. Most people do not know this, most people may not want to admit to this, and then there are some that are frustrated by this all. We are all on the same page, right? We all want moms and babies that want to breastfeed to successfully to able to do so, yes? Or, no? The answer is, yes, in theory but there are things in the way.
In my research, I am finding there are guidelines for when moms can have a consult with the hospital lactation consultants and they are so busy that even with guidelines the don't always have time to meet all the requests, and so sometimes moms are discharged before that consult can happen. I am being told that regional staff are not “allowed” to refer to those of us in private practice. I have been given a variety of answers, so I cannot even tell you if that is true and if it is true, why that is.
That rental depot that you rent your pump from? Some of them are wonderful and WILL send you in the right direction. Them, I thank. Not all will, so just know to keep looking for help. If in doubt, choose small community businesses, as they are connected to the community.
Thank goodness for the peer-to-peer supports, too. When moms just need a mom to talk to to ask those questions that reassure themselves, they are there. And if they don't have answers for mom or it is beyond their ability, they too, will help you find the people that you need. Think about how nice it would have been to hear that on night two babies will nurse and fuss and nurse and cry and that it will pass. “Milk” is there and the act of suckling helps bring in more milk. The nice thing about peer-to-peer groups; you can attend before baby arrives, to help get yourself ready.
Doula’s are also really great to ask and will practice much like the peer-to-peer gals. I added this doula to the story, because occasionally, we will see this scenario; a great friend acts as a doula. Doulas are trained in labour and birth support and basic breast-feeding. Most doulas will also be connected to the community and know how to get moms help.
What I want you to know is that there are many players on your team to successful breastfeeding but we all have our “position” to play. We can’t play a game of baseball, if we are all trying to be the only player on the team. There are all kinds of bases on that baseball field. Sometimes you need to build your own team. Occasionally, you are thrown a softball and it’s an easy home run. But sometimes, it quite the curveball and you need more help. Getting that curveball to a home run can be a bit of a challenge when people seem like they are trying to get you “out” rather than letting your run the bases one-by-one.
If you want an easier home run, I suggest you do some research on the field you are having or had your baby on and make sure you know their version of the game. Oh, and please, don’t do anything to your nipples to prepare them. That really is not needed.