For some people, pregnancy is easy, and they enjoy it, but pregnancy can be tough. Morning sickness, hormonal ups and downs, weight gain, constipation, swollen ankles, heartburn and a plethora of other discomforts, and that's before the pain of childbirth! Why would someone go through all of that for a complete stranger?
If you have never considered becoming a Surrogate Mother, and are not in a position to need the help of surrogacy to become a parent, you may be wondering why anyone would want to become a surrogate.
We find there are four main reasons the people we work with want to give the amazing gift of parenthood to others!
People become Surrogate Mothers because they want to “Pay It Forward”.
“It” can be anything. Most of the Surrogate Mothers I have talked to over my years of involvement in surrogacy choose to become Surrogate Mothers because they want to spread the good and love in the world. These amazing women just want to be a source of light in the lives of others. I cannot think of a more beautiful way to perpetuate positivity.
Women choose to become Surrogate Mothers because they believe everyone deserves a chance to be a parent.
I have found many people who are called to surrogacy are warriors for social justice. They see how difficult it is for those seeking the assistance of a Surrogate Mother to become parents. Their hearts break for the single Intended Parents, gay couples that are desperate to become fathers, older couples who have yet to experience the joy of parenthood, cancer survivors, and others who have been struggling to adopt or have children on their own. Egg Donors and Surrogate Mothers are the balance that can tip the scales of inequality for Intended Parents.
Having experienced and overcome infertility, people become Surrogate Mothers to give the gift they have been given.
Some of the Surrogate Mothers I have worked with or spoken to have decided to pursue surrogacy because they required the assistance of an Egg Donor or Sperm Donor to become a parent but were able to carry their baby. Others fought long, and hard battles with Infertility and by chance became pregnant. Their empathy and compassion for others is strong, having experienced infertility themselves.
A woman may choose to become a Surrogate because she loves motherhood and being pregnant.
Some people abhor being pregnant and view it as a necessary means to an end. Others have never felt more beautiful than when they are with child. Combine that with the joys of being a parent, even when it's the most thankless, draining job in the world, being a parent is incredibly rewarding. For some, choosing to become a surrogate is as simple as wanting to enjoy pregnancy but being finished having children of their own and wanting to help others experience parenthood, too!
Surrogacy in Canada is altruistic. This means that everyone who chooses to be a Surrogate Mother in Canada does so out of the goodness of their heart. One cannot be compensated for their surrogacy journey (although all related expenses will be reimbursed). Surrogate Mothers are truly giving a gift that cannot be repaid. I am constantly in awe of the Egg Donors and Surrogate Mothers I meet. Their selflessness becomes a miracle for others. They truly give the gift of life.
A surrogacy consultant with Proud Fertility, our guest blogger Nathan Chan has made it his life work to help people fulfill their family dreams.
Watch the video below to hear Candice's story with surrogacy.
If being a good doula was based on what is in our doula bag, Mary Poppins would be the greatest doula.
Mary Poppins has quite the bag and all things considered it could make a fairly decent doula bag! There are a few items I would leave out of my doula bag, if I was Mary Poppins. The first one would be her coat rack. I am quite certain I can find a place for my coat at the hospital or a clients home. I can probably do without a plant, but hey, if you want a plant in your hospital room to make it a little more homelike, you can bring one…I won’t complain. Although, keep in mind, you might get some flowers gifted to you after you deliver your baby.
Mary Poppins even brought her own lights. Lights are important, but again, I am not worried about the lighting at the hospital or your home. Even if you want dim lights, the doctors and midwives have flashlights - yes, they do! Speaking of lights, some people like to have some flameless candles to create a nice ambience. I do have some in my doula bag, but as an FYI, they are a few dollars at the $1 Store.
I, just like Mary Poppins, have in my doula bag. A nice pair of dedicated runners for the hospital are in my bag.
Mary Poppins has a mirror in her bag and I sure could use a mirror in my bag. It would be perfect for that moment the baby is crowning and a mother wants to look. Hold on, wait, that hasn’t happened. I have yet to have a mother giving birth who wants to see….
Now, of course, I know some moms would want to but in my experience it is not super common. Again, if that is something you think you might want to try in your birth, lets chat about it and make a plan about who should bring the mirror, just like the plant.
That tape measure Mary Poppins has in her bag is amazing and I would love one! I mean imagine being able to measure up people I am going to work intimately with and be told all about their personality. Wow, what a benefit that would be to me and to my clients. Wait, hold on. I do often have a tape measure in my doula bag…with my knitting. Yes, I pack knitting into my doula bag. What? Why on earth would I have knitting? We can talk about that later in another blog post.
Back to this tape measure idea. I don't have a tape measure that will tell me easily what your personality is, but I do however have a tool that will help me discover more about your personality and help me connect with you to make our work together easier and a little more flawless. The “Your Birth Experience” (YBE) program allows me to connect with you, identify your needs and then equip you with the resources necessary to achieve your goals. This leave mothers and their families empowered to envision their ideal birth, prepare for that birth and ultimately achieve the birth experience they desire. That’s pretty close to the magical tape measure, right? It is close enough for me.
So far you now know my doula bag has a few tea lights, running shoes, knitting and a tape measure. That tape measure isn't the good personality one - that comes from our prenatal meetings. That is all I have in my doula bag? Don't I have a rebozo, massage balls, TENS machines, birth balls? Nope. I do have some gum, some cash for parking, some hair ties and some snacks. Why some simple? Largely, infection control. For real, I don't want to disinfect birth balls and I surely don't want to clients sharing “dirty” ones. I don't want to have to wash beautiful fabrics in harsh chemicals made for industrial disinfection standards. I sure can do some neat stuff with a hospital sheet that I can get at the hospital and then leave at the hospital to have cleaned properly, just like the birth balls. Massage balls and TENS machines…what can be bad there? Nothing is really bad, but I prefer to not place an object between my clients and I. I find a better connection with direct contact and that increases endorphins which are great for labour. Again, if clients know they want to try a TENS machine or like the porcupine balls, I can help them use ones that they likely already own.
What I do have that cannot be packed into a bag is my years of experience and my confidence. Relief comes to my clients simply by my being present, much of the time. Clients know they can count on me to be present for them. I am a familiar face they know already and our relationship is solely focused on me helping them have a positive experience. They are presented with a bendy straw in a cup of water to juice, before they even knew they were thirsty. I am leading them to the washroom to pee and get that bladder out of the way of babies path because they didn’t realize they needed to pee. I am lightly touching and stroking their feet to remind them to relax their WHOLE body. I am that voice in their ear telling them that they can and are “doing it” when they feel like you are not being strong.
The thing is, people don't give birth every day, (truth be told, I don't attend birth everyday), but I do support women giving birth more often than the average person will give birth. I have been alongside many others before. Each experience is different and no path looks the same, but they are similar enough that I can follow the flow and go alongside and help women through it. They can say things like “Is this normal?” or “what else can I do?” or “what did that nurse/doctor/midwife mean?”. I will reassure them things are normal and they are doing great, I will make suggestions about what else they might want to do, or reassure them what they are doing is perfect & I will help them understand what the care providers are doing or saying. I can help the partner and encourage them just as much (maybe more, maybe less) as I do a labouring woman.
My doula bag started out full of items, and honestly, I could have taken a small suitcase on wheels to births when I first started because I felt like I needed to bring it all. I how know that to "bring it all", we need to do more work in the time before labour, and when I “bring it all” now, I am bringing our conversations, unique goals, unique desires, unique choices and my confidence, my experience and can be “tricky” just like Mary Poppins. I am confident I can pull stuff out of thin air that will help me meet your needs without carrying a lot of baggage.
If you would like to explore the idea of having a doula support you during your birth, I would love to hear from you.
You have all heard about the Baby Box, right? Well, Saskatchewan, it is here!
What else do you need to do? You need to next visit Baby Box University. Register for free and complete the Saskatchewan syllabus to get your certificate. You need to bring your Baby Box University certificate of completion to claim your Baby Box! You can print your Certificate OR take a screen shot. If you are unable to attend, you can give your Certificate to someone else to pick up on your behalf.
The Baby Box itself includes a mattress, waterproof cover and fitted 100% cotton sheet as well as childcare products to help you welcome your new baby.
Make arrangements to pick up, please
Newborn babies are dirty business and believe it or not that white substance on newborn babies is good for them and shouldn’t be washed away!
Here are 15 things you might not already know about vernix:
I think we can agree vernix is pretty amazing.
What is a Lactation Consultant, LC, IBCLC?
The term lactation consultant or LC has become the known, accepted title for a professionals with expert knowledge in breastfeeding. They may work with moms and babies to address breastfeeding issues and concerns. They may also teach classes, assist with establishing breastfeeding one on one, and promote and protect breastfeeding through policy, procedure within health care and government.
Origin of the term “Lactation Consultant
The accepted term for “IBCLC” or International Board Certified Lactation Consultant in many geographical areas is "LC" or Lactation Consultant because, as you can see, that term is a mouthful.
“LC” is not trademarked and does not hold the professional standard like “IBCLC” does, so one will occasionally find a practicing LC who is not an IBCLC. Consumers (mothers and families) and other professionals (doulas and doctors) need to be aware of this.
As well, not all those who work as “lactation consultants” in health centres or breastfeeding support centres are IBCLCs. Some employers encourage employees to pursue the credential but don’t mandate it for employment. Many times, nurses with some basic breastfeeding education fill these jobs.
Why is this IBC part so important?
The International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBCLE) awards the title of International Board Certified Lactation Consultant to only the candidates who meet the comprehensive pathway requirements and pass an international exam. This allows IBLCE to establish the highest standards in lactation and breastfeeding care worldwide and to certify only the individuals who meet these standards.
Breastfeeding alphabet soup
I’d like to explain some of the breastfeeding alphabet soup by using the birthing support alphabet soup, as people seem to relate to that.
All the roles are important, but they provide their own distinct scope, responsibilities, and abilities. They can all work together to provide comprehensive support.
Primary roles of the individual bodies
As you can see, I’ve broken this down into three primary roles.
3. Clinical management
Educators teach you about the normal and expected processes of childbirth and breastfeeding. They typically call themselves childbirth educators and lactation educators.
They teach the normal process of birth and what you can expect when having a baby, as well as encourage and promote breastfeeding.
This information helps you make decisions, helps you know if you are on track, gives you references for getting the birth and breastfeeding relationships you want, and helps answer your questions.
Educators typically teach community classes in group settings.
Support people are typically those who have additional training in supporting mother, baby, and family during crucial times: birth and breastfeeding.
They’re typically doulas and La Leche League (LLL) leaders. Doulas are usually paid professionals, and LLL is a mother-to-mother peer support group. These roles offer the encouragement and motivation you need to get through the processes of birth and breastfeeding.
They are well versed in normal and expected outcomes. They know to watch for red flags to ensure they can guide you further if you have come outside the normal, expected process. Their job is to provide physical and emotional support, encouraging you to ask questions of your caregivers to make sure you’re well informed about what occurs. They have resources and guidelines to reassure you that you’re indeed in the realm of normal, and if things deviate from normal, they can point you in the direction of more resources.
Lastly, we have the clinical management professionals.
These are the folks responsible for the clinical and medical bits of the scenario. They look at the facts and figures, big picture, and red flags to rule in or out the things that are not in the normal and expected category and then make management plans from there. They have the clinical experience of things that fall outside normal and how to manage them.
All of these people have a place in the realm of support and caregiving; what’s important is they know their role and responsibility and respect the others’. Where it becomes problematic is when the client receives something different from what she expected to receive. Sometimes, this occurs because the roles of each provider isn’t clear to her, and she might conclude that one person isn’t performing a role properly. Let’s look at how this might apply to IBCLCs specifically.
In our example, a mother assumes that a breastfeeding educator* is an IBCLC. She notices that despite consulting with the helper, her breastfeeding issue remains unresolved. She decides to seek more help through a La Leche League leader, who determines that the issue is outside her scope and recommends an IBCLC. The mother insists that she already saw an IBCLC, but received no help.
*this person could also be staff at a breastfeeding clinic or nurse who comes to her home
This example is typical, and it hurts all support people. The educator gets a bad rep because she didn’t help. The LLL leader is helpless because the needs were outside her scope. The IBCLC profession gets a bad rep because the client misunderstood the different roles and expectations.
Clients need to know clearly what their expectations are and who can best meet those expectations based on role, scope, and experience. I want to be asked and welcome being asked these questions! I want you to go and look at the IBLCE website to see what IBCLC's are all about and verify I am indeed and IBCLC and see what scope and standards are laid in place for my profession. I welcome the same questions about being a doula! I would love to see a blog about midwives and how they are different from doulas and childbirth educators (wink, wink, nudge, nudge midwives).
All breastfeeding and lactation professionals have a responsibility to work together to ensure mothers have accurate information, so they can receive the support and encouragement they need as efficiently and as quickly as possible.
Are you looking for ways to calm your crying infant & desire to have a more peaceful sleep, especially at night?
The names Sarah Ockwell-Smith, Darcia Narvaez, Wendy Middlemiss, Helen Stevens, James Mckenna, Kathleen Kendall-Tackett & Tracy Tassels might not be familiar to you, but I will tell you they are some of my favourite people and they just came out with a brilliant new resource. I am keen to share it all with you.
It is a based on one of those HOT parenting topics; SLEEP!
Do you want answers to questions like how many times a night it is normal for my baby to wake up or why does my baby only sleep when I am holding her? Do you want to know how you can create a calming sleep environment for you baby? Do you wonder if your baby should sleep in the same room as you? Or how about in the same bed as you? Do you desire to learn about ways to calm your baby, keep yourself calm and help your baby learn to calm herself?
This is the perfect handout for you! Hope you find this resource helpful and reassuring.
Simple Ways to Calm a Crying Baby
... and Have a More Peaceful Night’s Sleep
Breastfeeding pressure, postpartum depression & supports for new families. What is happening with todays mothers?
This week husband of Florence Leung released an emotional statement about postpartum anxiety & depression after losing his wife two months ago. He also commented about the pressure to breastfeed in the same comments. I commend him for speaking up, being brave, being seen, wanting to improve other peoples situations & for encouraging all new moms experiencing low mood or anxiety or depression to seek help. He added that these mothers are not alone and that they are not bad mothers. I agree and know he is correct. I don't believe there are bad mothers. I know mothers feel alone and isolated. Too many mothers feel this way. They are alone but not alone at the same time. When we pull in the breastfeeding component it gets super confusing and conflicting and very, very emotional. There are so many versions of how breastfeeding plays into postpartum anxiety and depression. Part of it is emotional and the feeling part of our brains and body and some of it is biological and chemically controlled in our brains and bodies (hormones are so complex). Some of this is controllable, in the sense that we can just change our outlook and start to feel better, and much of it less controllable and sort it feels like it is happening TO the mother. It really feels like a loss of control.
It is true that all over the place, in so many places new and expecting parents are visiting, there are posters and flyers and brochures and people encouraging breastfeeding and exclusive breast-feeding. This recommendation is world wide and comes from the World Health Organization. While I agree with all the benefits of breastfeeding, as most people would, it is NOT enough to just give benefits. In fact, it is dangerous to encourage and promote breastfeeding & yet not be able to follow through with the support needed. Breastfeeding is significantly more complex than the two-dimensional vision posters make it out to be. Most women are certainly not relating to the mothers on the photos of the breastfeeding books. You know, the mothers who have perfect skin, no bags under their eyes, pristine hair and makeup looking like they have zero cares in the world…beyond oxytocin highs.There needs to be support for the mothers that can breastfeed "easily" so they succeed. We also must meet the needs of and support the mothers in which breastfeeding is not going to work "easily" or perhaps not at all….and all the unique, complex cases in between this. Blanket statements are harmful, on all sides.
Supports for new families are getting less and less available and the resources we do have are not always adequately trained and skilled to handle the cases they have presented to them. For every mother who feels judged because she could breastfeed, but doesn't want to, there is another mother who is feeling judged because she wanted to breastfeed, but did not meet her goal. There are mothers who celebrate being told their babies need to be supplemented and welcome supplementation. There are mothers who are devastated when they are given the same news. We need to learn how to support all kinds of mothers and all kinds of scenarios. We have to be prepared for that to take more than 5 minutes in the doctors office.
Let's look at one way this all gets blurry. There are the mothers with babies who are not sleeping well but the mother has been reassured that this is just how breastfeed babies are. I don't believe that to always be the case…sometimes babies are not sleeping because they are hungry…breastfeeding is not working in that case, not for anyone. Mothers and babies need to sleep. Feeding endlessly for days and weeks is not healthy for anyone. The issue then becomes "exhaustion due to breast-feeding" weeks later, when breast-feeding issues could have been addressed, resulting in more sleep. Beyond that, families need support people to come in and do practical stuff, like care for a baby so mothers can nap, feed themselves, go for a walk. That doesn't mean breast-feeding needs to be discontinued, it just has to be understood and managed. Other examples would be a woman in so much pain from breastfeeding. Who wants to torture themselves 10 times a day. That is a breakdown waiting to happen. Again, lets get to the source as soon as we can. Get to the resolution so the mother can be pain free. There are so many options for that.
We know about postpartum blues and depression and how common it is. We also know that for many women it is so bad they are taking their own lives. It is horribly, horribly sad and devastating. I don't believe it is about mothers breastfeeding or not. I believe it is about support, or lack there of, about misunderstanding babies and mothers, about isolation and healthcare systems that seem to be set up for failure and not success, it is about misunderstanding what the Baby Friendly Initiative is and what it was intended to do and how it is supposed to work.
We can do better. We need to do better. Lives matter and are being lost.
1. You do not know what a doula is.
It is said that less than 6% of mothers use a doula for their births. That could be because many people have no idea what a doula is. It can also be that there are misconceptions of what a doula is and what a doula does. Doulas are certainly not new and there are many stories of how doulas originated.
A modern day doula is known as a non-medical support person for pregnancy, birth and postpartum (the time after the baby is born). A doula can be a source of encouragement, empowerment or simply a coach to the birthing person and their partner. Modern day doulas work professionally, confidently and comfortably alongside medical care providers such as doctors, midwives and nurses.
A doula is a constant in the process. They meet with people during pregnancy and remain into the postpartum period. In a system where care providers rotate and work in shifts, there is often change in who is looking after a birthing woman, as labour can take more than one shift, maybe two (sorry, maybe more). Feeling safe and secure can be difficult around strangers and often the time is not there to develop relationships with the care providers. A doula can help keep feelings of safety and security by being a previously known relationship and remaining as a constant. With that in place, a doula can help bridge relationships with the changing staff to make the transition easier on the labouring woman.
2. You are worried a doula will not allow you to make your own decisions about your birth.
Now that we know a bit more about what a doula does, one might wonder if they will tell people what to do for their births…the good news is doulas should be unbiased in their support of individuals. A doula might have particular views on how she would have a baby, but that should not be projected onto a family. I am supportive of all kinds of births. I want people to aware of what their choices are. Did you know people have choices in pregnancy, labour and birth?
I want it known that the birthing women are the ones that make decisions for their birth. Birth does not need to be an event that happens to women; it is an event that women should be an active participant in. Once people know the options, I respect their ability to make a choice that works for them. If people do not know how to find out their options, I help people communicate with their care providers in a positive manner so they can be presented with all the options and ask questions they need to ask to be full informed.
3. You are having a caesarean section.
A caesarean section is no less of a birth than any other birth. A doula can help prepare expecting families for the upcoming birth. They can help you formulate questions you might have for your care provider. They can help you prepare for what the procedures & processes of the day may be. They can even help you plan a birth plan for the day. Even with a scheduled caesarean birth there are still options and a birth plan is an ideal way to communicate those choices. While waiting for the birth a doula can help ease parents mind and help them prepare emotionally for the birth as they would during a labour setting. There are uncomfortable moments preparing for a caesarean, like an IV or epidural, and doulas help support parents through those moments. Inside the operating room, a doula can provide details that parents would like to know about. The doctors and nurses are busy with taking care of mother and baby. The partner is awaiting the baby and may feel uneasy in the hospital setting. Doulas are there to support partners as well. If the baby has to go to another area of the hospital, the partner can follow along with baby, and the doula will remain with the mother. This is reassuring to both new parents. Mothers do not need to be alone at all during a caesarean. Doulas also help in the postpartum period such as breastfeeding and making sure the mothers is comfortable and doing as well as she can be after the birth.
4. You have a midwife
As I said above, modern day doulas work professionally, confidently and comfortably alongside medical care providers. Midwives and doulas are a complement to each other. Midwives are experts in pregnancy and birth and the most compassionate people who provide amazing support to families. However, they have the primary responsibility to be clinicians which is quite different from a doula. They have a lot of things to set up, monitor, chart, etc and often have to take off the unbiased support hat they wear and move into more of a decision making role or give an opinion as to what they feel is best and safest for mother and baby. They might even have to be taking care of more than one family at a time. If things are calmer and quiet, sometimes midwives leave to go and rest/sleep while a woman is labouring, so she can be rested and in her best mind and ability for the birth. Having a doula there means mothers is continuing to receive emotional and physically comfort.
5. You don’t need one
You are giving birth to the baby, and that is one fact we cannot change, but the experience of birth often includes another person - the partner. Sometimes the partner is who needs that constant support and encouragement. I have been invited back to be a repeat doula for families I have served previously, not because the mother feels she needs a doula, but because the partner did not want to go through the process without a doula. Sometimes as a doula, providing support and encouragement to the partner, means the partner is who shines in the mothers eyes as her primary support person. That is wonderful! I love when that happens as birth should belong to that couple.
And, maybe, truly, neither person needs a doula. I do not believe doulas are needed at births…you know, those babies are coming out at some point regardless of who is at the birth. Doulas are not a must have, doulas are an added extra. Doulas are a must have for some people, but not all people, and I support that decision.
If you would like more info on the doula services I provide, I have more information readily available for you.
Spring is almost here…can you feel it? It might still feel winter a time or two yet because we all know how Regina winters can be. A sure sign of spring for me is all the dancing festivals my children are in! We go from a few little performances to weekends of dance after dance and costume change after costume change.
If you are expecting a baby you might feel a little like your life is changing seasons, too. Pregnancy can be a lot of releasing, changing & receiving - a time a something new coming into your life. How exciting!
With pregnancy and new babies we sometimes have clear goals and desired experiences and options, yet many struggle to achieve those because they lack the support to get there.
To achieve your desired birth experience, feeding desires & transition into parenthood two things rise above everything else to get there.
Now, I FULLY recognize that birth and babies cannot be boxed up & wrapped as nicely and easily as I make it sound. I also now these experiences are as unique as the people giving birth and the babies that are soon to be joining the world. BUT, what I also know, is that you have a system to navigate during this time period. You have care providers looking after you and your baby, you likely have a hospital to go to where you are going to face a variety of choices and options (yes, home birth is an option, but a small number of people are choosing this as an option). This is where support and systems help. You can make a plan to be able to address the options and choices presented, or figure out how to communicate with your care provider to see if there are options you have not yet been presented.
Do you have support and a system in place to support the goals you want to achieve?
I have serval options for you to get the level of support and education on the tools and techniques used to help you experience your ideal birth.
1. Educational support
I teach a comprehensive childbirth education class, called Your Birth Experience (YBE). I can teach this in a group setting or one-on-one.
2. Doula support
I provide doula support & have several packaged to best meet your goals. Some of the doula packages include the above YBE class above. All doula packages include the YBE manual, regardless of full class or not.
I would love to help support you through your experience, using techniques and tools that many clients have found instrumental in achieving their ideal birth experience and transition to parenthood.
Change is in your future and I can help you transition more effectively than going at it on your own. Support is a game changer when going through pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum. The impact of support lasts a long time and you deserve a great support team!
I have been doulaing for many years and I love watching my clients transition into parenthood, becoming confident, empowered & successful in their new roles.
"Low supply", "over supply", "overactive let down", "supply and demand", "slow gaining infant", "no weight gain" & the role of the baby in these phenomena!
The landscape of breastfeeding discussions has changed. I have been in breastfeeding conversations now, actively, for 12 years. The conversations I am having now do not resemble the conversations I have had in the past. I cringe now when I think about many of those conversations, knowing what I know now. What is that saying? When we know better, we do better…YES, yes we do.
One of the primary changes to the conversation is that we no longer can look solely at what is happening with the mother of the breastfeeding dyads, but we are looking at the baby also. I don’t mean positioning. I don’t mean skin-to-skin. I don’t mean early and often feeding. I mean, just as in how we look at a mothers ability to produce milk, we need to look at the babies ability to extract that milk. We know production of milk is primarily about supply and demand. Demand needs to be present first; this is the baby. Expulsion of the placenta stimulates the start of milk production & then the baby needs to drive it from there. If we are seeing something not working as expected, we need to assess both mother and baby. Often what appears as not working is “mom hasn't started to produce, her milk is not in yet, she just can’t produce milk or she cannot produce enough”. However, we then also say, and I am sure you have heard this, that very few women truly do not produce milk or produce lower amounts of milk. We use completely contradicting statements, loosely, but they are taken as hard, fast truths. Or we will say, “No, no, you are making enough for your baby. Of course, you are making perfect milk for your baby. Your body knows what your baby needs. Some babies are just slender. That is how breastfeed babies are. They feed all the time. They are slender. Babies on formula weigh more. Don't worry about it. Just keep feeding," Or have you heard about the mothers being told their breastmilk is made of water. They just don’t make “cream” like their friends. How confusing!
When the new growth charts came out, we expected to prove some of these theories .The new charts were based on breastfed babies, internationally, in favourable living environments. There is lots of history to read on the development of the WHO growth charts. In short, people expected to see breastfed babies being slender and slower gaining and waited to be able to say, “we, told you so”. Well, the laugh was on us. The new charts show that under favourable environments and feeding conditions, breastfed babies do weigh more than their formula fed counterparts and on the new charts breastfeeding concerns show up even sooner than previously. For example, it is common at a 4 month check up to see a baby on the old chart to not be gaining on the curve anymore. Now, with the new growth charts, that same baby would show up with less than ideal growth earlier, perhaps at 3 or 4 weeks. Growth failure was being seen as a normal negative deviation and being missed! It appeared almost as if advocates of breastfeeding were trying to downplay growth failure, because they so truly believed breastfeeding is the way to feed an infant and didn’t want to admit when it wasn’t working. I was fascinated by the charts and wanted to know why the data spread that way. (That could be my former career as a Medical Laboratory Technologist shining through).
About the same time I started looking at breast-feeding failure with my new set of lenses; the lenses that looked at mom and baby, not just a mother seemingly making too little milk, with pain or maybe without pain, with a screaming baby or maybe a sleepy baby, maybe a baby gaining weight but seemingly hungry all the time, maybe a baby with slow weight but seemingly content. I wanted to know more about all the babies & was learning more about babies. (What you seek you shall receive) I was introduced to the idea that babies cannot always function at the breast well, and therefore, the demand is not put on the mothers supply. Without demand, there is no supply! But can’t a mother just offer the breast more, get into bed for 24 hours for a breast-feeding vacation, do skin-to-skin, put baby in a wrap and walk and feed as baby needs and get that supply up? That is exactly what I was taught. Mom just needed to try harder and get supply up, drink more water, rest, take some fenugreek, drink lactation tea and eat lactation cookies. But, you know what? That wasn’t always working. Not with the cases I was seeing.
If the baby cannot function fully at the breast no amount of time at the breast is going to drive supply. At the same time, we also learnt the breast doesn’t function like we thought it did. The new science tells us we make more milk by emptying the breast more, NOT by letting it get full and empty every 4 hours. Hold on, what? But babies don’t like when the breast isn't full, they scream and protest or fall asleep. They are happy when it is full, let-downs come easy and milk leaks into their mouths. We now understand this all as a compensation for babies inability to function and realize that this routine of feeding can, in fact, cause (secondary) low milk supply down the weeks of feeding. If we address the babies issues, we can have proper feeding, proper demand and proper long term supply. We are starting to make progress with this and changing the idea of low supply.
What i am not seeing is a change is how we see the idea of oversupply or overactive let down. If the idea of low supply is often being perceived incorrectly should we not consider the idea of overactive let down or oversupply isn't a true phenomena either? Could oversupply also point back to the baby? Is this another function consideration? I certainly think so. I would like to ask that we consider the let down and supply as normal flow, but, too fast for that particular infant. The infant, for varying reasons (and an assessment would be needed to determine the reason) is having a hard time controlling the flow of the milk. They choke, cough, sputter, leak milk, etc. They might have fast feeds, gain well and seem to adapt to this "overactive let down". As time goes on, supply decreases (we respond saying milk supply is now regulated as nothing was wrong anyway) and soon, the same mom with overactive let down, is saying she has low supply. WHY? Because the baby could not feed correctly from the beginning. They had difficulty at the breast, relied on that fast letdown and now without correct feeding behaviours, just like the low supply moms I talk about above, the demand is not there and so the supply goes down.
Something else we now know, that we used to say the opposite of, is that a hungry baby will cry and a content baby cannot be hungry, Regardless of weight gain plateauing on the curve, being slow gaining, so long as baby seemed content, no one worried. What we know how is that as milk supply goes down, appetite of the baby goes down. That appetite is the demand we need! So without the demand, we again will have no supply. This is quite a different tale than has been told in history!
Let's keep chatting! If you think you need some hep navigating your breast-feeding I am happy to book a time to see you and your little one.