The 5 warning signs you NEED help
The three best places to get it & why it's not the internet
1. You're trying to breastfeed your baby and have hit a speed bump, or two or three;
2. Your nipples are raw, bleeding, cracked, or hurting;
3. You think, or have been told, that you are not making enough milk;
4. You think that your baby hates you and/or breastfeeding;
5. You are crying more than an hour a day and you feel like quitting;
How Google and YouTube make things worse
There’s a time and a place for Google, YouTube and books and it’s not when your baby is crying and you are frustrated.
The biggest reason these don't work is because they only offer tons of information without any filter. They can’t listen to you, discern subtleties and hold a space for you to vent and share your frustrations while you struggle with breastfeeding. When we are struggling or suffering, we need another human being to witness and listen to us. This last part is the most important part of my job as a lactation consultant.
Breastfeeding is a complex mix of intuition, positioning, timing, hormones, culture and family dynamics all mixed up with overwhelming emotions like desire, joy, sadness, frustration and anger. A lactation consultant’s skill is to look at the whole breastfeeding process, listen to your experience, including your upset and separate the problems into smaller pieces so you can solve them one by one.
You can be focused on the wrong thing and not realize it. One thing I’ve seen over and over is moms "trying to get the latch right" and damaging their nipples, instead of simply pulling the baby close and leaning back. (read "The latch is not the key…to success”)
So, before you search online, pump, use nipple shields, syringe, finger, Lact-Aid or SNS feeders, or bottle feed; Before you do anything that isn’t ‘breastfeeding’ find someone who will help you breastfeed your baby in real life.
The four best sources of help
1. If you are in a hospital, ask for a lactation consultant. If they can't help, ask for a different one. Keep asking for help until you have seen everyone on staff. If none of the hospital staff is able to help you…
2. Call an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) to come to the hospital, or to your home, or schedule an office visit with them the day you leave the hospital. It may seem like a lot of money up front and you may feel like your problem really isn't “that bad.” If you feel like this, think of the visit as preventative education. You will receive so much information and reassurance you will realize the value immediately. Breastfeeding for the first six months typically saves $600 on formula costs alone, so there really is a net savings when you get professional help.
3. If an IBCLC is not available, call a La Leche League Leader, a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC), or WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor.
4. Find your tribe.
While some mothers find breastfeeding amazing, intuitive, easy, natural and satisfying from the first feed, many women (and babies) need a little (or a lot of) help, encouragement and support in the beginning. Breastfeeding is intuitive and natural, but often it's not easy to learn.
The easiest way to prepare yourself for breastfeeding is to have been breastfed and raised in a culture of breastfeeding mothers. If this is your experience, then it decreases the amount of learning you need to do, increases the likelihood of successful breastfeeding, and how long you will breastfeed.
If you are like most people, you haven’t had this experience, and it would be helpful for you to immerse yourself in pictures, videos and the company of real babies breastfeeding. When you see women breastfeeding, your body begins to learn how to breastfeed. You tap into your instincts and reflexes and slowly you start to absorb the positioning, the attitude, the information and the relaxation needed to be comfortable and enjoy breastfeeding.
La Leche League, Baby Café and Breastfeeding USA are a communities of breastfeeding moms and families that have groups that meet monthly all over the world. It’s likely there is one near you.
Interview lactation consultants as well as pediatricians whgile you are pregnant, so you know who you are calling and are comfortable asking questions when you need to.
You may also find community groups of breastfeeding moms at hospitals, baby stores, churches, community centers, health food stores, yoga centers, on Facebook or on Meetup. If you can’t find a live group, you can find an online community in any flavor you might think of.
Breastfeeding is a sisterhood. Some have a tough initiation, others don't, but we all stick together and support breastfeeding, so we can support all our babies.