Carla B. – Finding A Supportive Community
Many first-time mothers have a strong desire to breastfeed their children, but have doubts and anxieties about how it will go. Will their milk supply be sufficient? Will the baby take to the nipple? Will they be able to successfully use a breastpump? Invariably there are even more questions once breastfeeding has begun. Why won’t the baby latch correctly? How do I pump and store milk when I return to work? Sometimes these doubts and questions undermine a mother’s commitment to breastfeed.
Carla was no different when she visited the Breastfeeding Center for the first time.
Carla wanted to breastfeed, but she was plagued by the same fears and anxieties that many first-time mothers experience. Unfortunately, she didn’t have a strong community of support around her for breastfeeding. Carla’s own mother expressed negative opinions about the aggressiveness of breastfeeding groups like La Leche League. But, at her first meeting at the Breastfeeding Center, Carla found other pregnant women and mothers who were committed to breastfeeding and supportive of each other. The introductory class Carla attended dispelled many of her doubts and she left with a renewed sense of confidence and commitment.
When Carla’s son, Benjamin, was born in June 2010, she did face a number of challenges and found breastfeeding difficult. She suffered from a bout of mastitis – a painful infection of the breast tissue that can block milk ducts. She also had a hard time pumping and storing milk after returning to work. Carla reached out to the Breastfeeding Center again. After a few consultations, she was able to overcome these challenges and successfully breastfeed Benjamin until she weaned him at 15 months. Carla attended several of the Center’s support groups, including “Breastfeeding the Toddler,” and found continued support from other mothers who breastfed beyond one year. Her husband, Mark, also attended a class with her and credits the experience with making him feel like part of the process and teaching him how to support Carla. The couple is now expecting their second child in July.
Kim C. – A Common Breastfeeding Challenge: Flat or Inverted Nipples
Many factors can affect a new mother’s ability to nurse her baby, including the shape of her nipple. Some women have flat nipples, which do not protrude or become erect, or inverted nipples, which retract into the skin tissue and become concave. Flat or inverted nipples can be detected by a simple pinch test and may result in latching difficulty for a newborn baby. This is what happened to Kim’s son Micah when he was born in April 2011. As a result, Micah lost weight and was a bit jaundiced when he left the hospital, so Kim’s pediatrician recommended formula. Fortunately, because Kim took the Breastfeeding Basics class at The Breastfeeding Center before Micah’s birth, she knew where to turn for help. A telephone consultation with Pat Shelly supplied information that improved Micah’s ability to breastfeed and helped Kim deal with painful engorgement issues that were affecting her ability to pump milk. By the end of the week, Micah was nursing successfully and Kim was able to stop using formula. In the coming months, Kim was a regular at The Center’s support group for new moms. According to Kim, the group “taught me everything I know about raising my baby since almost everything revolves around breastfeeding.”
Elisabeth J. – Support for Working Mothers
Many mothers who attend classes at The Breastfeeding Center have plans to return to work after their baby is born. For some, this transition proves to be the most challenging time in their nursing relationship, as was the case for Elisabeth, whose daughter June was born in December 2009. Elisabeth regularly attended the support group for new moms while on maternity leave. During this time, June received 1-2 bottles each week in preparation for the day when Elisabeth would return to work. However, as the day drew near, June suddenly began refusing to take a bottle. The new nanny came for a “practice day” and had no success either, spending several hours with a screaming baby. Elisabeth began to panic and arranged for a consultation through The Breastfeeding Center. Pat Shelly quickly determined that June was learning new tongue skills in preparation for eating solids and had temporarily “forgotten” how to suck from a bottle. Pat taught Elisabeth how to squeeze June’s cheeks while giving her a bottle and June drank immediately. The family practiced “the squeeze” for a few days and June quickly re-learned how to drink. While some mothers might abandon breastfeeding when faced with such a challenge, support from The Breastfeeding Center enabled Elisabeth to return to work with the peace of mind that her daughter would be drinking expressed milk without issue.
After returning to work, Elisabeth continued to attend The Center’s support groups for mothers with older babies, which exposed her to the idea of “extended nursing” or nursing beyond one year. In spite of social pressure to wean at one year, research indicates that breastfeeding continues to be a valuable source of nutrition and disease protection for as long as breastfeeding continues. Over time Elisabeth came to view breastfeeding as a relationship that takes work. Periodically one has to ask, is this relationship working for my child? Is it working for me? In her estimation, “success” is being able to read what your child needs and giving what you can. Elisabeth found that extended breastfeeding provided a sense of comfort for June and closeness for her. While working full-time, Elisabeth managed to breastfeed June until age 2½ and feels proud to have met the needs of her child. Today June likes to pretend to breastfeed her dolls and stuffed animals, and Elisabeth thinks it’s great that June understands this is how mothers care for their babies.
Elisabeth says she sings the praises of the Center to every new mom she meets and enjoys sharing what she’s learned with others. In her estimation, “a pre-existing relationship with The Breastfeeding Center is the best way to have a positive breastfeeding experience.”
Rachel U. – Transitioning From Bottle to Breastfeeding
Mothers who attend pre-birth classes at The Breastfeeding Center are often committed to breastfeeding, yet sometimes face challenges that require their new baby to receive formula. This is what happened to Rachel and her son Asher who was born in September 2011. Although Asher was born full-term, he weighed just 5 lbs., 7 oz. Due to low blood sugar and jaundice, Asher spent his first week in the NICU. As a result, he wasn’t able to breastfeed in the hospital, but did take some pumped breastmilk from a bottle as well as formula. While some mothers might become discouraged and abandon breastfeeding, Rachel was determined to breastfeed Asher when he came home from the hospital. This was especially challenging because Asher was already used to bottles and his small size made latching difficult. Rachel met with Leslie, a lactation consultant from The Breastfeeding Center, who taught her how to use a nipple shield and supplemental nursing system, a thin tube attached to a bottle that is taped to a mother’s breast. Rachel says Leslie was also “very encouraging and supportive during a time when I was sleep deprived and admittedly, a big ball of emotions.” With Leslie’s help, Rachel was able to achieve her goal of transitioning to 100% breastfeeding.
After overcoming this initial hurdle, Rachel began attending the support group for new moms at The Breastfeeding Center, which she describes as incredibly helpful. Not only did she come away with new tips each week, she was also able to make new friends. The experiences these new mothers shared helped Rachel feel “normal.” Asher is seven months old now, and he and Rachel continue to be a wonderful nursing team!