Simple Pleasures, Shared Discoveries – Getting to Know Your Newborn

By Allison Walsh, IBCLC, LCCE, FACCE Adapted from the original article by Joy Rittmayer, PhD, LCCE

Congratulations! You are beginning one of life’s most exciting journeys—parenthood. Some days are as effortless as a day at the beach, and others are as challenging as hacking through uncharted jungle. Sometimes the rewards of parenting are obvious, and others are realized later. Along the way, discoveries about your baby and yourself make sure life with a little one is never dull!

Growing Confidence

Understandably, many new and expectant parents worry about caring for their baby and understanding the baby’s needs. The early stages of life with your baby will go more smoothly if you let your baby be your tour guide. She will show you when she’s hungry, sleepy, or needing comfort. When you respond promptly and with love, your baby learns that the world is a safe place and trusts you to be there to meet her needs. In turn, you will grow to trust your parenting ability as you learn to read your baby’s cues – both the obvious and the subtle. Feel her whole body relax when she is snuggled on your chest. Notice how she turns away when she has had enough time looking at something. Listen to the smacking sounds she makes when she is getting hungry. Watch your baby’s signals and her responses to your actions and learn as you go.

Early Recognition

The easiest way to think about interacting with your baby is that you are your baby’s favorite everything place to be, face, voice, food source, snoozing spot and more. It’s fun to think that before and after birth, you are your baby’s natural habitat! Even though some parents need a few days to feel connected to their baby, babies come to us already in love. They are ready for interaction and are deeply connected to their parents. So take pride and delight in how soundly the baby sleeps on your chest and how your baby settles down in your arms after being fussy with a visitor.

Since he has been listening to you talk and laugh for the last months of pregnancy, your voice is familiar and comforting. Indeed, no matter what your singing abilities, to him, yours is the sweetest of voices. Also, he knows the rhythm of your body and may enjoy snuggling up to hear the symphony of breaths and heart beats. Hold your newborn close, and within days of birth, he will recognize your smell. He will be mesmerized by your face, which he will see clearly when nursing or being cradled in your arms. Believe it or not, you know many ways to comfort him just by being you!

What Do Babies Really Need?

When asked this question, most people respond with the obvious answers—food, cleanliness, comfort, safety, and sleep. Equally important are the emotional needs of babies. Just like us, they need to feel loved, secure, and connected. Human babies are hard-wired to interact. This interaction takes on many forms – enjoying moments of gazing into each others’ eyes, kissing her feet during a bath, holding her while dancing and singing along to your favorite music, reading out loud, or playing peek-a-boo just to name a few. Think of all of this loving interaction as food for your baby’s brain! Humans need this connection and stimulation, just as they need food to survive. As long as you follow your baby’s cues, you can’t be too responsive or playful, so have fun.

Understanding Crying

Crying is a part of life for human beings. Just like us, when babies cry, they are reaching out for help and comfort. This might be in response to hunger, a dirty diaper, loneliness, or boredom to name a few. Whatever the reason, parents should respond to their baby’s cries promptly. Tuning in to your baby’s cues will help you to differentiate his cries, and sometimes help you to meet his needs before he even begins to cry.

Making sure your baby feels secure is one way to diminish crying. Many babies like to be swaddled, which likely reminds them of being snug inside during pregnancy. When babies cry vigorously, they tend to flail their arms and kick their legs. Maybe this is where the expression “kicking and screaming” came from! If your baby seems to stress during diaper changes, try gently holding her arms to her chest to simulate that snug feeling and help her settle down.

When babies cry after a long day of overly stimulating visitors, they need just what we do after a difficult day at work— to feel comforted and heard. Unlike us, they can’t make a polite excuse to leave the room and take a break for a few minutes. This often leads to crankiness later. When you have checked your baby’s diaper and offered a feed to no avail, click into your knowledge about how to comfort people. Hold your baby close, take her to a quiet place where you can really focus, talk, and listen. Babies often respond to compassion in our voices, so go ahead and say what you would to an upset friend. We don’t always understand why a baby is crying, but decreasing the stimuli (lowering the lights, turning off the TV or radio, and speaking in a quiet voice while moving around slowly) often helps.

Daily Discoveries

You are your baby’s best and most important teacher and there is learning in every day. The opportunities for interaction are infinite, and you’ll likely find it easier to get more done. In life, it is rare for a day to be pure fun – family and work responsibilities are ever present. It’s great for children to gain this understanding early and learn to find the joy in every day even if it is just laundry day!

Apart from a few essentials, your baby doesn’t require much in terms of equipment. When choosing baby gear, stick to the items that foster your closeness and engagement. Since everything is new to and interesting to him, don’t worry about creating a stimulating environment. Including him in your activities, educates him through exposure to different sights, sounds, and smells. Wearing your baby in a sling or front carrier is especially entertaining since he can see from an adult’s vantage point. As you move throughout the days, tell him what you are doing and thinking. At around three months of age, your baby will babble back at you. Pause for his reply after speaking and you will be helping him to learn the rhythm of conversation. As he discovers his voice, he will delight in the variety of squeals, growls, and coos especially if you mimic the sounds back.

Enjoying the Ride

Our babies offer us a second chance to discover the joys found in simple things – blowing bubbles, splashing in the tub, walking barefoot. Many parents are thrilled to re-read their favorite childhood books, and sing long forgotten rhymes and songs. Allow yourself to be guided by your baby and trust that he will give you the cues you need to take great care of him. Above all, remember to enjoy your baby. The one guarantee we have as parents is that our babies will grow too fast!

Bonding with Baby Now

By Phyllis Klaus, MFT, CSW

As with pregnancy, bonding with baby develops over time. It, too, is a process that, with your care and attention, will deepen and progress with each passing day. Do you remember when you learned you were pregnant? Surely it was a deeply emotional moment. A second before, you were responsible for yourself and a second after you were forever linked to a new being growing inside you. The bond you feel with your baby isn’t as instantaneous; it will grow slowly yet steadily over these months of pregnancy until the day you meet your child and begin life as a family.

“Bonding” refers to the feelings of love and empathy that parents develop for their children. During pregnancy, sometimes that love is manifested in the form of dreams and fears about your baby and future as a mother. Positive, loving dreams can help you connect with your little one, but fearful ones can diminish your confidence about your baby’s health or your own capabilities. Let your health-care provider worry about your baby’s health. Then give yourself space to deal with your other fears in a way that works for you. Write in a journal or draw pictures of what’s going through your head. Share your concerns with your partner, as well as with your girlfriends, pregnant or not. Expressing your thoughts will help you deal with them and accept your child into your life.

Another way to begin bonding with baby is to send him loving messages. During a quite moment, put your hands on your abdomen and send happy thoughts and energy to the baby: how excited you are to meet him, what you plan to do when he arrives, how you can’t wait to have him as part of your family. Many women say this activity makes them less anxious and worried about their pregnancy.

The Power Of Your Partner

Your partner is a major factor in how you feel about your baby. If your partner is excited about your pregnancy, watches over you, protects you and takes care of you, you will likely feel closer to your child. But if your partner is unhappy or hesitant, then you may have doubts and worries too.

Your partner may be nervous about being a dad because he’s unhappy with how he was parented or his own childhood. That’s why now is a good time to talk to him about how each of you grew up, both the good and the bad. Discuss what kind of relationship you had with your parents. You don’t just have to start a conversation out of the blue; wait until a situation presents itself. Your friends might tell you they don’t have a set bedtime for their toddler, or you may see a couple in the supermarket letting their child select a sugary cereal. Use these incidents as starting points for conversations; discuss how your parents handled such issues and what you would do with your own child. By talking about your upbringing, you can establish a unified front on how you will raise your kids and address any fears that your partner may have about being a parent.

You should also discuss your feelings about the baby, how he has and will alter your life. When you and your partner can talk freely about the many changes that a baby will bring to your relationship, finances and lifestyle, you can continue to support each other and see the baby as enhancing your life instead of disrupting it.

If your partner feels removed from your pregnancy, help him with this simple exercise. Have him put his hand on your abdomen, and when he feels movement or when you tell him you sense the baby, have him say, “Hello, baby.” If he does this a few times a day for a week or two, he’ll feel more connected to both of you. Pretty soon, the baby may even kick his hand at the sound of your partner’s voice.

Your child was conceived out of deep love. That’s why bonding with baby doesn’t have to wait until she’s born: It really starts the moment that you find out you are pregnant, and it continues throughout your pregnancy. Not only is it a way for you to get closer to your child, it will also help you grow closer to your partner. And becoming an even more solid couple will help prepare you for your newly bestowed title: parents.

Circumcision Decision

By Deena H. Blumenfeld, RYT, RPYT, LCCE

 

Adapted from the original article at Science & Sensibility, “Parental Autonomy in Decision Making: A Follow-Up to the AAP’s Newborn Male Circumcision Policy Statement” http://www.scienceandsensibility.org/?p=5322

 

As parents, we face many decisions regarding how we raise our children.  It’s everything from what to name them; which car seat to purchase; choosing a pediatrician; what school to send them to; and so on.  If you are having a boy, you may be wrestling with the choice of whether to circumcise your son, or to leave his penis intact.  It’s not an easy choice to make for some families; others have no doubt about what they will do when their son is born.  Hopefully, this article will assist you in feeling confident in your decision regarding circumcision.

 

On August 27, 2012 the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released their new Policy Statement on Male Circumcision. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2012/08/22/peds.2012-1989.full.pdf+html It caused somewhat of a stir in the online parenting communities and in the media. Ok, so maybe it caused a big stir…  In much of the coverage I’ve read online, I found much vitriol, anger and self-defensiveness, as well as overly aggressive behavior and dismissive or patronizing attitudes. This is entirely unsurprising. Circumcision has been a “hot button” issue for many years. This reaction comes not only from the mainstream media and individuals, but from the anti-circumcision organizations as well.

 

I’d like to explore the issue in a more objective and compassionate manner. Looking at the rationale behind circumcising (or not), we find multiple reasons, falling into two main categories: social and medical.

 

Social reasons regarding circumcision:

  • Religious beliefs
  • Perceived sense of what’s normal with regards to how his penis should look.
    • Wanting the baby to look like his dad.
    • Fear of the child being the only one in the locker room who doesn’t look like his friends.
  • Ethical belief that:
    • Circumcision is genital mutilation.
    • The child has autonomy.

 

Medical reasons regarding circumcision (cited from the AAP’s policy statement):

  • Reduction in rates of:
    • Urinary tract infections
    • Penile cancer
    • Transmission of some sexually transmitted infections, including HIV
  • Systematic evaluation of English-language peer-reviewed literature from 1995 through 2010 indicates that preventive health benefits of elective circumcision of male newborns outweigh the risks of the procedure.

 

From the new policy statement, the AAP concludes:

 

“Although health benefits are not great enough to recommend routine circumcision for all male newborns, the benefits of circumcision are sufficient to justify access to this procedure for families choosing it and to warrant third-party payment for circumcision of male newborns. It is important that clinicians routinely inform parents of the health benefits and risks of male newborn circumcision in an unbiased and accurate manner.

Parents ultimately should decide whether circumcision is in the best interests of their male child. They will need to weigh medical information in the context of their own religious, ethical, and cultural beliefs and practices. The medical benefits alone may not outweigh these other considerations for individual families.”

 

So, as a parent of a baby boy, how do you make this decision?  It is a multifaceted issue and no one person can tell you what the “right” choice is.  For some parents, the medical reasons carry greater weight than do the social or religious reasons.  For other parents, the social or religious reasons carry greater weight over the medical reasons.

 

On the medical side, just as we do with prenatal testing, medications or procedures during labor, vaccines for our children, etc., we look at the benefits of the treatment and the risks. We compare these to our own risk tolerance levels and then decide “Is this treatment / medication / procedure right for me?”

 

On the softer, but no less valid side, are our belief systems. We use our religion, our upbringing, and our societal norms to help us determine the right course of action.

 

How does the AAP feel regarding the social and religious influences on circumcision decision making?

 

“Parents should weigh the health benefits and risks in light of their own religious, cultural, and personal preferences, as the medical benefits alone may not outweigh these other considerations for individual families.”

 

“Parents and physicians each have an ethical duty to the child to attempt to secure the child’s best interest and well-being. Reasonable people may disagree; however, as to what is in the best interest of any individual patient or how the potential medical benefits and potential medical harms of circumcision should be weighed against each other. This situation is further complicated by the fact that there are social, cultural, religious, and familial benefits and harms to be considered as well. It is reasonable to take these nonmedical benefits and harms for an individual into consideration when making a decision about circumcision.”

 

This theme of parental choice is written throughout the document, overshadowing the medical evidence presented.

 

Trends and statistics in the United States:

Right now the circumcision rate in this country stands at about 50-60%, depending which survey you look at.  (All of the surveys are in regards to hospital circumcision.)  The rates of circumcision in the U.S. are declining, overall. 

 

Coming full circle: When you, as a parent, are trying to decide whether it makes sense to circumcise your baby boy, or to leave him intact, understand that the decision lies solely in your hands and that there is no “right” choice. Circumcision should be discussed by your obstetrician or midwife.  It should be discussed by your childbirth educator. Your pediatrician will offer guidance. Your family and friends will have their own opinions and the online universe will work diligently to try to convince you one way or the other.

 

Take a deep breath. Understand, as the AAP does, that you are the only one who knows what’s best for your baby, and whatever choice you make will be the right one for him.

 

How is this approached in your childbirth education class?  Every instructor will have her own approach.  However, she should be fair, compassionate and keep the environment of her classroom well balanced and safe for all students.

 

What should be covered in your childbirth class?

  • The medical and social reasons to circumcise (or not)
  • Addressing circumcision in your birth plan
  • How the procedure is done
    • Including risks and benefits
  • Your options, should you choose to circumcise
    • Shortly after birth, in hospital
    • A few days or weeks after birth in your pediatrician’s or family practice doctor’s office
    • At home, with a religious ceremony, such as a Bris
  • Care of the circumcised penis
    • Including warning signs for infection, etc.
  • Care of the intact penis 
    • Including what is normal, bathing, etc.
  • She may provide a handout with additions resources to which you may refer later.

Deena is a Certified Khalsa Way™ Prenatal Yoga Teacher and Lamaze® Certified Childbirth Educator. She has been practicing yoga for more than 15 years. She became a certified Yoga instructor through 3rd Street Yoga in December 2008. She completed her 60 hour Prenatal Yoga training in February 2009 in Los Angeles at Golden Bridge Yoga with Gurmukh.

Her Lamaze certification was completed in October 2010, through Magee Women’s Hospital and Lamaze International. She is an advocate of empowered birth for women. Through the teaching of Prenatal Yoga and Childbirth Education classes, she helps women become more confident in their choices regarding pregnancy, birth and parenthood. Deena has also studied yoga with Doug Keller, Max Strom, KK Ledford and Shakta Kaur Khalsa. Her ongoing professional development as a Childbirth Educator has been with Ina May Gaskin, Penny Simkin, Gail Tully of Spinning Babies and other childbirth professionals.

Deena is also a mom of two – a son, born via c-section in April 2005, and a daughter in March 2009, a VBAC. She is an active member of the local ICAN chapter and a member of the Coalition for Improving Maternity Services.

3 Ways to Get your Newborn to Sleep and (Hopefully) Stay Asleep!

By Jordan Glover, CD (DONA), PCD (DONA), LCCE

1. Swaddle your baby! 

Swaddling your baby will not only help your baby fall asleep, it will help him stay asleep. Your baby was born with something called the Moro Reflex, which closely resembles the startling “jump” that we do as adults when we start to fall asleep and suddenly feel as if we are falling. All healthy babies are born with the reflex, but that doesn’t mean it has to keep your baby up all night! Swaddling your newborn will keep this pesky reflex from waking your baby up when she would otherwise be sleeping.

Swaddling also reminds babies of the womb, where they were “held” so tightly by your uterus that they could hardly move in the last few weeks of pregnancy. For more information on swaddling, check out The Happiest Baby on the Block by Dr. Harvey Karp.

There are special blankets made specifically for swaddling that are better for use when swaddling babies. Babies tend to wriggle out of regular blankets, which could end up near their faces. Also, you should only be swaddling baby’s arms tightly, leaving the blanket loose around the hips. This is easier said than done, and special swaddling blankets make safe swaddling fool-proof. You can find swaddling blankets at most stores that sell baby items, but you may also be able to find them at your local consignment shop?

 

2. Wear your baby down.

Ergobaby carriers are the creme de la creme of baby carriers, and they are absolutely perfect for getting a baby down to sleep. I love the Ergo because with the infant insert you can start using it right away, and it can be used in toddler-hood as a backpack carrier.

  • Start by swaddling your newborn, and putting her into the Ergo with the head flaps snapped.
  • Wear her and go about your business until she is in a nice deep sleep.
  • Unbuckle the back strap.
  • Holding tight to your baby, unbuckle the waist strap.
  • Stand over her crib, and lower yourself (and baby) onto the mattress.
  • Take your arms out of the ergo and lay the arm straps by her side.

All the jostling, no matter how graceful you are, will probably bring baby out of her deep sleep, although hopefully she will not completely wake up. If having your baby sleep on top of the Ergo makes you nervous, just wait a few moments for her to fall back into a deep sleep and then gently pull the Ergo out from under her.

 

3. Use a noise machine.

After starting to use a noise machine, I wouldn’t put a newborn to sleep without one. Again, let’s go back to the womb. It was dark, and LOUD! Ever get an ultrasound? The sound you heard was a quiet representation of what it’s like for your baby to be in your belly. Once they are born, everything changes. Not only are they no longer being held 24-hours-a-day and fed constantly, but we tiptoe around them thinking they need quiet to sleep. Boy are we wrong! Try to make your baby’s sleeping environment “womb like” with a loud sound machine and you will most likely see that he sleeps better.

 

Jordan Glover is a Certified Birth & Postpartum Doula, and an Certified Lamaze Childbirth Educator. Jordan is the proud co-owner of Homegrown Babies, an Asheville Birth & Postpartum Doula Service. As a Birth Doula, Jordan helps her clients to achieve a normal birth through prenatal education, advocacy, and support. As aPostpartum Doula Jordan offers hands-on support by preparing meals, light housekeeping, breastfeeding assistance and evidence based infant care information. The Homegrown Babies Asheville based Lamaze Classes help prepare couples to birth with grace and ease. 

Postpartum Diary: Meagan & Adelyn @ 3 Months

I am now three-months post-partum. In some ways it is sad to think that three months ago, I felt baby kicks and flips from inside the womb for the last time. I have always enjoyed being pregnant and I admit that I do miss it, not enough to have another baby, but it is sad to think that I won’t experience it again. At the same time, three months ago I was waddling my way up the stairs, out-of-breath when I reached the top and longing for the days when I could once again lace up my running shoes and hit the pavement. And so, as my son practiced soccer in the rain the other night, I had a choice to make. I could sit in the warm, dry comfort of the van and read my book. Or, I could grab my running shoes and go for a run. I chose to run.

 

I have also been enjoying sleeping on my stomach once again. At the end of my pregnancy, I was having a hard time finding a comfortable position to sleep. Now I can stretch out however I wish. Of course the amount of time I get to stay in that position depends on Adelyn. Thankfully she is still sleeping well at night. My husband and I are so grateful that our worst sleeper was our first one, when we were six years younger and didn’t have two others to care for after long, rough nights. We have realized that six years makes a big difference when you are a parent. We feel so much older and more tired now.

 

I know that Adelyn was born just three months ago, but I am struggling with the my post-baby body. Thankfully the weight has been coming off. I gained 40 pounds with my pregnancy and now have lost over 25 pounds. I know that’s good and I should be happy with that, but I cannot wait to have all the weight gone. I have been hiding out in sweats and yoga pants. I dread having to make myself presentable for the public. I have a closet full of clothes and only a handful fit. I am too frugal to go out and purchase a lot of clothes when I hopefully won’t be wearing them for too long. I know they say it takes nine months to put on the weight and you should give yourself nine months to take it off, but with swimsuit season rapidly approaching, I am anxious to get back my pre-baby body. Ironically, I wasn’t all that pleased with my pre-baby body, but I would take it without hesitation right now. After all, I don’t really want to sport workout clothes to the beach.

The Wonder of Mothers: Skin-to-Skin Care

May 13 is Mother’s Day and to celebrate, Giving Birth with Confidence will post throughout the month of May on “The Wonder of Mothers,” a series dedicated to sharing some of the many ways mothers’ bodies are beautifully designed to grow, birth, and nourish her baby. We’ll also be giving away a Lamaze stroller and infant car seat, so be sure to check back regularly!

 

The Wonder of Mothers: Skin-to-Skin Care

You may have heard of the phrase “skin-to-skin” or ”kangaroo” care, but if you’re new to the idea, here’s a simple definition:

Skin-to-skin or “kangaroo” care is when a newborn baby is placed unclothed on mother’s chest directly after birth and as often as possible during the newborn stage. This kind of care has been proven to have many health benefits for healthy full-term babies, as well as quicker recovery from illness and difficulties for premature and sick babies.

So what is it about a mother’s body that makes skin-to-skin care so important? Because of the unique symbiosis between a mother and her baby, a mother’s body is designed to provide the perfect environment for her newborn baby. When a baby is placed on her mother’s chest, the temperature of mom’s body not only keeps baby warm, but helps regulate a baby’s temperature to what he/she needs at that very moment. Some babies are born with the inability to regulate their own temperature. Studies have shown that skin-to-skin care is best for keeping a baby’s ideal temperature. It is often reported that artificial heat from an incubator cannot replicate the effects of mom’s touch. It also has been shown that the temperature for twins who are each placed on one of mom’s breasts are regulated independently, adjusting according to their individual needs!

Beyond temperature, skin-to-skin care has been shown to also provide newborn benefits in the way of regulating blood sugar levels, stabilizing heart rate, reducing crying, increasing mother-baby bonding, and establishing and maintaining breastfeeding. Mothers’ bodies are amazing!

Requesting Skin-to-Skin Care at a Hospital

If you are planning a hospital birth, know that many hospitals routinely perform infant procedures shortly after birth. If your baby is healthy, it is safe and encouraged to delay newborn procedures like weight and measurements, bathing, and any routine shots or ointments. Instead, use the first couple of hours after birth to spend skin-to-skin time with your baby. Talk to your care provider, your birth partner, and your doula about your preferences to hold your baby skin-to-skin after birth. And, ask your partner or doula to remind the nurses on staff during your labor of your birth preferences. You may need to speak up to get what you want, but remember, it’s your baby and your right!

Did you practice skin-to-skin care with your newborn? How do you think it helped you or your baby?

Great Expectations: Meagan @ 7 Weeks Postpartum

It has been seven weeks since Adelyn was born. In some ways, it seems like she has been with us much longer. In other ways, it seems like it was just yesterday. So how is it going? I’m going to be honest: it’s been an up and down experience.

Adelyn is doing well overall. She is growing well and sleeping like a champ, which is much appreciated. Breastfeeding has been pretty good, but within the last couple of weeks, she has started fussing during feedings. The worst was just a few days ago when she would act hungry, but cry every time she attempted to latch on. After trying a few things, I finally discovered that nursing her while standing and walking seems to soothe her. So, for the past few days, my back and arms have been getting an extra workout. I’m going to have to figure out how to nurse in the sling to give them a rest. I have never quite gotten the positioning right to do that, but it’s time I learn. I’m thinking her fussy feedings are due to acid reflux. All three kids have had it and have been big-time spitters. The older two grew out of it by the age of one, but they never fussed during feedings like Adelyn has. I’m hoping this is a short and passing phase. My arms and back would appreciate the rest and I’m not exactly sure how I can nurse in public, while dancing around with her.

A lot of people have asked how the transition from two to three kids has gone. At moments, there is no real difference. As I said, she’s a great sleeper, so that helps. But, at other times, all three kids and the dog seem to need something at once, and I’m tasked with trying to prioritize everyone’s needs and urgencies. Jonas and Kenna love their little sister, and Jonas especially has been a great helper. He loves to hold and rock her. While in theory Kenna likes her sister, she would still prefer to have more undivided attention. At times we’re all in sync and things are going smoothly. At other times, well, we could all use a good nap.

I must say that I have been surprised by the sense of busyness that I have felt. I have always preferred to hide out at home for the first few months, but that’s not as possible with two other kids. Even still, I’ve made sure to keep our schedule open and quiet, but it’s the everyday tasks that have kept me busier than I expected. I’m still figuring out how to fit in focused kid time, home-cooked meals, workouts, good sleep, cleaning, showers, etc., along with getting back into my work. Being pulled in more directions than what I’ve been accustomed to, I’ve had to realize that some things will not get accomplished. Thankfully I have a husband who has been cooking more and the kids have been taking on greater responsibility. In the end, the house hasn’t been dusted and the kitchen floor really needs to be mopped, but I’ll spend the afternoon napping instead. And maybe I’ll get that shower in sometime tomorrow.

From the Bedroom to the Board Room: How I Learned to Nurse in Public

Originally published on July 2, 2010.

This post was originally written for inclusion in the Carnival of Nursing in Public hosted by Dionna and Paige atNursingFreedom.org

***

 

The first time I nursed in public, I was at a La Leche League meeting. What a perfect way to be initiated to nursing around other people.

Breastfeeding is such a personal act at the beginning, an intimate dance between the baby and the mother that begins at the moment of birth. Slowly (sometimes excruciatingly slowly), they find a rhythm, and open up a little to the outside world. Rituals and routines established in the early days – I sit on this area of the couch with these pillows, and look for the feeding cues, and get the latch just right – give way to a looser, more organic relationship. When the universe widens just a bit, other breastfeeding moms are the perfect guests to invite in. When I give breastfeeding mothers advice, I almost always say, “Find a group of breastfeeding moms to socialize with in the first few weeks, and nurse around each other.”

When my baby was just two months old, I went to my first Lamaze conference. I nursed in educational sessions and the exhibit hall and around the hotel during breaks. I shared a hotel room with women who were well past their childbearing years, and yet welcomed having a baby at the slumber party (and no, my baby most definitely was not “sleeping through the night”). Then I had to report briefly to the Board of Directors about a project I was working on, and I breast fed my baby at the board room table. While I presented to the Board members.

I look back on this time now and I realize how fortunate I was. My earliest experiences of opening my baby’s and my universe to others reinforced that nursing is normal, joyful, and important. In a way, it was totally unremarkable to nurse my baby while addressing my supervisor and her Board of Directors. But at the same time, it was something to be celebrated. The people at the table weren’t weirded out that I was breastfeeding. They loved it - reveled in it. We even talked about how it is important to have babies at our conferences. Our work affects them!

My son weaned 4 months ago, ending what had been six and a half years of continuously being either pregnant or nursing. I have nursed in more places than I could begin to count. Wherever I’ve been when my babies happened to become hungry, I’ve nursed.

Only once – ever – did I get a negative remark. I was sitting in a coffee shop nursing my then-18-month-old son, and a 20-something year old guy behind me said to his friend, “You know what I hate? Babies who breastfeed.” I saw his comment for what it was – ignorance mixed with “I’m-an-’ironic’-hipster-trying-to-impress-my-friend”. But I can imagine a new mom hearing that and feeling like an outcast. I was so thankful to have such confidence that his comment didn’t faze me at all. I mostly just felt sad for him.

Thank you to all of those La Leche League moms for instilling in me that early confidence. And thank you to all of the Lamaze leaders with whom I was so incredibly fortunate to share my early mothering. What a gift.

***

 

This post was just one of many being featured as part of the Carnival of Nursing in Public. Please visit the other articles listed below:

Making Breastfeeding the Norm: Creating a Culture of Breastfeeding in a Hyper-Sexualized World

Supporting Breastfeeding Mothers: the New, the Experienced, and the Mothers of More Than One Nursing Child

Creating a Supportive Network: Your Stories and Celebrations of N.I.P.

Breastfeeding: International and Religious Perspectives

Your Legal Right to Nurse in Public, and How to Respond to Anyone Who Questions It

 

Breastfeeding Tips: Making Work Work for Your Baby

Originally published on December 8, 2010.

By Jeannette Crenshaw, MSN, RN, IBCLC, LCCE, FACCE and Allison Walsh, IBCLC, LCCE, FACCE

Committed to breastfeeding but concerned that going back to work or school might make breastfeeding too hard? Breastfeeding can make it easier to stay connected. With a little planning, you can do it! Here are some simple ideas that have helped other moms:

  • Focus on learning to breastfeed and making lots of milk.
  • Delay returning to work as long as possible.
  • Plan to go back to work part-time at first, if you can.
  • Plan to start work at the end of the week, to ease into your new routine.

The Countdown*

Before your baby is born:

  • Take a breastfeeding class.
  • Talk with your childcare provider and your employer about your plans to continue breastfeeding.
  • Consider childcare close to work or school, where you may be able to breastfeed during lunch breaks.
  • Choose a healthcare provider for your baby who supports breastfeeding.
  • Join a support group for breastfeeding mothers.

Once your baby is born:

  • Focus on learning to breastfeed and making lots of milk. (You don’t need to start pumping yet!)

2 weeks before returning to work:

  • Rent or buy a double electric pump, if possible.
  • Begin pumping and storing milk.
  • Have someone else feed the baby with the new feeding method.
  • Find clothes that make pumping easier, such as two-piece outfits and tops that button in the front. (Prints hide leaks better than solid colors.)

4-7 days before going back to work:

  • Leave your baby with the caregiver for a short practice session.
  • Work out an emergency plan for the unexpected, such as a sick child, car trouble, or traffic.

The night before you go back to work:

  • Pack your baby’s bag, and a healthy lunch and snack for you.
  • Gather your pump, cooler, and milk storage containers.
  • Lay out your clothes for work. Pack extra cotton breast pads and extra tops or sweaters in case of leaking.

Going to work:

  • Allow enough time so that your morning breastfeeding is relaxed and not rushed.
  • Plan ahead for the evening meal. For example, take food from the freezer or place something in a slow cooker.
  • Nurse your baby at home and again at the caregiver’s to keep up your milk supply.
  • Nurse or pump at work at least 3 times in 8 hours for a young baby.

Picking your baby up from the caregiver:

  • Plan to stop and nurse your baby as soon as you get to the caregiver’s.
  • Leave the milk you pumped while at work with the caregiver for the next day.
  • When you get home, nurse your baby again and enjoy reconnecting.

Every morning:

  • Give yourself enough time so that your morning breastfeeding is relaxed.
  • Plan ahead for the evening meal.

Did You know?

  • Hand washing is the best way to help keep you and your baby well. Wash your hands for 15 seconds before nursing and pumping.
  • Your breasts are never empty. Your baby can get milk if you’ve just pumped.
  • Try pumping in the morning. Milk volume is greater. (Some women pump on one side while nursing on the other.)
  • Three short pumping sessions, about 10 minutes each, are more effective than one long one.
  • Gentle massage while pumping may help you pump more milk.
  • Start at the lowest suction setting on your pump and increase to a setting that removes milk and feels comfortable. (Pumping shouldn’t hurt.)
  • When you and your baby are apart, pump often to maintain your milk supply. Avoid waiting until your breasts feel full.
  • Weekends are a great time to enjoy breastfeeding your baby while building your milk supply. Leave pumping and other feeding methods for workdays.

Storing and Using Pumped Breastmilk — A Guide

To Store

  • Store breastmilk in a clean, airtight container. Use hard plastic or glass with tight fitting, solid lids or disposable feeding bottle liners or breastmilk storage bags. Leave ¼ of the container empty if you plan to freeze.
  • Store it in the coldest part of the freezer, under the icemaker or in a back corner.
  • Label the milk with the date and your child’s name. This is important when leaving pumped milk with the caregiver. Expert opinions vary on how long you can safely store breastmilk.**
  • Keep fresh breastmilk at room temperature up to 4-6 hours.
  • Keep fresh breastmilk in a cooler with frozen gel packs up to 24 hours.
  • Store breastmilk in the refrigerator between 3 to 8 days.**
  • Store breastmilk in a refrigerator freezer for 3 to 6 months and in a deep freezer with manual defrost for 6 to 12 months. (A freezer is cold enough to store breastmilk if it keeps ice cream hard.)

To Thaw

  • Refrigerator thawed: Place container of frozen breastmilk in the refrigerator to thaw gradually.
  • Warm-water “quick” thawed: Place container of frozen breastmilk in a bowl of warm tap water. Once the breastmilk is liquid, use it right away or refrigerate.
  • Never microwave! “Hot spots” in the milk may burn your baby and the microwave destroys some of the infection fighting benefits of your milk.
  • Keep thawed breastmilk in the coldest part of the refrigerator. For example, the back of the refrigerator is colder than the door. Do not refreeze. Use thawed milk within 24 hours or discard.

To Use After Refrigerating or Thawing

  • Warm cold breastmilk by holding container under running warm water or in warm water for a few minutes.
  • Gently mix breast milk before feeding because breastmilk components separate when thawing.
  • Discard leftover milk if the bottle has been in the baby’s mouth.

To Transport

  • Keep breastmilk as cold as possible. Use insulated carriers and reusable frozen gel packs (not ice cubes).

To Clean Your Pumps

  • Rinse pieces that came in contact with breastmilk with cool water.
  • Wash pieces with warm soapy water, rinse, and air dry on a clean towel or wash pieces in the dishwasher.

 

*You will need to adapt this schedule if you work or go to school at night.

**This information should be considered a supplement to, and not a substitute for, care by a health care provider.

The photo used in this post comes from blogger, doula and childbirth educator, Stephanie, who blogs at Mama and Baby Love where she shares many excellent tips and anecdotes derived from her own breastfeeding experiences.

Breastfeeding Information for the First Few Weeks of Life

Originally posted on March 30, 2011.

In a new post on our sister blog, Science & Sensibility, blogger and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and clinician Edith Kernerman discusses key breastfeeding information for the first few days and weeks. As an expectant or new mom (and dad/partner too!), it’s helpful to understand what’s happening in your body during this transition, including what’s normal and what may signal a problem. Below are tips and information from Edith’s post.

COLOSTRUM

“We know that newborn babies require nothing other than colostrum and that though it is not there in plentiful amounts it is adequate for baby’s growth and health[1].”Infant Stomach Size

Colostrum, known as “liquid gold,” is the nutrient-rich substance that is produced in your breasts before and up to 10 days after birth. Many mothers and uninformed family members and care providers can become concerned that your baby is not getting enough to eat prior to your milk coming in. Except in very rare cases, the colostrum that is made in your body is all that babies need. Using a breast pump to encourage more milk is not necessary. It’s helpful to keep in mind that a newborn’s stomach holds 5-7mL, which is equivalent to the size of a marble or cooked chickpea. At seven days old, it’s the size of a ping pong ball.

LATCH

“We know that a baby who is well latched with an asymmetric latch will get the colostrum that is there, and a poorly latched baby won’t[2], and yet we see thousands of mothers in our clinic who have been taught to latch baby symmetrically.”

An “asymmetrical latch” is one in which the baby takes more of the breast below the nipple than above. Once latched properly, baby’s top lip will rest just above mom’s nipple and baby’s nose will point up and away from the breast. AAsymmetrical Latchgood latch is the key to baby getting enough nutrition as well as comfort for mom and baby. Often, if a baby does not appear to be getting enough, adjusting your latch — not pumping — will fix the issue. And as a side note, Edith tells us:

“Colostrum does not respond well to a pump, it responds better to hand expression.  And so when mothers can pump nothing,  they are told they have no milk.  Best to adjust the latch and use breast compressions[3]and watch for baby’s drinking (don’t listen, you are unlikely to hear a baby drinking at that age)[4].”

ENGORGEMENT

“Contrary to popular belief engorgement is not a sign mother has a lot of milk.  Engorgement is a sign things have gone wrong.”

Edith offers several tips to reduce and fix engorgement:

  • Adjust latch so that it is asymmetrical and deep
  • Use breast compressions while baby is feeding (find video and how-to here)
  • Remain skin-to-skin as much as possible to read baby’s early feeding cues in order to feed frequently, as necessary
  • Do NOT pump engorged breasts or massage downward toward the nipple

SORE NIPPLES

“We also know that a well-latched baby should not cause mother pain[8] and yet women are told around the world to put up with the pain, or grin and bear it because it is supposed to hurt.”

As a veteran nurser myself, I will tell you (and most moms would concur) that breastfeeding does take some time for your body to adjust to the sensation. There is some initial discomfort, yes. But cracked, bleeding and “raw” nipples are NOT normal. If you do experience severely sore nipples or soreness beyond mild discomfort, seek the help of a lactation consultant. Many hospitals have these wonderful professionals on staff. If not, seek one in your area. Most likely, the cause of your soreness is a poor latch and a lactation consultant can observe and help you fix latch issues, or determine if something else is causing the pain. Edith also cautions:

“Mothers are also told to prepare their nipples (a completely non-evidenced informed practice!!) and to apply various creams and ointments on their nipples: petroleum jelly, lanolin-based creams, nipple balms—none has been supported by research.  Some make matters worse.”