KEEPING ABREAST:   BABY’S FIRST 3 MONTHS

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     I have been asked for support many times, for: fussy baby, colic, pulling away from the breast, spitting up, slow weight gain, sore nipples, lack of sleep, etc.  I feel that there are many issues that arise, because of lack of proper breastfeeding support and information.  The first thing I tell moms is that breastfeeding isnatural, but it may not come naturally.  What I mean by that is, although we were meant to breastfeed our babies, it isn’t always easy to keep going amidst frustration and sleepless nights. Most moms probably experienced a few bumps in the road before they felt more confident. Breastfeeding can also become an emotional roller coaster ride, because of ridicule and harassment of others. Have you been there?  You are not alone!  Here is some information that may help calm those fears and help you step into breastfeeding with attitude, what I call mom-a-tude!
     Admittedly, I experienced many of those bumps.  I even gave up on breastfeeding my daughter, because I didn’t get the right information and support.  My daughter was having extremely loose stools.  My pediatrician told me that all breastfed babies have loose stools.  Well, my daughter had explosions in her diaper, at least once per day, and she was very fussy at the breast. My pediatrician’s advice was to put her on formula.  He said that we wouldn’t experience these issues on formula, that she just may be sensitive to breast milk- a common misconception.  I was saddened, but wanted what was best for her and felt, once again, that the doctor knew more than me, and my gut was probably wrong.
     I feel that something precious was taken from me, and I cried because of the loss of the experience for me and for her.  Her issues cleared up a few days after the switch, but then, she began to have other issues, like diaper rash and constipation.  I traded one set of issues for another.  I stuck with formula because that is what I was told would be best. I knew in the back of my mind that it was misguided information, but I went with it to help her because I knew the label on the formula had what she needed-or so I thought.
     After studying about the correct techniques and anatomy during my training to become a breastfeeding counselor, almost 2 years later, I realized that all of my daughter’s issues were because of improper latch and the way that I was feeding her.  I learned the significance of foremilk and hindmilk, which I now know are vital to the digestion and weight gain in a baby.  I learned the difference between a poor latch and a good latch. I learned that switching breasts during a feeding could have caused most of her problems. I should have finished a full breast, so that she had the thickness of the hindmilk to help with diarrhea and tummy troubles.  I also learned that the pressure from my doctor and others led me to take a detour that I didn’t want to take.  I learned about the signs, the proper techniques, and the easy fixes for most situations.  I learned that breast milk has NO substitutions, only copycats who often lead moms astray.
     Foremilk is the milk that the baby receives first, at the beginning of each feed.  This milk is low in fat and high in lactose. Hindmilk is the fat-filled milk that produces the increased calorie content. Together, these work to help baby grow and develop.  If the baby gets too much foremilk, they will have problems with digestion, creating everything from spit up or vomiting, colic, diarrhea, loose stools, and poor weight gain, and more.  This imbalance may also be caused by oversupply, which happens when mom doesn’t empty one breast before going to the next, or is feeding infrequently, causing her breasts to engorge.  This can also be caused by improper latch or positioning.

Where and when did it go wrong?

     Moms often tell me that it started out okay, but got harder and more challenging, or it never started out at all well.  Moms often mistake a proper latch, until it is too late and they begin to get cracked or bleeding nipples or engorgement.  This often happens 2 weeks in.  By this time, baby has also been to the pediatrician and may notice a slow growth pattern.  At this point, moms panic and end up gathering advice from the wrong resources. They are also tormented by others who just say “give them a bottle” or “mix breast milk with rice cereal”, or even “formula might be the better option”.  Peer pressure is defined well for school-age children, but what about nursing moms?  It starts with free samples of formula or commercials that state formula is created to be just like the real thing.  Well, if it is ‘like’ the real thing, isn’t it better to use the pure stuff?  I believe so.  No one likes to experience the issues above and hear their baby cry and experience those tummy troubles, but if correct information is given in the first place, moms may not have to see any of these situations.  
     My goal, as a breastfeeding counselor and advocate, is to support moms by educating them before they give birth, and also help with those concerns from the first day and throughout the first 3 months.  The first three months is what my husband calls the “adjustment period”.  These three months are critical to the internal development of baby’s tummy and digestion.  Colic often disappears after 3 months, almost by magic! Why is that?  Because, I believe it is the time it takes for mom and baby to often get to the “aha” moment, if they haven’t done so already. The moment when it all clicks and the kinks have been worked out.  Mom’s milk supply has evened out and baby has figured out the latch and how to get the most out of each feeding.  Babies often sleep longer during the night, so mom and baby are better rested and less agitated.  I do feel that breastfeeding courses are super imperative for moms who want those critical first three months to start out on the right track and to possibly treat the problems up front, rather than suffering from heartache and detours caused by the naysayers.  Moms may not know how to handle the peer pressure, if they aren’t equipped up front with the ups and downs that they may experience.  Don’t give up on breastfeeding.  There are great resources, but I encourage moms to find it before baby comes.  If it is after, please visit with a breastfeeding counselor or group who can support you thru the tough time physically and emotionally.
     Overall moms, I want you to listen to your gut.  Just because someone else did that technique or took that path with their own baby, doesn’t mean you have to.  Take control and stand firm. Show your mom-a-tude, with pride. Don’t be ashamed of breastfeeding or listen to the ridicule when it comes down your path.  I understand it is hard, but just stand firm and they will eventually take the hint that you aren’t backing down.  Education is the best medicine.  Some people aren’t too keen on breastfeeding in public or at all.  Make it known to them that you aren’t keen to imposters in formula and you want your baby to have the best. Surround yourself with moms and advocates who feel the same way.  Let’s build a better breastfeeding and healthy community!

In conclusion, here is a story from one mom who knew the importance of the great nutrition that was produced in her body and how she clung to that, even under pressure.

     This is a picture (seen above) of the moment after my third child was born on October 6th. After nursing the first my first two it was only natural to put him straight to my breast, he latched ravenously and did not let go. He just glared at everyone. He was less than a minute old, still had his umbilical attached. I was discouraged from nursing right away; he nursed and peed on me, lol. I was told he wouldn’t want to nurse, I just shooed them all away. I knew they just wanted to hold him but he was all mine for those first hours.  He was a surprise baby. Found out my birth control was recalled and my Dr.  I’m pretty sure that’s how we ended up with our blessing. I am the first in my family to nurse a baby, since formula was invented. I have faced criticism from my whole family. Of how it’s bad for baby, to how ugly and saggy my breasts will be (thanks mom) or just how inappropriate it is. I sent this picture without thinking to my family out of excitement after I took it for a first glimpse. I was asked for a different one without my minimal showing breast in it. One they could actually show people is how they put it. I have been banished to the backroom at all family functions and even been brought a blanket to put over my baby’s head on an airplane (I was wearing a nursing top and was at the back alone). With my first baby, she was the hardest. My nipples cracked and bled, I felt like I was nursing a tiny shark. I cried out, I used lanolin; I used cold packs, and nipple shields. I just had to wait for them to toughen up. She had a stuck tongue and narrow palate. I stared at that free can of formula and tried to block out my mother’s offers to fix a bottle for her. I couldn’t do it, open that stupid can, and am glad I’m so stubborn because it’s something I have become awfully proud of. I had no idea what I was doing and the nurse I had was very short with me, I felt manhandled. My second was a breeze, and so is this baby. He’s nine months old now (Vernon Jr.), and his teeth are awfully sharp, but I wouldn’t trade those milky grins for anything.

~ Thank you for sharing Amy!

Permission was obtained to use the breastfeeding story from Amy N.

The remaining material was original work written by Tina Black, however there are many great resources out there to support these issues.   Please check out these sites to help you keep abreast of breastfeeding support and education.

http://www.nbci.ca

http://www.breastfeedingwa.org/
http://www.llli.org/
www.blessingsofbirth.net

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