I had the honor to be called for a lactation consultation for a new mother and her baby 3rd day postpartum. She was totally devastated, crying and insecure about her ability of breastfeeding her newborn son.
In the hospital half an hour after birthing her son vaginally, for her first latch the OBGYN tried to extract colostrum by squeezing her nipples and was not successful. The OBGYN made a disappointed face and said to her: “you will not be a breastfeeding mother, I never saw this sadness, that I cannot express colostrum from a breast. I doubt that you will have enough milk ever.”
With this statement the OBGYN made a huge imprint in this new mother’s soul, taking away her faith and confidence in her body and trust to a happy breastfeeding time.
In the next hour the nurses came and tried to help her to get the little boy to latch, which was unsuccessful, and they immediately started giving her a pump to try to extract milk every 2hours, to tube feed the baby to not starve to death and to use nipple shields. It was a very frustrating and heartbreaking time for this mom, seeing her baby refuse the nipple with all the silicone around him. They forced her to try harder, pump more, made her very fearful not to try without any of these devices. For the first two days at hospital all her hours with her newborn son weren’t actually pleasant, it was around feeding. Cuddling the baby was already only to get Oxytocin running and stimulating the milk production.
Never anyone explained her that the milk production starts around third and fourth day postpartum, that it is totally physiological that the colostrum is not dripping out, that expressing is very painful and unnecessary. A baby sucks the first days on the nipples to advise its mother’s body to start the milk production, it is an on-demand production, a good latch is key, best without nipple shields, so the jaw can massage the breast well.
Colostrum exists in very small amounts (5ml the first day), so each baby gets some milk from first latch on, but not an ounce in amount. Baby’s stomach is so small, they do not need any more. Mother’s body works perfect for baby’s nutrition, there is barely any support from anyone else needed to start it. Hormones do it.
So, I came to her house, heard her sad story and what did I do?
I listened, hugged her, dried her tears. I felt for her and started giving her advice. First, I told her to stop pumping, to get the tubes and nipple shield away from her breasts. I inspected her nipples and breast. Both in normal healthy shapes for a good latch, I could feel the breasts not being filled a lot, but I had no doubt she would not get milk in the next 24-48 h. I explained her about all the situation she has been through, the fear blocking her production, and that I saw many women not dripping any colostrum at birth or ever. I never try to extract colostrum; it has no evidence for anything.
I gave her the following advice: rest, drink more warm liquids, cuddle in bed with your baby skin to skin, take some fenugreek and moringa, give your baby a bit of formula if he is devastated when you would like to feed him. Do not wake him up every 2-3 hours, he wakes up when hungry and searches for the nipple to latch.
During my visit I showed her different positions on how to hold the baby and offer him the breast, support her arm with a good comfy pillow and do not put any more pressure on your shoulders or the baby’s. I assured her she will have milk and be a happy breastfeeding mother very soon, without having to give a bottle anymore.
When the baby woke up on his own (I waited with her for 1.5h) he was alert and willing to latch well and suck for around 20min each breast, she was very surprised and happy to feel him without the shield and for so long sucking. Yes, the baby received half an ounce after sucking at the breast. The important part from my side was to give this mother the confidence in being able to latch and see the baby suck, the rest with milk production would come into place, I was sure about this. We decided when the baby wants to nurse to always latch the baby first, let him suck as long as he wants and feed some extra if needed. And so, I left after 2.5 hours of consultation, left a mother full of recovered faith, empowered through my words and happy to see how she can start breastfeeding her son. She still tried to pump a bit and the next morning already she found a drop of milk in the pumps shield. Her happiness was enormous, tears of joy were running down her cheeks this time, and this was the second big step into her happy breastfeeding time.
After 3 days she sent me the message: “Aneke, what a difference a few days make. A week ago, I was crying that I might never have milk. Now my son is cluster feeding and refuses to do anything except nurse. Just wanted to say think you again for your help and support”
Why do I write this story?
Because I want to warn you, I want to make a few things clear:
Future moms, please follow your instincts, do not let anyone harm you trying to squeeze your nipples, learn about breastfeeding before you start it, and trust your body, like you could trust it growing your baby inside.
Breastfeeding needs patience and loving support, people who are confident that women can breastfeed, know the physiological process and do not try to interfere in it.
Remember: breasts are made to be the source of milk for your baby, they fill up the first 3-4 days postpartum, your baby stimulates the milk production every time they latch and suck. Every baby loves their mother’s breasts, and for all babies the safest place is in mother’s arms, right next to the “milk supply”.
If you need any support or have questions, feel free to contact me.
HAPPY BREASTFEEDING TIME, AS LONG AS YOU FEEL COMFORTABLE IHT IT.
The WHO recommends 6 months exclusively breastmilk, then slowly starting to feed solid foods, but still 2 years of breastfeeding next to solid food for a healthy development of the baby.
Breastfeeding is healthy for your breast tissue too, for a loving relationship with your baby and for a very healthy gut of your baby.