When you’re dealing with a mysterious feeding issue, lactation consultants (LCs) can be wizards when it comes to breastfeeding advice. While doctors will espouse the benefits of breastfeeding, they often have little to offer in terms of how to actually do it. LCs are the professionals best versed in the dark arts of lactation. In they come with nursing pillows and photocopies of breastfeeding positions and special scales to save the day. A couple weeks ago, I hired an LC because of an issue I was having in my right breast. It wasn’t a latch problem, as I’d worried, or a need to change positions. It turned out to be a milk blister, and she advised me to just keep doing what I was already doing: nursing through the pain. She also gave me a recipe for nipple ointment. All this was good news — the pain wasn’t because we were doing anything wrong!
Then, she gave me additional advice. Advice that made me feel as if I was doing everything wrong anyway. Advice that, in order to do this breastfeeding thing perfectly, would add time and frustration to every session. Advice from the lips of my certified lactation consultant that I have decided to ignore.
Skin-To-Skin For Feedings
The LC suggested that both baby and I be completely bare from the waist up during breastfeeding sessions. She said this would increase prolactin, the hormone responsible for helping mammals produce milk. And truly, what is more sublime than the feel of a baby’s skin against yours? This all sounds lovely.
While prolactin may well spike during skin-to-skin, I have never heard of a woman losing her supply because she decided to keep her pajamas on in November.
However. Damn if I’m going to take a baby already cranky with hunger and make him even crankier by stripping him down to his diaper. (Does any newborn like being undressed?) While prolactin may well spike during skin-to-skin, I have never heard of a woman losing her supply because she decided to keep her pajamas on in November.
Don’t Feed Him While He’s Crying
The rationale behind this is that if baby has gotten into a negative mood and is then given the breast, he will start to develop negative associations with nursing. Instead, the lactation consultant said, I should try to soothe him into a calm state and then give him the breast.
As crying is a late sign of hunger, I do aim to feed my baby before he gets to that state, but life (and sometimes even sleep!) happens, so often I’m a little late on the jump. But as a breastfeeding mama, I am uniquely equipped with two perfect baby silencers — you better believe I’m going to use them.
One of the reasons I wanted to talk to a professional was to get advice about how best to incorporate bottle-feeding. She suggested “paced bottle-feeding,” which slows down the rate at which the baby receives milk so that he doesn’t come to prefer the bottle and stop working at the breast. This method puts the nipple parallel to the baby’s face so that he has to suck hard (and swallow a lot of air) rather than let gravity do the work for him.
After a few tries at this, my partner gave up, as it was making our already-gassy baby miserable. Although we “pace” him by giving him burp breaks, the other techniques were not working for us, and so far he’ll still take a breast over a bottle any day of the week.
Hand Expression Is Better Than Pumping
She actually said it was “more efficient,” and I balked. If by efficient she meant that it takes less set-up, less clean-up, and can be done without a power source, I totally get that. I’ve used hand expression to ease the pressure of engorgement, so I consider myself pretty adept at it, but I’d never tried to collect milk this way.
When I experimented, I was able to collect 20 milliliters in 10 minutes, easily a fifth of what I could get in the same time with my electric pump, and I had worked up quite a sweat along the way. Is this efficiency? Hook me up to my Ameda and hand me a crossword puzzle.
p.m milk might have melatonin in it, but a.m. milk has my sanity in it.
Don’t Mix Up Your A.M. Milk And P.M. Milk
Apparently our breast milk changes throughout the day. At night, there is more melatonin in the milk, perfect for helping baby sleep. Therefore, the LC said, any bottle the baby gets in the night should be with milk pumped during the night.
And here I thought dating each pumped bottle was diligent enough.
The truth is, it is. It is diligent enough. From a friend who always pumps in the morning so that she can give one bottle at night, and whose baby does not suffer in the sleep department: “p.m milk might have melatonin in it, but a.m. milk has my sanity in it.”
Amen, breastfeeding sister. As long as our kids are fed and healthy and thriving, we don’t need to add extra challenges in the pursuit of some “pure” breastfeeding experience. The kinder we are to ourselves in this process, the better our decisions for our children can be—whatever those decisions are.
Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:
Watch full episodes of Romper's Doula Diaries on Facebook Watch.