Moving on from prenatal genetic testing, we are now discussing attitudes in breastfeeding.
It’s so much more than I expected it to be. As future midwives, I think we come in with this notion that breastfeeding is the best choice. Scientifically, it is of course the best option: you convey immunity to your baby. Your risk of breast cancer is decreased. It often feels nice. It helps with postpartum baby weight. Breast milk adapts to your baby’s needs as your baby grows. However. Our readings this week also teach us that breastfeeding can be challenging, and that it does not fit for everyone.
My experience as a doula and through friends allowed me to have some insight into this already. Drawing from that, I think a huge part of the reason people have difficulty breastfeeding is systemic. Sure some people just don’t want to, or don’t like, breastfeeding; but most people do want to give it a go. However, they grow to stop breastfeeding because of a lack of support on how to do it. They get a tiny tutorial, by a very busy nurse, in a non-baby friendly hospital, and then inevitably have problems at home. They do their best, but sometimes it’s just not right.
But you’re a woman! You’ve had breasts for a long time!
You should just KNOW how to breastfeed.
You should just know what to do when your nipples feel like razor blades or when your baby won’t latch.
You should know that breastfed babies feed more frequently than formula fed babies, and that sleep training approaches are different.
There is no psychic gift for new moms, though. In 20 minutes, that busy nurse is teaching you the basics. She just cannot counsel new moms on how to tell if a baby is tongue tied. She can’t possibly know that a woman whose parents never breastfed may be constantly questioned about her decision to breastfeed, because it’s so different than her mother’s experience. And what the dickens does a nurse do for you if your baby won’t take a bottle of pumped breast milk and you desperately want a day off?
The Midwifery Benefit
Clients with midwives luckily get some extra help. Midwives stay with their clients postpartum for up to 6 weeks. If more help is needed after this, midwives often refer their clients to a lactation consultant. This is not always the case with other health care providers simply due to different models of care, or because the system of care does not allow enough time to counsel effectively.
Did you know that midwifery appointments are traditionally scheduled for 30-45 minutes? Lots of time for counselling and questions!
As a result, the journey to breastfeed can be challenging. But that’s just it – it’s a journey. Some days, it’s beautiful and wonderful. Other days, it takes a bit more patience. Science does tell us that breastfeeding is the best for a lot of reasons, but ultimately we need to be congratulating women who are doing the best they can with every day. Cheers to the women who despite the systemic barriers and judgements from other people, are informing themselves of their choices and are still parenting healthy, beautiful children. I’m in awe of you.
[Struggling with breastfeeding? Not sure whats normal, or need more support? Talk to your health care provider to seek out a lactation consultant! Learn more here: http://www.breastfeedinginc.ca/content.php?pagename=doc-FBSP]