Supporting Breastfeeding

La Leche League Canada

Be Determined, Be Informed, and Trust Your Instincts!

on November 7, 2016

When I had my first baby, I was very determined to breastfeed even though I had barely seen anyone breastfeeding while growing up in France. None of my family members (mother, aunties, cousins) had breastfed their babies nor did any of my friends with the exception of my sister-in-law. She breastfed her three boys until they were almost two (but people looked at her like she was an alien). But from what I had gathered through my antenatal classes and the information I had researched online, I was convinced that breastfeeding was the best for my baby.

 

Finn was born naturally weighing almost 4.5 kgs (10 lbs) and had lost less than 10 percent of his weight when we came home on day three. But he then took about six weeks to get back to his birth weight, some weeks only gaining 20 or 30 gm a week. We also discovered during this time that he had a tongue tie so this got snipped by a specialized GP when he was six weeks old. It helped his latch but my milk supply didn’t improve significantly and his weight gain still wasn’t very good. He was being weighed every single week, tested by the GP for infection while I was expressing after each feed, day and night only to get about 10 ml after thirty minutes with a hospital grade pump. I was a total mess. I was barely getting any sleep, had no family around to help and my partner went back to work four days after Finn was born.

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Around week two, I saw a lactation consultant from the maternity centre who I didn’t connect well with during our thirty minutes together and left feeling even more guilty.  I ended up worrying all the time about his weight and followed advice from Plunket, my family and friends and started supplementing breastfeeding with formula when Finn was about three months old.  At the time I was on holiday in France visiting my family.  This was during a heat wave and every single person was telling me to give him water and/or formula on top of my own milk to prevent dehydration.  Even though it felt wrong to me (and was factually wrong), I ended up listening to everyone and doing it.  I also had to go back to work four days a week when he was six months old so only managed to maintain partial breastfeeding until he was nine months old.

 

Looking back, there were many things that contributed to this first frustrating and stressful experience: no family support around us, my partner going back to work really quickly, the weekly weighing of Finn which was probably over the top and didn’t help, the message from midwives that I was to breastfeed on a schedule and not on demand, a lactation consultant who made me feel like a failure instead of offering real support, people around me promoting formula as the only solution to my problems, me going back to work too early…

 

The second time around, when my daughter Mina was born, I had learned from some of my mistakes.  She was breastfed on demand from day one (and until I weaned her at 30 months). I didn’t wait to ask for help – I called a great lactation consultant on day four after three days of screaming because Mina couldn’t latch properly and this was fixed after a thirty minute session. This lactation consultant was amazing.

 

I ignored the comments and the pleas from my friends and family to give it up (because between the on demand feeding and the expressing day and night for the first eight weeks, I was a zombie), and I had the support of my partner who understood why it was so important for me and for our baby to succeed at this and who became informed on the subject.

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I had changed my GP to one who was knowledgeable about and was a strong advocate of breastfeeding and I got in touch with a lactation specialist from Canada, Dr Jack Newman, who has a great website and who advised me to take domperidone.  I was against it at first but it enabled me to exclusively breastfeed my daughter which I’m forever grateful for.  I took it for the first 10 months until my supply was not such an issue as she was well onto eating solids.  It was a challenge to get someone to give me a prescription though.

 

My second experience was a lot more positive but still very challenging which makes me a bit sad sometimes.  Because I breastfed Mina until she was two and a half, I got a lot of nasty looks and comments from people after she turned one (she’s walking/talking/a big girl/on solids, she should not be breastfed anymore, you’re spoiling her, etc…) which I always replied to with the same answer:  the World Health Organisation recommends breastfeeding children until they’re at least two!

 

But I feel lucky that I was able to breastfeed Mina for the first 30 months of her life.  She’s now three and a half, has never been sick apart from chicken pox last year so has never taken any drugs and we have a very close physical and emotional bond which has been undoubtedly enhanced by breastfeeding.  When she’s upset she still wants to cuddle my “boobs” to get comfort which is a lovely thing to be able to offer her.

 

A few months ago when my son returned from a birthday party where a lady was bottle feeding a tiny baby, he said to me: “Mum, why doesn’t this baby’s mum have breasts?”  I loved the fact that he found it very odd to see a baby being bottle fed (growing up, I would have found someone breastfeeding a baby equally as puzzling!).

 

My advice to new mums would be to become informed instead of listening to “well wishing” people, and to make sure your partner and close family are informed about breastfeeding (the immense and long lasting benefits of it, how supply and demand works, what issues you might encounter and how to overcome them).  Surround yourself with “breastfeeding friendly people” (friends, coffee group people, GP) so they don’t undermine your efforts, don’t wait to ask for help (from La Leche League or a good lactation consultant) and know that all of your efforts, as hard as it can be some days, will pay off tenfold and for many, many years to come

By Maureen Talpi

Used with permission from LLL New Zealand http://www.lalecheleague.org.nz/Websites/laleche/images/PDF_Downloads/Aroha_articles/Aroha_vol_14_iss_3_Be_determined,_be_informed.pdf

 

 

If you need more information or have a breastfeeding problem or concern, you are strongly encouraged to talk directly to an accredited La Leche League Leader. In Canada, Leaders can be located by clicking http://www.lllc.ca/find-group or Internationally http://www.llli.org/.
 

If you have found this article helpful, La Leche League Canada would appreciate your support. Your donation is essential and very much appreciated to help LLLC cover the cost of producing breastfeeding resources: https://www.lllc.ca/donate or become a LLLC Friend http://www.lllc.ca/join-lllc-friends

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