Before I had babies, I thought breastfeeding would be the most natural thing in the world.
During pregnancy, it seemed like my body was doing most of the work for me — all I had to do was eat whatever I wanted while I waited the interminable 9 (though it’s really closer to 10) months before that precious bundle was in my arms. Among other things, nobody talks about what happens when breastfeeding isn’t as easy as latch-and-go. What if your milk supply seems to be failing?
Possibly the most unique (and strange) part of the birth experience is the breastfeeding adjustment; I know so many moms who’ve also grappled with its various aspects. More difficult still is the fact that our society seems to attach so many expectations and judgments (and shame if we don’t measure up) onto every aspect of motherhood. Breastfeeding is no exception.
MM: Thank you for taking the time to talk with us! To start, can you please tell our readers about yourselves and what you do at Little Nursing Co.?
LNC: We provide breastfeeding support to women (moms) in their homes, and virtually as well. We are also labor and delivery nurses, currently working in the hospital, and see first hand how much assistance mothers need — and they just aren’t getting it. We know from research that a successful breastfeeding relationship is very helpful to a mother’s recovery postpartum: both physically and mentally.
We honestly have the best job(s)! We’ve been supporting moms and babies for years in the hospital as labor and delivery nurses. Mychelle and I both have a passion for all things birth and breastfeeding. Although we love our hospital job, and will probably be “lifers,” we both had a desire to learn more about lactation and breastfeeding. One day on the unit, Mychelle said to me, “I’m becoming an IBCLC (IBCLC is the designation used by health care professionals who have completed the requirements necessary to call themselves International Board Certified Lactation Consultants) and so are you!” And that was that! We finished up all the necessary requirements in order to sit the exam; studied so hard for it; and wrote the 4-hour grueling exam back. After we received our passing grades, we started a private practice together and are loving every bit of it.
Mothers need so much support and encouragement, especially in the first year. And unfortunately, in Edmonton, we are lacking in that area. There are a handful of public breastfeeding clinics but the wait time can be weeks. Mothers and babies usually cannot wait weeks — moms’ milk supply definitely can’t wait!
MM: When it comes to breastfeeding, how long is too long?
LNC: Frequent nursing encourages good milk supply for the short and long term and also reduces engorgement. In the beginning, we always recommend nursing at least 10 – 12 times per day (24 hours). The more you nurse the better your milk supply.
Always watch your baby’s hunger cues and attempt to nurse at that time (stirring, rooting, hands in mouth) – don’t wait until your baby is crying. Allow the baby unlimited time at the breast when sucking actively, then offer the second breast. Don’t be concerned if your baby only takes one breast per feed and your friend’s baby takes both breasts- every mom has a different milk storage capacity. Some newborns are excessively sleepy at first – wake baby to nurse if 2-3hours (during the day) or 4 hours (at night) have passed without nursing.
Allow the baby unlimited time at the breast when sucking ACTIVELY. There is a difference between suckling for food and suckling for comfort: While feeding you can hear swallows. You will learn the difference over time. During the newborn period, most breastfeeding sessions take 20 to 45 minutes. They will get quicker (sometimes 5 minutes per side) the more comfortable you get with each other and with breastfeeding, and the older baby gets. Everyone is learning in the beginning!
You CAN’T nurse too often–you CAN nurse too little.
MM: How do I recognize signs of readiness to wean?
LNC: Natural weaning occurs as the infant begins to accept increasing amounts and types of complementary feedings while still breastfeeding on demand. If children are truly allowed to self-wean in their own time, most will do so somewhere between the 2nd and 4th year. It is unusual for a baby younger than 18-24 months to self-wean. A sign of baby-led natural weaning includes a gradual lack of interest in breastfeeding that takes place over a period of weeks.
Sometimes babies can go on a “nursing strike” which can be interpreted as weaning. Sometimes low milk supply can also play a part. It is common and normal for babies to show less interest in breastfeeding sometime during the second six months. This is developmental and not an indication that the baby wishes to stop nursing. When weaning, ensure decreasing feeds is done gradually.
Learn more about the Little Nursing Co. at https://www.littlenursingco.com/, and tune in next week for answers to the following questions!
Can you elaborate on reasons you may need to supplement your baby (and what supplementing means)?
What are some differences between breast milk and formula?