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Staying “Abreast” of Lactation

By Marion Cooper, RN, IBCLC, RLC

Many people wonder why someone would need help with breastfeeding. Isn’t it natural? Breastfeeding is a normal physiological process, but the art of breastfeeding is influenced by many external factors. Some of these factors may relate to sleepiness due to jaundice, medications used during labour, a difficult delivery or low blood sugars at birth. Some babies refuse to latch on because of positioning or because of mucous in their airways. Early supplementation with a bottle may cause confusion when learning to breastfeed. A baby may have a small mouth or need to learn how to use his tongue correctly. The mother may be too uncomfortable after delivery to get positioned correctly without help or have nipples that are difficult for a new baby to latch on to. Some mothers have had surgery to their breasts in the past, which may affect their milk supply. Fear of not having enough milk may also influence how breastfeeding starts out. Conflicting information from books and well-meaning people can also be a factor. Most concerns can be addressed and with support and early intervention, can be corrected.

Societies traditionally had women who would assist with the delivery of babies, and women who helped mothers with breastfeeding challenges. Today, many babies are surviving that would not have in the past, such as premature or special needs babies. These babies, due to their health condition, may have special feeding needs. That, and the relatively new invention of infant formula (late 1800s), which gained popularity in the 1920s and then again in the 1960s, have many new mothers in a situation that makes breastfeeding unfamiliar to them. Many traditional societies encourage the mother to rest for up to 6 weeks following birth. Her only duty is to tend to her baby; household help and childcare is obtained from relatives or is hired.

When should a mother call for breastfeeding help? Reasons to seek assistance include if the mother is feeling overwhelmed or has questions, is experiencing latch-on difficulties, nipple or breast pain, has a low milk supply, her baby has slow weight gain, she is nursing a premature or special-needs baby, is breastfeeding and returning to work, is considering relactation, or wants information about pumping and storing milk. A lactation consultant will have up-to-date information, provide options, let you know the advantages and disadvantages of each option, and support the mother in what she feels is best for her and her baby.

The BAFHT provides support and information to mothers who are breastfeeding. This service is provided by an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). An IBCLC is a healthcare provider who specializes in the clinical management of breastfeeding and is certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners. The IBCLC offers prenatal breastfeeding education, postnatal support, and information to help manage breastfeeding challenges.

Together with the Grey Bruce Public Health Unit, the BAFHT offers a breastfeeding clinic each Wednesday, in Walkerton. New mothers can schedule an appointment to discuss any aspect of baby care with a Public Health Nurse or breastfeeding concerns with a Lactation Consultant. Whether you are having breastfeeding problems, just need reassurance or would like to schedule an appointment, feel free to call us at 519-507-2021.