I am retiring. As I leave the profession and prepare to pass the baton to a younger generation (
December 31, 2021), I want to give some insights I have gained in the nearly 50 years I have spent either personally nursing or helping nursing mothers to achieve their goals. The following is my opinion based on working with thousands of mothers and babies in hospitals, clinics and offices and in their homes.
Breastfeeding is all about relationship, especially the primordial one between mother and child. Whatever we can do to support, promote and protect that relationship, we should do. It is essential to listen to the mother. When she says there’s a problem, we should believe her and help her figure out how to solve that problem. Mothers should not have to seek out help in defiance of healthcare providers that ignore her requests for help! Mothers should not be made to feel that they are stupid, paranoid or fearful when they express concern about their babies’ health or need help to adjust to this new human being that can’t express his or her needs plainly!
The rules for successful breastfeeding are pretty simple. 1. Feed the baby – if baby cannot obtain all of his or her requirements directly from the breast, then with the most effective method that promotes sucking physiologically. 2. Protect mom’s milk supply – with the most effective methods and aids available to mom, following known physiology of production. 3. Keep baby at the breast and make the breast a happy place. Skin to skin care is an essential piece of this. 4. Get skilled evaluations by an experienced, well-educated lactation consultant with referrals to other providers for therapy – oral, feeding, physical, etc. as appropriate for the individual mother/baby pair. When whatever issues are resolved, the first 3 rules are met satisfactorily at the breast!
If you are a professional who works with mothers and babies, please get more education about breastfeeding. The basic education provided for nurses and physicians, speech therapists, occupational therapists, dentists, physical therapists, etc is minimal at best. Go to conferences. Check out resources on YouTube, Facebook, etc. Listen, listen, listen. Dig into the research (and learn what is the difference between research and opinion). Get into workshops if possible. Find a mentor who is willing to take you under their wing and show you and pass along their garnered wisdom (knowledge plus experience). Get involved with research and learn how to evaluate what’s out there. And most importantly, CARE. It isn’t easy to get the information and experience needed to be competent, and everyone is always learning, but if you care and refuse to stagnate, you will move towards the goal!