Grandmothering the Breastfeeding Baby

I am the grandmother of a newborn baby boy. Born a little over 3 weeks ago, I’m sitting in the living room of his parents mulling over this new role. No, this is not my first grandchild. But it’s the first one I’ve had the joy of spending uninterrupted time getting to know his little personality, observing his parents in their roles and his older brother adapting to his new role – big brother.

As a lactation consultant, I am invited into homes to observe, assist and recommend in an active role.  There are barriers that must be broken down and boundaries to cross and an instant intimacy created by the need of the moment. As a mother-in-law, mother and grandmother, there are boundaries that must be crossed very hesitantly, if at all. My philosophy of breastfeeding applies in this instance – it is the relationship that we must preserve above all. Breastfeeding, with all its benefits, is primarily about establishing the primal relationship, not just getting breast milk into a baby. Relationship is about building love and respect into an unbreakable bond.

So what can a grandmother do to support the new family? I believe that the same three goals apply to this situation as to any other breastfeeding cohort: protect, promote and support. Protect by being positive and avoid offering solutions that interfere with breastfeeding. That means, don’t offer to bottle-feed the baby so mom can get a good night’s rest. Don’t give the baby a pacifier to hold off for a longer interval between feeds. Don’t buy another infant holding device (bouncer, swing, rocknplay). Don’t make negative observations such as: “your breastmilk looks kind of weak” or “he’s crying again – maybe you didn’t feed him enough” or “he has a rash – maybe you are eating something that he’s allergic to.”  Don’t offer to hold the baby while mom does the laundry or fixes your supper. Instead, be encouraging. Let mom know how proud you are of her, how blessed her baby is to have her, how beautiful she looks nursing your grandchild. If she doesn’t have one, get her a sling and help her learn how to use it for carrying baby. Use it yourself when she needs a break. Watch baby while he spends time in tummy position. Fix a meal, do the laundry. Take an older sibling to the park, or play with him. If mom needs you to hold the baby, by all means enjoy. Learn to hold baby chest to chest, a position most babies really enjoy.

If mom or baby are having some latch or fit issues, get help for them and be a cheerleader. Learn all you can about the establishment of milk supply and how that is done. Ask her how you can best help her reach her own personal goals. Breastfeeding is an important building block in a baby’s life foundation – but it is only one of them.  It also helps to remember that it takes babies 6-8 weeks to gain active control over feeding and moms need support during that time as they try to help their babies learn.  Nothing tops patience and perseverance in that journey!

Nothing in my life has been as rewarding as seeing my children grow up, take a marriage partner and become parents. I almost understand how God must feel when we become fruitful and start sharing our gifts and talents with others, and pass the torch along. I keep that in mind and am grateful for that. And as I anticipate great-grandchildren in the future, I hope to be able to give them the benefit of my hard-earned wisdom too!

 

My 32-year (and counting) Career in Breastfeeding Support

Breastfeeding is a relationship. It is not just a choice and must be honored and supported as much as possible.

Lactation care begins with the idea that breastfeeding is the natural step after birth: as natural as dessert after a meal. It is what babies and mothers were meant to do. When there is an interruption in that natural progression, questions must be asked. Is there a lack of desire, determination or direction that creates the barriers? Are these barriers coming from within the nursing pair or from without? Most difficulties can be overcome, but it takes the three items of desire, determination and direction to overcome them. My job as a health care professional is to assist your family to overcome any barriers or obstacles to breastfeeding. It’s too important to both mom and baby to not make the effort to give them the physical and relational benefits that breastfeeding provides

My story

I started out as a little girl wanting to be a nurse. While in nursing school, I became pregnant with my first child. I breastfed her as I returned to school and graduated when she was a little over a year old in 1972. This experience inspired me to turn my attention to Maternal-Child Nursing. My first job was as a labor and delivery nurse. I often helped mothers with breastfeeding. I saw the importance of education and information in the quality of a family’s birthing experience. I became a Childbirth Educator and served mothers in my community in that capacity while simultaneously working in L&D. I certified as an ASPO Lamaze Childbirth educator and started classes in Macon, Georgia and Dayton, Ohio in the following years.

In 1986, the hospital where I worked, West Side Hospital, decided to build a NICU and recognized that lactation support was vital in order for mothers to be able to provide breast milk for these fragile babies. I was chosen to participate in the education program that was available at the time with the goal of becoming an IBCLC – International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. I became certified when my fourth child was 2 weeks old.

My career since then has included numerous courses and seminars and conferences to learn more about the special needs of breastfeeding mothers and babies. In 1989, I started preparing adoptive moms for induced lactation and have enjoyed this aspect of lactation care ever since. The interesting thing about adoptive mothers is this: a mom who has never been pregnant can make milk! With that realization and vision, I find I can encourage moms who HAVE delivered, that they too can overcome whatever obstacles encountered to have a happy, satisfying breastfeeding relationship with their baby!

Over the course of my career I have worked with cleft palate and lip babies, Down’s babies, premature babies, babies with torticollis and tongue and lip-ties, moms with inadequate breast tissue, low milk supply, inverted nipples, badly damaged nipples, mastitis, plugged ducts and even cancer. I did my best to help make their breastfeeding experience as meaningful and rich as possible.

In the beginning, lactation consultants leaned heavily on the knowledge gathered by our fore-mothers – the La Leche League moms who first recognized the need for a medical arm of lactation advocacy. Over the past nearly 30 years, the knowledge base has expanded with high quality research, a professional organization, International certification, and recognition that the field of lactation care is a specialty in its own right. The tools we have today combined with a better understanding of the natural instincts that every mother and baby possess have helped bring together the art and science of breastfeeding to overcome problems that were once thought impossible to solve.

Other areas of lactation care where I have served:

In addition to one-on-one consultations for individuals I have served in the following areas:
• Coordinator of Lactation Services at Centennial Women’s Hospital for 25 years
• President of Tennessee Lactation Consultants Association for 2 years
• Committee chairman for Tennessee Perinatal Quality Initiative Breastfeeding Task Force for Centennial Medical Center –Improving Exclusive Breastfeeding in the Hospital
• Writer/lecturer for various breastfeeding education courses for nurses

Today, I am retired from over 30 years at Centennial Medical Center plus 13 years of mostly maternal and child nursing prior to this hospital. I opened my limited private home visit lactation service with the goal of  extending my experience into the home and along the way provide education and mentorship in the community.

Update:  I have enjoyed working with moms in their own environments since I opened my part-time practice in 2016.  It has been an interesting journey with many challenging situations. I plan to keep this service open for about two more years before completely retiring. I am currently serving as a mentor for Chelsea Carver who is studying to become an IBCLC. Thank you to all the moms who have chosen to use my services and the hundreds of moms who have used the resources I have provided on this website.

Welcome to Hope Breastfeeding Support.

 

If you are interested in engaging my services find out more here.