My entire life my mother has worked in the health sector and has been specifically fond of working in lactation services. She has years of experience in aiding with childbirth and worked at a breastfeeding clinic (a clinic that stores breast milk and teaches mothers how to nurse) for seventeen years. For the last seven years, she has worked in a primary health care unit serving mothers. I grew up as a faithful admirer of my mother’s “fairy hands”, and I have chosen a similar path. Lactation was my first choice for my specialization, and today I study cardiology in an effort to provide a way for babies with heart disease to also nurse.
I made a point of including a little of mine and my mother’s story so that you know that over the years we have aided many women when it was time to nurse their little ones, and we have experienced the range of emotions that can accompany this event: joy, sadness, frustration, and sometimes even a feeling of powerlessness. But studying lactation is incredible! It’s impossible not to marvel at every detail that God has put in place. It’s a practice that requires a lot of patience, a holistic view, and an incredible level of determination.
Breastfeeding is the best choice for illness prevention, recovery, and nutrition. A mother’s milk is the richest and most complete food available, capable of adapting to the baby’s needs, promoting immunity, nutrition, hydration, and ensuring the correct development of the organs. As for the mother, it promotes uterine involution (return of the uterus to its place), a faster and more efficient recovery, prevention of breast and uterine cancer, and strengthening of the emotional bond between mother and child. This brief summary of benefits when combined with a humanized childbirth (be it normal or cesarean), an efficient support network, and knowledge about what to expect at this stage, is the secret to successful nursing.
But we know (or have heard, or have witnessed, or experienced!) that sometimes well-thought-out and dreamed plans don’t go as smoothly as they were meant to. There are several risk factors that hinder a mother’s wish to breastfeed, whether these risks are identifiable or not. In some cases, no lactation consultant is needed; the baby and the mother do all the work. Others need only a little help and small adjustments, and yet others need different and repeated approaches and techniques that may or may not generate a positive result.
If you are a mother or would really like to be one someday (like I do), or if you live with a new mother, you need to know how to promote breastfeeding and remove as many of the hindering factors as possible. Let’s consider some to watch for:
- Seek knowledge from a reliable source. Listening to the experience of others is important, but don’t make them your primary source of information. Go to a qualified professional, look up current books on the subject, or even peruse scientific articles, but don’t rely only on someone else’s experience. Research ahead because doubts will come up little by little and the more you know, the safer you will be to live your nursing journey.
- Carry out efficient prenatal care. Every care taken during pregnancy is important. Don’t ignore them; from food, rest, restrictions, breast care, vitamin D (soak up the sun with proper care and protection), and hydration. These habits will strengthen your skin, which is essential in breastfeeding.
- Self-love, self-esteem, and self-care. Breastfeeding begins in the mind, in the brain, where the production, storage, and release of essential hormones for milk production and ejection take place. Cultivate kind thoughts about yourself, promote your self-esteem, take care of your physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. You may not be able to do this all the time, but don’t despair, give yourself grace.
- Support network. No matter how strong and capable you are, you don’t have to handle everything yourself. Form a support network that respects you, understands your desires and fears, that will offer words of encouragement and motivation, and that will voluntarily and lovingly share this moment with you. Say no to pessimistic, negative, and repressive individuals, as such behaviors may have strong influences when it’s time to nurse your baby.
- Adequate delivery. When talking about humanized childbirth, the first thing that comes to mind is often natural childbirth, but humanized childbirth is the one that best promotes health and well-being for mother and baby. In other words, a cesarean can be humanized if properly advised. Natural delivery, also known as physiological birth, consists of several mechanisms such as hormone release, adjustment of bone structures, dilation, and joint labor by mother and baby. As the birth hormone is the same as causes lactation, natural childbirth promotes early breastfeeding, which facilitates the entire process. In surgical delivery, this process takes a little longer. While delivery isn’t a determining factor, it has great influence.
- Patience and determination. With the baby in your arms and the feeling that the hardest part is over, the nursing challenge begins. The baby is attracted to the milk because it has the same smell as the uterus, and it also already possesses the sucking reflex. These skills, combined with guidelines for correct positioning, promote feeding success for mother and baby. These and other points properly adjusted and handled with patience and determination by the mother, her support network, and professionals, offer immense chances of success. It’s extremely important to understand that the baby will want to breastfeed because it’s hungry, for comfort, to smell the uterus, to scratch its gums, because it’s thirsty, to stop hiccups, because it’s sleepy, and many other reasons. In these details, patience transcends into understanding.
- Verbalize your sorrows, frustrations, and difficulties, and seek help. As natural as this process is, we live in a world full of factors that can affect and alter it. This can happen, but don’t quietly fall apart in a wave of puerperal hormones. Seek professional help and, when possible and healthy to do so, insist on breastfeeding.
I hope you come to understand the size of God’s generosity in creating a mechanism that generates nourishment and love, and I hope that you decide to enjoy its full advantages with knowledge and safety. May you feel a taste of the love Christ has for you, which is greater than the love of a mother, and let that love guide you to make the best choices.
God bless you!