Q&A: How to Find Balance While Breastfeeding
How to best support you and your baby in those critical first months
Q. I’m training to be a birth and postpartum doula in Toronto. I breastfeed my own three-month-old and I’m a huge advocate for its obvious benefits for both of us. I wonder, though, how you achieve balance when working with moms to ensure they are well versed on the benefits, aware of the “work” that often needs to go into learning breastfeeding, and aren’t shamed/are well supported in formula feeding if it comes to that?
It seems like both sides (breast is best and fed is best) can sometimes swing a bit towards the extreme which I recognize can be off-putting and can add a lot of stress to the process. What’s your advice for supporting moms best on their journey?
A. Thank you for your excellent and thought-provoking question. And thank you for your dedication to the field of mother/baby work you are entering. It is unfortunate that there are these two “sides” to the dilemma that arises when a mother struggles with getting her baby to the breast and getting her milk supply established. This question could easily run to a book-length answer: there are so many factors that come into play. If a hospital is not “Baby Friendly” (meaning “breastfeeding friendly”), by the time mother and baby get home it could already be a difficult scenario. That is why having a birth doula who stays on to provide postpartum care is such a good investment.
Speaking of the “book-length” answer to your question, I am happy to say that our book on breastfeeding is soon to be published in its revised edition: The Breastfeeding Book, revised edition, will be published in August 2018. In writing this revision, we have enlisted the help of a lactation consultant; and after working with her I cannot overemphasize of the importance of finding a well-qualified consultant to work with moms and babies who have challenges that can stump the post-partum staff in the hospital, and even the hospital’s lactation consultants. So, find a few good resources to use in counseling the breastfeeding moms you work with, such as The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, the LLLI website, our book 😊, and find out who the good LCs are in your area.
Once a mom has had this kind of support, and a decision needs to be made to be sure her baby is “fed”, she and you can move forward with a solid game plan. There are so many options now, and surely no mom in your care would ever be shamed or not supported. As you say, it can be a fine line at times. No one does this work because it is easy. We do it because it is so rewarding for all three: the mother, the baby, and the doula.