Celebrating the Accomplishments of Breastfeeding MothersBy Theresa Hardy, MSN,CPNP,IBCLC
If you are struggling with low supply or a non-latching baby, and have explored all the options available to you, redefining what feels successful can restore your equilibrium.
The other day, I was calculating how many babies I had seen in my 20 years of practice as a pediatric nurse practitioner/lactation consultant. Of the tens of thousands or so babies I have had the pleasure of working with, the vast majority navigated with their awesome moms those challenging early days and weeks, then went on to nurse happily for at least a year. Those babies don’t stand out in my mind; instead they blend into one happily gurgling, drooly little face beaming up at mommy. The moms I remember the most are those challenged by marked low milk supply despite tenacious efforts to correct the problem, and babies who for no obvious reason, wouldn’t latch at all.
Low milk supply that can’t be corrected with pumping, excellent latch, and perhaps herbal galactagogues (supplements to increase supply), often has a medical reason. After exploring mom’s medical history, we would take a stepwise problem solving approach that met the 3 key requirements for breastfeeding help: #1 Feed the baby. #2 Protect and promote the breastfeeding relationship. #3 Protect and promote mom’s milk supply. The reasons for low milk supply can be complex, ranging from hormonal issues such as low (or high) thyroid levels, previous breast surgery, infertility, to an under-recognized and treated condition called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Regardless of the cause, the fallout is frustration, stress, anxiety, and grief for the loss of the dreamed for breastfeeding relationship.
If you are struggling with low supply or a non-latching baby, and have explored all the options available to you, redefining what feels successful can restore your equilibrium. From the many grandmothers wistfully observing their daughters breastfeeding and remarking how wonderful it would have been if they had had the same kind of breastfeeding support available to mothers today, we know that breastfeeding is a defining event of early motherhood. We are fortunate in Champaign- Urbana to have so many excellent resources to support nursing mothers. I recently launched Nurtured Beginnings Lactation Support for Central Illinois, providing in-home comprehensive breastfeeding support (the return of the house call!). I have a special interest in breastfeeding situations that are challenged by low milk supply, infant gastroesophageal reflux, multiples, preterm and medically complex babies. Heather Ludwig and the breastfeeding peer counselors at the CUPHD, the lactation consultants at Carle and Presence hospitals, local Facebook breastfeeding support groups and La Leche League are also good resources for moms.
I have always asserted that maternal guilt starts at conception and only ends when we draw our last breath of life. To me, empowered mothering means letting go of what you can’t control and instead, celebrating your accomplishments. Does your low milk supply mean combination breastfeeding and bottle-feeding formula? Give yourself tons of credit! Does your non-latching baby get a few ounces of your precious breast milk every day, cuddled close to your breast? Awesome! Keep reminding yourself that breastfeeding is not just about the milk; it’s about mothering in a nurturing way. Do use a supplemental nurser system to breastfeed your adopted baby? Fabulous! Celebrate this precious time in your lives as you nurture your little one!
Theresa Hardy is a pediatric nurse practitioner and Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant with over 20 years experience in complex breastfeeding challenges. Hardy has always believed that the home is the best place to provide lactation support, and she recently launched home lactation consults for the Central Illinois area. The mother of three girls,Theresa also enjoys perennial gardening, photography, and travel. You can reach Theresa Hardy online @ firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone at 217-552-1101.