Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Help for the new mother -- Part II

Some of my most precious memories are of holding my babies and feeding them. I could fill volumes describing how much I loved nursing my children.

Of course, in today's world, we're all aware of the benefits of nursing. Some of these are as follows: hormones are released that bond the baby and the mother; colostrum and mother's milk are specifically created by God for the human infant and thus provide the most complete nourishment; colostrum and mother's milk provide antibodies that protect a baby's immune system; mother's milk is an always available source of food for the child; if a mother nurses completely, nursing does seem to space out conceptions somewhat; and nursing is comforting and relaxing to both mother and child. Beyond that, nursing adds to much to the happiness of the mother and the baby.

As wonderful as nursing is, not every moment will go smoothly. Here are some tips I hope will help the process:

1) A few women simply cannot nurse for medical reasons. This has been true throughout history. In the old days, if a woman could not nurse, another mother was found to step in for her and to provide her baby with the needed milk. Later on, bottles and formula were invented, and a mother who could not nurse could feed her own baby via a bottle.

I have a friend who had her heart set on nursing her child. However, it turned out that she needed to take some medicine which could pass into her milk and, thus, might harm her child.

If you find yourself in a situation where you absolutely cannot nurse, there is no need to feel guilty or to let this mar the joy of having a new baby. While mother's milk may be ideal, your baby will thrive on formula.

Since our mothers were sadly discouraged from breastfeeding, there's a whole generation of us baby boomers who have already lived forty to sixty years after being bottle fed as children! And, we're still going strong. (My mother did nurse me for six weeks, but I think that was about as long as anyone ever nursed back then. Most mothers did not nurse at all, but were prescribed medicine to dry up their milk).

Remember, the most important nourishment you give your child is your love. You can give that whether you nurse or not.

2) On the other hand, I've known mothers who were able to nurse, but who found it hard to get the whole process started. Many became frustrated when their nursing experience didn't fit the perfect picture they had formed in their mind. Some have told me of being sorely tempted to give up.

In the main, nursing is an instinctive process for both baby and mother. However, some babies are slow to follow their instincts in this area. They may have trouble at first with some aspect of nursing, such as latching on. There are many reasons for this, most of which are correctable.

Or, a tired and nervous mother may psyche herself out of being able to nurse. If she lets her mind and body stay tense, she may find it hard to maintain a good milk flow.

If you and your baby find the nursing process difficult, yet you really want to breastfeed your baby, do not give up too soon!! It just takes some mothers and some babies longer to get the process down. But, once you do, the rewards will be great!

The most important thing you can do in this situation is to relax. Instead of worrying if you're doing everything right when it comes to nursing, focus more on enjoying your baby. If you keep an optimistic, peaceful attitude, your baby will sense it. Eventually, nursing will fall in place for both of you.

In the meantime, consult an experienced mom or a lactation specialist for help. Also, let your physician monitor the baby's growth to make sure he or she is thriving.

You may want to purchase an old book by the La Leche League. Be forewarned. The La Leche League takes nursing very seriously. Perhaps, this is because they were formed at a time when they had to defend nursing against a culture that was used to bottle feeding. I found that reading some of their literature and talking to a mom who was a member of LLL was a great boon to me. At any rate, don't feel obligated to live up to every aspect of the organization's teaching. Just know that some of their books -- such as the Womanly Art of Breastfeeding -- do provide helpful information for the mother who needs help with nursing. Any nursing mother will benefit from LLL advice. But, when you need encouragement to keep on in the face of problems, that's where they really help. Take what works for you and don't worry about the rest.

3) Remember, women have been breast-feeding for thousands of generations. By this time, people have found solutions for most of the little problems that may crop up with nursing. From what to do when your baby cuts his first tooth to how to cope with mastitis to what to do for after cramps with a second or third baby -- someone's discovered an answer. So, once again, stay relaxed and optimistic. If you should encounter a troublesome question, it probably won't be insurmountable. Just consult an experienced mother or a good book on nursing.

4) Nursing seems to bring out strongest opinions of any subject in infant care. Should you nurse or not? If you do nurse, when should you wean the baby? When should you first introduce foods along with nursing? Should you give a newborn some water or only mother's milk? Questions like these provoke much discussion.

As we mentioned in the last post on infant care, don't let conflicting advice confuse you. Most of all, don't let it unnerve you. Stay humble. Listen. Honestly ask yourself if the advice you are being given is true and sound. But, in the end, your husband and you (and quite possibly your doctor) will have to decide what is right for you and your baby.

5) If you are a nursing mother, take care of your own health. Also, find simple personal care routines that will help you stay feeling fresh and pretty, yet won't sap a lot of your time and energy. This is helpful for you, for your dear hubby, for your new baby, and for any future babies you might have.

6) Nursing moms get a lot of their needs for cuddling and attention met from holding their babies so much. Enjoy nursing, but keep your priorities straight. Your baby will thrive best in an atmosphere where you keep God first in your heart and in your life and where you continue to build a solid, happy marriage with your dh. Don't neglect your marriage while you are nursing! Find little ways to let your husband know that you care. Also, resume a physical relationship as soon as you are medically able to do so after childbirth.

Of course, caring for a nursing infant (or any infant) does require a lot of time, energy, and attention. Nursing mothers do get tired. And, a nursing mother will not be able to do all that she did when she was single or married without children. We must find creative ways to be fruitful and happy in whatever season of life we find ourselves. You will need to be patient with yourself as you nurse. Your husband and any older children in the family will also need to be patient.

However, the best thing you can do for your nursing baby is to order your priorities rightly now in your heart and to find creative ways to put your priorities in action as you can. Getting off to a good start now will pay off as your child grows to be an adult.



Mrs. Brigham said...

This is a great article! Your advice is great. :o)

I had quite the rough start to nursing, but was thankfully able to get through the first hard month thanks to help from the Lord and the amazing husband he blessed me with :o) My little one was born five weeks early and couldn't latch, so I had to exclusively pump for two weeks, nurse with a nipple shield for another two, and then she finally nursed "for real" out of the blue of what would have been her "due date". Nursing is so rewarding and if a mother really wants to do it, the early problems will seem like nothing just a month or two down the line :o)

Although I am actually am an active LLL member, I did find a less "extreme" book on breastfeeding that was very beneficial. This book is called "So That's What They Are For!" and is a funny and very realistic guide to nursing. I know quite a few other mothers who do prefer this one as well. It even features a great chapter directed at new fathers that is very good.

Thank you for writing this great series of articles for new mothers!

Trish D said...

Thanks for sharing these thoughts; I really enjoyed nursing our two children, too, and really encourage expectant moms to read up on it/talk to other moms before the birth. I would also highly recommend the book "So That's What They're For" - honest and hilarious, too.

A few more pointer: lanolin is a WONDERFUL thing, not only to soothe sore nipples but also as a cream for baby's chapped lips, etc. And be sure to drink lots of water - not just to help the milk supply, but to keep YOU from drying up (I generally have rather oily skin, but went through TONS of moisturizer when nursing).

Mrs. Brigham said...


I had to laugh when I saw you mention lanolin, drinking lots of water, and dry skin all in one sentence. I wound up with such dry skin right after I had my daughter that my lanolin also turned into my hand cream! LOL.

Elizabeth said...

Hi Mrs. Brigham and Trish,

Thanks for sharing about the book, "So That's What They are For." I haven't read it, but the title says it all! :)

Thanks, too, for sharing your experiences!


Anonymous said...

Oh my I remember those tiring days of nursing my babies! I did get rather sore, but it passed. I'm so glad I was able to and that I did feed my little ones naturally. Blessings.

Sherry said...

A really nice, positive article. I was very determined, so we (the babies and I) overcame what few problems I had during nursing. I know that women who are having difficulties need gentle support and encouragement, and your article struck a good balance.